Annville is home to some great people, it’s centrally located and it boasts an outstanding school system. Annville is a great place to grow up, and a great place to raise a family.
Contrary to popular belief, baseball didn’t bring Claude Osteen to Annville. Annville brought Claude Osteen to Annville, and the baseball followed.
“My wife had an aunt and uncle who lived in Palmyra,” said Osteen, a native of Caney Spring, Tennessee, during an exclusive interview with Lebanon Sports Buzz. “We visited them regularly. We liked to come to Pennsylvania. I had them looking for a farm in the area. I was eager to buy because I grew up on a farm. They told me about this one in the Valley Glen area, and we bought it. That’s what brought us to Annville. It was a good situation.
For a period of nearly two decades, beginning in the mid-1960s, Osteen, a former major league pitcher and pitching coach, owned a farm in the Annville area. He and his wife raised their five children there, four of whom attended Annville-Cleona High School.
“I thought it was a good time for having a family,” said Osteen. “I needed to hang a shingle and get them through high school. I was getting to the point in my career where I was moving around a lot. Having to pull kids out of school is not the best thing. It worked our pretty well.”
At that point in his heralded career, Osteen was hurling for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Following his nine-year stint with Los Angeles, Osteen was traded three times in a two-year period.
“I grew up on a farm in Tennessee,” said Osteen. “When you sign a professional contract, the more you go and the more you miss the family life. I wanted to get the kids in a stationary position. I always favored the small towns. We enjoyed our time in Annville.
“You had different restrictions and you had to have a game plan,” added Osteen. “You’ve got to look at the kids. What kind of place do you need? Do you want to rent or buy? It’s just the situation you are involved with. It’s not necessarily the best situation. You have to ask yourself, ‘Where am I now?’ and ‘What is the situation right now?’ During most of my career, you played and you either produced or you didn’t get paid.”
Upon his retirement as a player in 1975, Osteen took a job as the St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching coach. He was out of major league baseball for a year, before becoming the Philadeliphia Phillies’ pitching coach, from 1982-88.
“During that time before I took the Phillies’ job, I was running a taxi cab service, running my kids all over the place,” said Osteen, 80. “I was out of baseball for one year. I was going to help with the baseball program at Lebanon Valley College. They had hired me for one dollar a year. I was quite excited about it. I took it with the stipulation that I’d do it unless someone (a major league organization) came calling. Then the Phillies came calling. I had to take the job because it was appealing.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see much of that (son Gavin leading Annville-Cleona to a state championship in 1986),” Osteen added. “That was in the middle of my career. I tried to make it home as much as I could. Gavin was a left-handed pitcher, and if he hadn’t had shoulder trouble, I think he had a chance of making it (to the majors). David (son) was a good pitcher too, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, when baseball was putting an emphasis on how hard you threw.”
Osteen enjoyed an absolutely marvelous career in ‘The Show’, one in which he donned a major league jersey in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. As a player, Osteen experienced just about everything, including a World Series championship with the Dodgers in 1965, three selections to the all-star game – in 1967, 1970 and 1973 – and 1,612 career strikeouts.
Osteen posted a career record of 196-195 and an ERA of 3.30.
“The thing I’m most proud of is my consistency,” said Osteen. “I pretty much averaged seven innings per start over my career. I was pretty much able to accomplish everything a pitcher wants to be able to accomplish. I also hit nine home runs, which gives you bragging rights when hitters start getting on you about your pitching. I’m thankful I was able to stay healthy. I wouldn’t trade the era I pitched in. Pitching is a constant pursuit of perfection that you will never attain.
“I had a long career as a pitcher,” continued Osteen. “It was a good career. Early on, I had to learn so much about pitching and myself. I knew I could pass it along to young pitchers. I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble communicating. When you’re a pitcher and you pitch for 20 years, you’re the first one to know when you’re starting to slip. I always had outstanding control. When that starts to go, you can see it right away. The hitters started getting better, stronger and stronger and stronger.”
Osteen’s ability to disseminate knowlege and wisdom made his transition from pitcher to pitching coach a smooth one. Osteen’s final season in the majors was spent with Los Angeles, as the Dodgers pitching coach in 2000, and he now resides in Grand Praire, Texas.
“The game certainly has changed,” said Osteen. “It’s a lot of show business today. As long as I was in it, I saw the game change. But whatever generation you’re in, you like the change. I still love watching it. When the game was played in the (19)60s and (19)70s, it was very competitive. Pitching was an art.
“I’m still getting eight-to-ten pieces of mail a day for autographs,” concluded Osteen. “The thing that amazes me is that they keep coming. You get pictures you’ve never seen before. I’ve always signed everything sent to me and I’ve never charged for it. They (fans) stll remember that you signed it. I had a career a lot of people would give their life for, and my kids have loved it as well.”
And Annville was much more than just a stop along the way.