Strollers in Portland's Overlook Park last week were treated to a spirited softball game between the seriously outfitted, color-coordinated Magoo's tavern team and a rather loosely organized, jeans-clad Mall 205 squad. But it was the 205s who boasted the only player ever to have appeared on an official baseball card. That was for Larry Colton's six-week sojourn in the majors as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1968.
"I was called up early in the season, from San Diego in the Pacific Coast League, and made one appearance, in Cincinnati," says the 205s' current rightfielder. A few weeks later he was jumped by three drunks after a game in San Francisco. "They were just looking for a fight, and I got beaten up. It was the only fight I've ever been in. They separated my left shoulder and I spent the season on the disabled list. Then I got sent down and traded. The rest, as they say, is history."
Colton, whose account of his last professional game begins on page 120, grew up in Los Angeles and played basketball and baseball at Westchester High. Then, at Berkeley, he was a shortstop, rightfielder and pitcher on a team that included Mike Epstein, later a major league first baseman, Rich Nye, who would become a pitcher for the Cubs, and Craig Morton, who forsook hardball for football and took Denver to the 1978 Super Bowl.
"I graduated in 1965, just when Berkeley was starting to get hot, with the free speech movement and political activism," he said. Such stirrings may help to explain his hobby of collecting startling headlines and taping them on the bathroom walls in his house.
"My favorite is NIXON RESIGNS."
For the last 10 years Colton has divided his time between teaching high school English in Portland and writing, mostly for local newspapers and magazines. Regular readers of Willamette Week have enjoyed his satirical features for the past five years and he does occasional columns on a wide variety of topics for The Oregonian. In 1976 and 1977 he stopped teaching to write Idol Time, a book about the championship season of the Portland Trail Blazers. "About seven books came out at once," he recalled. "Talk about Blazermania!" At the moment he is at work on a second book, a novel.
And playing softball in Overlook Park. Though the 205s were defeated by Magoo's last week, Colton had three singles and a walk in four times at bat. In the season opener a week earlier he had a home run, a triple and a double in three at bats.
"We have signals, but I don't know them," he says somewhat apologetically. "I'm not in the league to bunt, and after four broken ankles, I'm sure as heck not going to steal. Anyway, who needs signals? I'm batting 1.000."