PEI

Vern Handrahan remembered as 'a model for any athlete'

Vern Handrahan, the only Islander to play Major League Baseball in the modern era, was remembered Thursday as a "model for any athlete."

Handrahan was the only P.E.I. native to play Major League Baseball in the modern era

Vern Handrahan died last year, shortly before his 80th birthday. (CBC)

Vern Handrahan was remembered Thursday as "just one of the guys."

Except he happens to be the only Islander to play Major League Baseball in the modern era.

James Vernon "Vern" Handrahan passed away on Wednesday, three weeks from his 80th birthday.

Vern Handrahan, circa 1964, when he was a pitcher with the Kansas City A's. (P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame)

Dr. Bobby Lund, a lifelong friend who played minor baseball with him in Charlottetown, said Handrahan was a humble person who never sought any glory.

"Didn't have to," Lund said on CBC News: Compass. "People knew who he was. Vern Handrahan. A model for any athlete."

Handrahan, a righthanded pitcher, "could always throw hard and he rode that arm right to the big leagues," Lund said.

Handrahan was drafted by the Milwaukee Braves in 1959. One of his roommates was Phil Neikro, who went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career.

"I was jealous of him," Lund said with a chuckle.

Longtime friend Dr. Bobby Lund says Vern Handrahan was a humble person who never sought glory. (CBC News: Compass)

Handrahan made his major league debut in 1964 with the Kansas City A's. He played two seasons with the A's, with no wins and one loss in 61.1 innings, mostly in relief.

Lund said he saw Handrahan pitch both ends of a doubleheader at Fenway Park in 1966.  Lund, a loyal Red Sox fan, said it was the first time he was unsure who to cheer for.

"I wanted Vern to do well, but I figured they'd do their hitting against the other pitchers," he said.

I don't think anybody put him on a pedestal and he didn't want to be on one.– Dr. Bobby Lund

Lund said Handrahan told him stories of hitting playing with Vida Blue and, in the minors, Reggie Jackson.

He said pitching in Yankee Stadium gave Handrahan goosebumps, even though he once beaned Mickey Mantle in the rear end with a pitch, and had Roger Maris belt one of his fastballs off the centre-field wall.

"He told me when he came out of the bullpen the first time he pitched at Yankee Stadium he was coming across the outfield grass and they were announcing his name — 'now pitching for the Kansas City A's Vern Handrahan' — he said it was like a dream come true. He just got tingle all over. You could imagine."

Vern Handrahan continued to be involved in baseball after his Major League career. (Brian MacDonald)

Handrahan was sent the minors in 1967, and after a few more years of AAA he returned to Charlottetown, where he coached kids and played in an old-timers league.

"Ball players in his era didn't make a fortune," Lund said.

"He was just one of the guys when he came back and coached in the city league after his retirement from baseball. They respected him. I don't think anybody put him on a pedestal and he didn't want to be on one."

Handrahan's funeral will be held at the Belvedere Funeral Home on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

With files from CBC News: Compass

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