Born: February 14, 1951
Town: Port Norris
Lawrence William Milbourne was born February 14, 1951 in Commercial Township in Cumberland County. Larry grew up in the Port Norris section of town, where a great number of people made a living in the oystering industry. Paul Milbourne was a “shucker” who also played on the Shellpile baseball team, with his sons, Larry and Monty.
Many families lived in rickety shack built on stilts. When Larry was a boy the community was devastated by a pathogen that killed off the local oysters. A switch-hitter who could play any infield position, Larry used his sharp mind and advanced baseball skills as a way out. After earning All-State honors as a junior and senior at Millville High, he signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles out of high school in 1969. His brother, Monty, would later sign a minor-league deal with the White Sox.
After bouncing around the minors with the Orioles, Giants, Angels and Cardinals in the early 1970s, Larry was selected by the Houston Astros in the 1973 Rule 5 Draft. He had a solid rookie year in 1974, backing up veteran Tommy Helms at second base and batting .279. In Houston he earned his nickname, The Devil.
Larry played two more seasons for the Astros before the Seattle Mariners traded for him during spring training in 1977. Larry continued to serve in a utility role for the AL expansion club, and made history when he delivered the M’s first-ever game-winning RBI.
Larry matured as a hitter in the late 1970s and earned more playing time. In 1979, he set a team record with a dozen pinch hits. In 1980, he was the toughest man in baseball to strike out. That year he became just the 8th American Leaguer to switch-hit homers in the same game.
Following the 1980 season, the Mariners traded him to the Yankees with a player to be named later for catcher Brad Gulden and cash. The following May, the Mariners named that player: Brad Gulden, who was essentially traded for himself. Larry hit .313 for the Yankees, filling in for injured Bucky Dent. He continued to hit well as the Yankees won heir two playoff series and faced the Dodgers in the World Series. Larry went 5 for 20 with 4 walks, a pair of doubles and 3 RBIs in the team’s 6-game loss to LA.
Larry was traded to the Twins the following summer in a deal that brought back Butch Wynegar. He played for the Indians and Phillies and then returned to the Yankees in 1983. He played his final big-league season with the Mariners in 1984. His last season as a pro came in 1985, when he played briefly for Seattle’s AAA club in Calgary. He retired form baseball at age 34.
In 1989, Larry was inducted into the South Jersey Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2015, he was honored as a Living Legend by the Port Norris Historical Society.