Tom Lawless owns the distinction of being the only player ever traded for the legendary Pete Rose. He is also remembered for a game-winning home run in Game 4 of the 1987 World Series, capped off with an impeccable bat-flip.
On Monday, the Penn State Behrend alumnus and Erie native once again etched himself into the record books when he was named the twenty-first manager of the Houston Astros on an interim basis. It’s Lawless’ first Major League managerial job since his coaching career began in the minor leagues in 1992.
“It's very exciting,” Lawless said at a press conference Tuesday before the Astros’ game against the Los Angeles Angels. “You're in this game forever, and I've been doing this a long time. The nice thing about it is, I know a lot of the young kids that are up here, because I've worked with them the last three or four years.”
Lawless has worked within the Astros’ system for the last six years, including this year as the infield coach at Double-A Corpus Christi. He spent the first few weeks of the season as the interim manager at Triple-A Oklahoma City when Tony DeFrancesco was on medical leave.
He inherits an Astros team that is 60-79, and on pace to be one of Major League Baseball’s most improved teams after losing a club-record 111 games last year. The 60 wins are Houston’s most since 2010.
“The organization is going in the right direction, and I'm happy to be a big part of it,” Lawless said.
Penn State Behrend baseball coach Paul Benim has met Lawless when he’s visited campus and was excited to hear the news.
“It’s an awesome thing for Tom to hold one of thirty jobs at baseball’s highest level. I’m sure he’s going to do a really good job for the remaining part of the schedule,” Benim said. “It’s just great for all of Behrend nation. We were on the field (Monday) when the announcement was made, but when we got off, I had over a dozen texts about it. A lot of Behrend baseball people are talking about it. We’re all now Houston Astros fans.”
Lawless played at Penn State Behrend from 1975-78 before becoming the college’s first-ever player to be drafted into the Majors by the Cincinnati Reds on June 17, 1978. In parts of eight Major League seasons, Lawless had a .207 batting average and 24 RBIs in stints with the Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos, St. Louis Cardinals, and Toronto Blue Jays.