Biittner passes away at 75 years old

Pocahontas legend is former MLB player, in both basketball, baseball Hall

POCAHONTAS — For 13 seasons, Larry Biittner was a dependable, versatile Major League Baseball player who suited up for the Washington Senators, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos and Cincinnati Reds.

Most of Biittner’s life away from the spotlight was spent in Pocahontas, though. The man affectionately known as “Butch” became a legend in his home community, both before and after – even more so than during — his time as a professional athlete.

Biittner died on Sunday at the age of 75.

As a big-leaguer, Biittner became known for his hustle, reliability and clutch pinch-hitting stroke. He played in over 1,200 games and accumulated more than 3,000 at-bats, hitting .273 in a career that began in 1971 and ended in 1983. Biittner played first base and both corner outfield positions, and racked up 426 plate appearances as a pinch hitter as well.

Before he was drafted by the Senators in 1968, though, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Biittner was a standout athlete at Pocahontas Catholic High School – showing promise on the baseball field, basketball court and in track. He was a first team all-state hoop star as both a junior and senior in 1963 and 1964, once scoring 52 points against Rembrandt High School and finishing with 602 points in his senior year alone for the Eagles, who would consolidate with Pocahontas six seasons later.

Drake University recruited Biittner to play basketball, but he ultimately transferred to Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, where he became a dual-sport athlete. He pitched and played in both the infield and outfield for the Beavers, earning All-American status.

After being selected by Washington in the 10th round of the 1968 draft, Biittner reported to minor-league camp as a pitcher. The Senators eventually found more value in him as an infielder, though. Biittner joined the United States Army in 1969, and was one of only 54 MLB players to serve during the Vietnam War.

Biittner returned to minor league ball briefly in 1970 before being called up by the Senators on July 17. He stuck with the club in 1971 before being traded to the Rangers in 1972 and Expos in 1974.

Biittner’s style, attitude and penchant for clutch performances cultivated a cult-like following after he joined the Cubs in 1976. Biittner had his best season in the big leagues the following summer, in 1977, batting .298 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI.

Eventually, the recovery of an injured Bill Buckner and the acquisition of Dave Kingman led to less playing time on the North Side, and Biittner signed with Cincinnati in 1981. He retired after his second stint with the Texas Rangers in 1983.

During his career, Biittner played for Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Whitey Herzog, Billy Martin and Gene Mauch.

Biittner eventually retired and moved back to Pocahontas to farm in 1990. Biittner had lived in Pocahontas for the last 30-plus years, where the community’s baseball field was first named after him during a 1975 ceremony hosted by the Pocahontas Chamber of Commerce. “Larry Biittner Day,” on Oct. 4, 1975, recognized the community’s only big leaguer with a parade and banquet.

Biittner was born on July 27, 1946, as one of 12 children to Edward Oscar and Henrietta Amollia (Stoulil) Biittner. He is a member of both the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association and Iowa High School Athletic Association Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the Buena Vista University Athletic Hall of Fame.


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