Former Mesa, JUCO pitcher Lersch dies at 65

Mack Gendreau had enough baseball talent to be signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964.

As Gendreau recalls, a former Mesa College teammate of his, Barry Lersch, had even more talent.

Lersch, 65, who died Oct. 4 in Aurora after a heart attack, played Major League Baseball for three organizations in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.

“He had awesome stuff,” Gendreau said. “He had all the talent in the world.”

Lersch and Gendreau helped Mesa College reach the championship game of the 1964 Junior College World Series, where they lost to Miami Dade (Fla.) Junior College.

“He had a great curve ball, a great fastball,” Gendreau said of the right-handed pitcher.

In addition, said Gendreau, Lersch was an excellent hitter.

Pat Moriarity, who played left field on that Mesa team and later played minor league ball in the Cincinnati Reds organization, stayed in touch with Lersch when the two both eventually moved back to the Denver area after their professional careers ended.

“He was a tremendously talented guy,” said Moriarity, who was informed of Lersch’s death by Lersch’s brother, Mickey.

Lersch and Gendreau were both selected as pitchers to the 1964 JUCO all-tournament team (Gendreau was the MVP).

After that tournament, both players signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Dan MacKendrick, who was coaching at Delta High School during the 1964 season but became an assistant coach under Bus Bergman that fall, remembered watching Lersch in that 1964 tournament.

“He was really a good one,” MacKendrick recalled.

Lersch, who graduated from Denver East High School in 1962, played only his freshman season at Mesa College before he signed as a free agent with Philadelphia.

Gendreau’s and Lersch’s paths crossed again in 1965, when both played for the Phillies’ Class A affiliate in Spartanburg, S.C. They were roommates during that season.

“He was a good guy,” Gendreau said.

Lersch made his major league debut with the Phillies on April 8, 1969.

Atlanta acquired Lersch in a trade in 1973. One year later, St. Louis purchased Lersch’s contract from the Braves.

He finished his career with the Cardinals in September 1974.

Lersch had a combined 18-32 record but finished with a 3.82 ERA, appearing in 169 major league games.

A memorial for Lersch is at Heather Ridge Country Club in Aurora.

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