Larry LaRue is good at getting people to talk. Even athletes who don’t particularly like chatting with the media will inevitably open up to LaRue.
The longtime sportswriter has put some of his favorite quips, quotes and quirky stories into Major League Encounters, a collection of 100 personal accounts of professional ballplayers he has covered. Make that 99 ballplayers and one golfer. The final chapter is about when Tiger Woods dropped in on Mariners batting practice in Minnesota.
LaRue has covered professional baseball for 32 years — 24 of them as Seattle Mariners beat writer for The News Tribune of Tacoma. He has interviewed the great players of the past generation, but Major League Encounters is made special by its inclusion of the less well known. Yes, you’ll find Ken Griffey Jr. and Cal Ripken Jr. and even Willie Mays. Reggie Jackson and Nolan Ryan, too. But the true heart of baseball beats in the stories of men like Luis Sojo, Rich Amaral and Bill 'Haselman'.
Given LaRue’s job description, most of the people he includes in the book have Mariners connections, but not all. Readers will also encounter Bill Buckner and Barry Bonds, Kirk Gibson and Dwight Gooden, Tony Gwynn and Tony LaRussa. At $11.95 for the paperback and $3.99 for the e-reader version, it’s a small price to pay for some memorable encounters. Heck, David Segui’s priceless comment about Randy Johnson — which we cannot reprint here — is totally worth the price of admission.