InsidethePark staff writer Jay Hobbs caught up with Lander after he spoke at an All-Star luncheon for the California-Carolina League All-Star game, held in San Bernardino, Calif. on June 29.
If you don't recognize Lander's name at first, perhaps you would remember him from his role as "Squiggy" in the long-running television show, "Laverne and Shirley."
Lander, who tours and speaks on behalf of MS patients and research, has been an associate scout for Bill Bavasi, the Mariners' GM, since 2001.
InsidethePark.com: What is the biggest challenge as far as having MS and going to baseball games?
Lander: If I see that my seat is in the third row and I have to walk down steps, I'll think, ‘Aw, nuts,' because I know I've got to walk down all of those steps. The new ballparks with the railings are great, but a lot of the old ballparks don't have that. When you see that you have to walk down there, you have to intellectualize how you'll make it. So, most of the time it's a self-conscious walk. I've tripped in many ballparks and the people are very nice to me as they try to walk around me – they're really great.
ITP.com: On your official website (davidlander.com), you picked the Royals to finish first in the American League Central, now they're dead last, what happened?
Lander: I know Tony Pena from the old days with the Pirates and I thought he did a great job last year. At first I thought better of (picking Kansas City), but I went with my loyalty. I was just in Kansas City and watched a couple of games, there's no chance in the world.
ITP.com: You also predicted the Rangers and Athletics to finish fourth and third in the West, now they're in first and second, is that going to keep up?
Lander: Who knew Texas would play so well? Everyone's wondering, will they wilt when it gets real hot? I've heard, ‘This team won't because they're younger,' and I've heard, ‘This team will because they're younger.' ‘Bucky' Showalter is doing a great job with them now that it's his team and A-Rod is gone, I wish him the best. I wish the Mariners could do a little better, but maybe they've got some guys down here who can help them out.
ITP.com: How many ballgames do you get out to see every year?
Lander: I do about 30 cities a year. I'll be on the MS tour and I'll tell the Mariners to book me in the major league or minor league city where I'm going to be and make sure they're in town. I usually do the MS program on a Saturday morning, so I'll go to games on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday. If you see a team three times in a row you get a better picture of what you're looking at. I'll sit in the press box for at least a game and I'll talk to all the beat writers who get to see these guys every day. That puts it in perspective.
ITP.com: How does a kid growing up in New York in the 1950s become a Pirates fan?
Lander: I was a Pirates fan growing up in the Bronx mostly for the alliteration. I didn't know where Pittsburgh was and I didn't know what a Pirate was, but I sure liked saying it. The year I started rooting for them, they lost 112 games, but I didn't know – they didn't tell me.
When I turned 11, the Pirates came in second and I had picked them to come in second that year. My brother, who was much more knowledgeable than me, thought I was being ridiculous because the Pirates hadn't finished in the first division in 19 years, but I picked them based on something you should never base it on – what they did in spring training. But they did finish in second and I was proud of predicting that.
I still remember 1959 when Elroy Face went 18-1 and Harvey Haddix pitched his perfect game and lost in 12 1/3 innings. I was really getting into it, and in 1960, they won the World Series.
ITP.com: Bill Mazeroski's game-winning homer in the 1960 World Series has to be your favorite baseball moment, right?
Lander: That was the first time I was really paying attention. In my lifetime, I shouldn't complain, they won the Series in 1979 and all the countless league titles in the ‘70s and the ‘80s. They haven't finished at .500 since (Barry) Bonds left. Forget about winning anything, I'm not sure if they've finished within 10 games of a .500 record.
ITP.com: There are so many great plays that can happen in a ballgame, what is your favorite play, is it the clutch double play or a game winning home run?
Lander: Those are great, but I saw a triple play twice last year, and both times, the team that turned it lost. I think that happens a lot. The triple play is great because it's just after it happens that you realize it. You don't realize you're seeing it, so after it happens, you go, ‘Holy Mackerel!'
There probably are other things I can think of. Willie Mays described the best catch he made and I can see why. It was in Pittsburgh and they used to move the batting cage out to centerfield, which was about 457 feet and the power alleys were about 380 feet away, so it was a very big outfield. It was so far out there that the batting cage didn't cause any problems in the game. But Mays, on a shot by Bob Skinner, climbs up the back of the cage and caught it backhanded. He says that's his favorite catch and while I didn't see it, I tend to believe that it was his best.
For more on Lander's life and his battle with MS, visit www.davidlander.com.
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