|Volume LVI||February 2009||Number 1|
A Champion at Heart
For 11 years, Bro. Larry "L.C." Christenson, Thomson Lodge No. 340, Paoli, gave everything he had as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. His hard work, and that of his teammates, earned them several division and league championships, and of course, the World Series in 1980.
Today, Bro. Christenson dedicates his life to family, friends, clients, his personal company, charitable endeavors and the Masonic fraternity.
"I would love to do more if I could find the time," he said. "I do the best I can."
He became involved in the Masonic fraternity after discussing business with the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and forming a relationship with Bro. Thomas W. Jackson, R.W. Past Grand Secretary. The more he learned about the fraternity, the more interested he became in joining. In 2001, he and Bro. Walter Dunkle, Dietrick Lamade Lodge No. 755, Williamsport, were invited to attend a special Mason-At-Sight ceremony held at State College.
The rarely bestowed honor of being made a Mason-At-Sight entails all three degrees being performed on one day and in the presence of the Grand Master, who in 2001 was Robert L. Dluge, Jr.
"I've had some very wonderful moments in my life including meeting Pope John Paul II in a private audience and being part of the 1980 World Series Championship team, but the honor bestowed on me of being Raised as a Master Mason definitely ranks right up there," he said.
On Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Quarterly Communication, Bro. Christenson received the Grand Master's Medal, given to members of the fraternity who have distinguished themselves through service to their community, lodge or Grand Lodge.
"As a Freemason, I realize I'm in a very special, charitable fraternity. There have been hundreds of former major leaguers who were Freemasons: Richie Ashburn, Cy Young, Ty Cobb and the list goes on - a lot of great old timers from back in the day. I've enjoyed meeting so many other good men along the way."
His official job is president and CEO of Christenson Investment Partners, but he spreads his time between his company and numerous charitable efforts. In addition to working with the Masonic Charities' Capital Campaign, Bro. Christenson is involved in charitable work with the ALS Foundation, Phillies Charities, American Heart Association, Tug McGraw Foundation for brain cancer research, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Fighting Blindness working alongside his friend Wayne Gretzky.
"Working with these charities has grown to be a very important part of my life," he said.
In his seven years as a Mason, Bro. Christenson has also joined the Scottish Rite and the Shriners. He traveled to Moscow with Bro. Jackson as part of an Eastern European Conference hosted by the Grand Lodge of Russia. He recalls that in all of Russia, there were only 263 members and he and Bro. Jackson were guests at their Annual Communication. It was with great pride that the members and their guests were able to walk the streets of Moscow in their tuxes to attend the meeting.
"They had recently come from operating underground and no longer had to conduct their business in secrecy," Bro. Christenson said. "In receiving us as guests during the Communication, you could look in their eyes and see tears of happiness."
Bro. Christenson is a strong advocate for the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia. "It is absolutely a national treasure," he said. "I take visitors there all the time. It is such a unique place with so much history. I'm impressed with how quickly the restoration process got underway. It is remarkable how Joseph Murphy [chief executive officer, Masonic Villages], his staff and the Capital Campaign Committee came together for this accomplishment." He has taken both his daughters, Libby, 16, and Claire, 14, to see the Temple.
Before he became actively involved in the Masonic fraternity, Bro. Christenson's life revolved around athletics. As a child, he had either a basketball, football, baseball glove, tennis racket or track shoes within his reach at all times. He and his older brother, Gary, played sports day in and day out with neighbors, stopping only when it was too dark to see. He always played on teams a level higher than his age group in little league and in high school, and was named to the All-America teams in baseball and basketball his junior and senior years.
As a pitcher in high school, he threw back-to-back no-hitters and consistently hit balls out of the park. Hailing from Everett, Wash., known for its cold and rainy climate, however, Bro. Christenson anticipated he would be a college recruit to play basketball. During his senior year playing baseball, he noticed more than 50 scouts at a time at his games. This number dwindled to a handful throughout the season because he looked to be an extremely high draft choice.
The day after graduating from high school in 1972, he was chosen in the first round of the amateur draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, which had the number three pick in the country.
"We didn't have a lot of baseball in the northwest," he said, "and I'd never really left the state of Washington. When I heard the Phillies drafted me, I thought the Phillies were horses. I never really followed professional baseball because my sport was basketball."
That night, Phillies' scouts came to his house and Bro. Christenson negotiated his own contact. He packed up and headed for Philadelphia with some family members. He worked out at Veterans Stadium and watched Steve Carlton throw a three-hit shutout against the Pirates that night. Roberto Clemente was at right field for the Pirates.
That summer, he played in the rookie league where he pitched in only six games. He made the major league roster in spring training and won his major league debut at age 19 on Friday night, April 13, 1973. He pitched a complete game victory, beating the Mets 7 to 1. At the age of 19, he was the youngest player in the major leagues that season.
With the Phillies, he went on to win three straight National League East division titles, 1976 through 1978, and won the World Series Championship in 1980. In 1977, he had an overall record of 19 wins and 6 losses. In 1983, the Phils battled the Dodgers to win the National League Pennant and returned to the World Series, losing to Baltimore. Bro. Christenson was successful off the mound as well. With 11 long balls, he holds the record for the most career home runs by a pitcher in the history of the Phillies.
Throughout his 11-year career, his toughest opponents were pain and injuries. Born with a bad back, his doctors told him "to take up the violin" instead of sports. He played through the pain. His catcher, Bob Boone, could tell when he was hurting and would come out and talk to him on the mound to delay the game. Overall, he had five elbow operations, three shoulder operations and many pulled muscles.
"I was hardly ever 100 percent pain-free while playing," he said. "But I wasn't the only one. You'd just tape on a Band-Aid, take an aspirin and go get 'em. It was such an honor to play professional baseball for the Phillies organization."
"I played in a great era of baseball. I would do it all over again, although I'd do things differently. My era is over, but I feel fortunate to still have friends and teammates who I see quite a bit. I'm proud of our team and the organization."
The list of players he was honored to play with and against includes legends of the game, those who took him under their wing and who he greatly admired such as teammates Steve Carlton, Tim McCarver, Jim Lonborg and Jim Kaat, along with Mike Schmidt, Tug McGraw, Garry Maddox and Pete Rose. Others he had the pleasure to play against were Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer and Bob Gibson.
For the first time in 28 years, there is a new Philadelphia Phillies World Championship team - a victory the fans, including R.W. Grand Master Stephen Gardner and his lady, Patricia, are still celebrating. For a man who once stood on the mound with the best baseball team in the world, Bro. Christenson feels the current team's elation.
"I'm so happy for the organization, the fans and the players," he said. "I'm so proud of them. The last few years with all the camaraderie, rivalries and other fun stuff that goes on - it all came together. And I think they can do it again."
When asked how his 1980 team would fare against the 2008 Phillies, Bro. Christenson didn't hesitate to say his own teammates would have swept the new generation.
"They would have been scared to death of Steve Carlton," he said in jest. "Larry Bowa and Pete Rose would have been screaming into their dugout. We would have knocked their hitters on their rear ends because we were fierce and competitive."
These days, when he finds time, Bro. Christenson enjoys playing golf (despite its frustrations), fishing and hunting. "I wish I had time to do more," he said. "My business keeps me busy. Someday, I would like to quit being a 100-m.p.h.-person and be able to relax and spend time with family, friends and do more traveling."
While he may not be throwing fastballs on the mound anymore, Bro. Christenson has a lot on his plate with plans to continue growing his business, supporting a seemingly endless list of charities and increasing his involvement in the Masonic fraternity.
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