First things first, Pete LaCock had one of the funniest surnames in the history of Royals baseball. Now that we can get past that, who was Pete LaCock?
Looking past the funny name
Pete LaCock grew up in the place where dreams are made - Hollywood. More specifically, Burbank. His dad was Peter Marshall, the host of Hollywood Squares. His aunt was actress Joanne Dru. Clearly Pete LaCock was destined for stardom.
Pete was a first round pick out of high school by the Chicago Cubs in the January Secondary Draft in 1970. He put up fairly pedestrian numbers his first two minor league seasons until 1972 when he hit .306 while leading the Texas League in walks (84) and triples (13). That earned him a cup of coffee with the Cubs at age 20. The following year he hit .297 at AAA Wichita and again earned a cup of coffee with the Cubs. The Cubs had a young first baseman named Andre Thornton ahead of LaCock, so Pete was again sent to Wichita in 1974 where he he erupted with a .327 average, 23 home runs and 91 RBI. He did manage more time in the big leagues that year, but hit just .182 in 110 at bats.
In 1976, LaCock started the first month of the season in the bigs while Thornton was out with an injury. When Thornton returned in May, it was back to the bench for Pete. LaCock did prove to be a valuable pinch hitter, going 9-27 (.333) in a reserve role, but was still disappointing overall with a .229 average and just six home runs. That winter, the Cubs decided to move LaCock in a three team trade to the Royals in which Kansas City would give up outfielder Sheldon Mallory.
LaCock flourished in Kansas City, hitting .300 and serving as a valuable pinch hitter, going 8-22 (.364) in the role. The Royals won the division title that year, but fell to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. Manager Whitey Herzog was particularly perturbed at the performance of first baseman John Mayberry who played hung over during Game Four. Herzog demanded that management get rid of Mayberry, and the Royals traded the slugger that winter, handing the first base job to LaCock.
LaCock responded with his best season ever, hitting .295 with 5 home runs and 48 RBI. He was a contact hitter, striking out just twenty-seven times in 347 plate appearances. He didn't have much power as a first baseman, but in the 70s there was an explosion of light hitting, no power first basemen in the league - Mike Squires, Larry Biittner, and (shudder) Tony Muser. LaCock kept his job with tremendous bat control, striking out just 171 times in over 1700 at bats for his career.
LaCock performed well in 1978 despite a harrowing experience in August. LaCock was with some friends when three men, including one with a gun, held them up. A scuffle ensued, resulting in the assailant, Alex Clark, getting shot in the head with his own gun. LaCock was cleared of any wrong-doing, and Clark survived and was charged with aggravated assault.
Back on the ball field, LaCock had a terrific ALCS in 1978, hitting .364 with two doubles and a triple in eleven at bats, but it wasn't enough to beat the Yankees who bested the Royals for a third year in a row. Pete was again the starter in 1979 and reached a career high in at bats. He hit .277 with 3 home runs and 56 RBI but slugged just .380. The Royals grew dissatisfied with the lack of power they were getting from him, and in the winter of 1979, acquired a power hitting first baseman by the name of Willie Aikens.
LaCock was relegated to the bench in 1980 and hit just .205 in a very limited role. He made an appearance in both the ALCS and World Series, but did not get to hit. The Royals granted him free agency that winter, and he signed with a team in Japan.
After his playing career, Pete spent a few years playing in the Senior Professional Baseball Association before being hired as a roving minor league instructor for the Cardinals. He has also managed or coached for several independent league teams in the United States and Canada. Today he lives in the Kansas City area, and is active in the community, but he hasn't quite shaken the baseball bug. These days you can find him serving as the third base coach for the St. Joseph Blacksnakes of the American Association.
"I love baseball history. I love baseball trivia. I just love baseball." - Pete LaCock