NEW GLOUCESTER — Peter Ladd couldn’t escape his Maine roots, not even in a decade of chasing his professional baseball dreams.

First, the Portland native was drafted by his boyhood team in the 25th round of the 1977 amateur draft.

“I was like any kid who listened to the Red Sox a little bit past my bedtime,” Ladd said. “My transistor radio just happened to be on that station. I was always seriously ill on opening day.”

Being dealt to the Houston Astros in a deal for big bopper Bob Watson two years later couldn’t derail the 230-pound right-hander.

In fact, it hastened his ascent to the big leagues and brought the scent of pine trees to the Lone Star State. Seated next to Ladd in the Astros’ bullpen: None other than Auburn’s Bert Roberge.

Ladd celebrated his heyday in Milwaukee, sharing a clubhouse with multiple Hall of Famers and pitching in a World Series. But it was his final stop in 1986 for a career year in Seattle that shrank Ladd’s world one final time.

“In Seattle, I played with Billy Swift and Jim Beattie (both also from Greater Portland). Three Maineiacs all on the same team,” Ladd said. “What are the odds?”

Today such a reunion seems as likely to natives as holding the winning Powerball ticket. But it’s a stunning reminder of Maine’s brilliant baseball past, one that will be celebrated Sunday, July 26, when Ladd is inducted into the state’s Baseball Hall of Hame.
Now less than a week from his 53rd birthday and back home where it all began, Ladd received the surprise call in December.

“It was kind of a Christmas gift,” he said. “The only other thing I have from a hall of fame is a T-shirt that says ‘Cooperstown.’ ”

Ladd shares plenty of common ground with the permanent residents of that “other” hallowed hall.

The biggest break of his professional career was a second trade at the end of the 1981 season. After two years with Houston’s Triple-A affiliate, Ladd was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers, then a rising force in the American League East.

“I was traded for a guy named Buster Keaton. It was one of those minor-league deals nobody ever hears about. The Brewers got me and the Astros got a silent film star,” Ladd quipped.

Milwaukee jettisoned manager Buck Rodgers after a disappointing 23-24 start. Harvey Kuenn stepped in and led the Brewers to a 95-win season, including a victory over Baltimore on the final Sunday afternoon of the season that clinched the division.
Don Sutton out-dueled Jim Palmer in the season finale, with a home run by Robin Yount providing the winning margin. Sutton, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Rollie Fingers were Ladd’s Hall of Fame teammates that season.

Ladd was 1-3 with three saves and a 4.00 ERA that year, but his playoff exploits provided a career highlight.

“That was one of the last years that the league championship series was best-of-five. We had to fly all the way to Anaheim for the first two games, and the first night we got crushed,” said Ladd. “But I came on in the eighth inning to face Fred Lynn, Rod Carew and Reggie Jackson and struck all three of them out.”

Ten hitters faced Ladd in the ALCS, and he retired them all, five by strikeout. Ladd made one appearance in the World Series, with the Cardinals brushing off the Brewers in seven games.

Seattle got eight wins and six saves from Ladd in his final season. Perhaps his greatest memory, however, was being a spectator at Fenway Park on April 29, 1986, when Roger Clemens chalked up the first of his two 20-strikeout games.

“I was sitting out in the bullpen, and I can still remember the sound of that mitt popping all night long,” Ladd said. “It was quite a sight. And we still could have won that game.”

Caught in a youth movement with the struggling Mariners, Ladd was released and out of baseball that winter at 30.

“It might as well have been 40 at that time,” he said. “I was set to make something like $160,000, and I guess they figured they could get two younger arms for that price.”

Ladd’s family moved to Atlanta for his father’s work just before the pitcher would have started his freshman year at Deering High School. Ladd said the longer southern season probably played a role in his development, in earning a scholarship at Ole Miss and eventually being drafted.

But Maine is where the baseball dream began and where Ladd’s American dream continues. He now works for Hammond Lumber at its Yarmouth location.

“I deal mostly with contractors and a great group of guys and gals,” said Ladd. “It’s another family, a little bit like baseball. I miss that camaraderie.”

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Peter Ladd’s career statistics
Team                   W-L  Sv  ERA
1979  Houston       1-1   0   2.92
1982  Milwaukee    1-3   3   4.00
1983  Milwaukee    3-4  25  2.55
1984  Milwaukee    4-9   3   5.24
1985  Milwaukee    0-0   2   4.53
1986  Seattle         8-6   6   3.82


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