Larry Gowell takes a ride at Stan Rice’s camp on Bear Pond in Hartford. Submitted photo

Larry Gowell never met a stranger.

To the former New York Yankees pitcher, they were people he hadn’t met, yet and that’s how his son, Chad Holland, described his late father.

The Edward Little High School graduate and Auburn resident died at age 72, reportedly from a heart attack, on Monday doing what he liked — playing golf and being with people he enjoyed.

Gowell’s kindness, sincerity and charisma allowed him to walk into any room and own it. He was the life of family gatherings and he went through the world that way. 

“He never met a stranger and he is the most positive person I have ever been around,” Holland said. “I never saw him get angry or never say one bad thing about another human being.

“We shared a love for the game of baseball. We shared a love for the game of life. He was either kayaking, he was either skiing and he was either playing golf. He really loved golf. He loved his grandkids, and just love of life, and he lived it to the fullest.”

People who knew the gregarious Gowell will tell you one thing: He was a great guy who enjoyed making himself at home and fitting in with people. He sang at nursing homes and performed at churches. He was an adept musician who played the horn and piano.

“I didn’t get that attribute,” Holland said. “I don’t know what happened to me. He was just an amazing musician. My uncle (Rich Gowell) is an amazing musician They were an amazing musical family, and I have none of that.”

“He loved to sing. He love to entertain people,” Holland added. “He liked to entertain the seniors. Like I said, if he walked into a room, you would know him right away. He just had the personality.” 

But when COVID-19 creeped into Maine and shut down senior living homes, that meant Gowell could no longer entertain the elderly — and that bothered him.

YANKEE FAVORITE

Gowell is entered into the record books as the last American League pitcher to get a hit before the designated hitter was introduced into the sport in 1973.

On Oct. 4, 1972, Gowell went to the plate against Brewers pitcher Jim Lonborg. Gowell ripped the ball on the third pitch and came up with a leadoff double.

“I know when I was standing in the on-deck circle and they called my name, I was super determined to give it all,” recalled Gowell during an interview with a Yankees blog on Fansided.com. “I had to not make a fool out of myself and swing hard three times if the ball is around the plate.”

That ball has been encased at the Baseball Hall of Fame since November 1996.

But besides his music, Larry Gowell began to focus on his grandson, Tucker Holland, who lives in North Carolina. Larry would spend two weeks out of the year watching Tucker pitch, and of course, offer his grandson tips as well.

Tucker, who is a top-ranked high-school baseball prospect and sought after by some of the nation’s top colleges, is doing well on the diamond, making his grandfather proud.

“He was very excited about Tucker’s future,” Chad Holland said. “He loved it so much hearing great things about his grandson.”

Chad said his son took Larry’s death hard because the two were close.

“It was hard early, but he knows that grandad can see every game now,” Chad said. “Larry came down here every year for two weeks and saw as many games as he could, but he gets to see every game just from a different viewpoint. Tucker wants to play for him and make him proud.”

CARRYING A TUNE

Brother Rich Gowell said Larry was having “a hard time” with the coronavirus because the isolation put a damper on Larry’s outgoing manner.

“Beside his baseball, people knew him later in life as a singer,” Rich Gowell said. “He sang at a lot of nursing homes. He was kind of blue (of not performing) and that he couldn’t do that anymore, and he didn’t know if he would ever do it again because of his underlying health conditions.

“If you knew Larry, he was outgoing. Everybody was his friend. He will be missed.”

In 2010, according to a Sun Journal article written by former staffer Kalle Oakes, Gowell contributed background vocals and a flugelhorn solo to a CD, “Playin’ Baseball,” recorded by his brother Rich under the stage pseudonym Ace Diamond.

In the article, Oakes wrote: A mix of original songs and cover versions of baseball standards by such music legends as Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty and Kenny Rogers, the album was accepted in June by the hall of fame for use in its multi-media displays.

The matching hall of fame certificates adorn opposite walls in the living room of the brothers’ home on Seventh St.

“They thought it was good enough to use the music to promote baseball,” Larry Gowell said in 2010. “We are honored.”

Stan and Marilyn Rice, two former Massachusetts teachers who relocated to Turner, became fast friends with Larry and often invited him to their camp in Hartford.

“He liked everybody. He was just a good person,” Stan Rice said. “He was entertaining and would love to have him join us for a meal. He was a good friend.”

“His passion was his singing,” Marilyn Rice said. “Stan and I were the ones who got him started around here because he came to our church.”

Larry Gowell, left, and Stan Rice enjoy the fresh air at Bear Pond in Hartford. Submitted photo

The couple discovered Larry’s gift for singing and he began belting out tunes at the Rice’s church, and before long, he was singing at nursing homes.

“He really understood old people,” Marilyn said. “Those women just worshipped that man. They were so happy, and you know what, they would dress up like they were going to a ball.”

When the couple went out to eat during Father’s Day, Larry caught the eye of a family who kept looking over at the Rice’s table.

“Finally, one family member said to me, ‘Who is that guy?’ I said, ‘That’s Larry Gowell.’ He said, ‘I knew I knew him. He played for the Yankees, didn’t he?’ I said, ‘Yes.’

“And he got up off his seat and went to shake hands with Larry. This was a kid, probably, 17, 18 years old, and he said to Larry, ‘I would love a picture of you and an autograph.

“Larry said, ‘Give me your address and I will send you a picture and sign it to you,’ and Larry said he did that. That’s one kid he made very happy.”


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