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In memoriam: David Lander

Ballpark Digest squareBest known as TV’s Squiggy on “Laverne & Shirley,” David Lander spent much of his life in ballparks as a scout, team minority owner and fan. He passed away last night at the age of 73 due to complications with muscular dystrophy.

Lander grew up a baseball fan, attending games as a kid and then attending Canegie Mellon University because of its proximity to Forbes Field. There he met Michael McKean, and the pair combined on a comedy act before breaking out as Lenny and Squiggy on the ABC sitcom, which ran from 1976 to 1983.

While appearing as the popular and distinctive Squiggy Lander maintained a passion for baseball, to the point where he was an investor in the Portland Beavers (Class AAA; Pacific Cost League) in 1980, an experience he shared with’s Jim Caple:

He was a minority owner of the AAA Portland Beavers in 1980, brought in to help pay Luis Tiant’s salary. “I thought, ‘This will be fun, I’ll get to see the inner workings of baseball. The first game I saw as an owner was in Spokane. I showed my pass and the kid at the gate doesn’t know any better so he waves me in and I go sit down in the dugout. The game starts and I’m still sitting there. I know the rules about non-uniformed personnel being on the field and I know I’m not supposed to be there but no one says anything and Tiant has a no-hitter going so I’m afraid to move and jinx it. And no one is saying anything to me because they don’t want to jinx it, either. The game goes on and I’m starting to worry that we’ll have to forfeit the game because I was in the dugout when I wasn’t supposed to. I can see the headlines, ‘Squiggy Ruins Tiant’s No-Hitter.’ But I don’t want to move because he’s got a no-hitter going. Finally, it’s the seventh inning and Tiant sits right down next to me and he says, ‘So, what do you think of my no-hitter?'”

He also appeared in A League of One’s Own in an uncredited role as a radio announcer, directed by his “Laverne & Shirley” co-star Penny Marshall. While continuing his acting career, which transitioned into plenty of work as a voice actor, he was hired as a scout, first by the Anaheim Angels in 1997 and later by the Seattle Mariners in the same role. It was not uncommon to run into Lander in a Minor League Baseball press box, in his element chatting baseball and prospects.