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Larry French

Larry French

Position(s):
P
Born:
November 1, 1907
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Left
Height:
6' 1"
Weight:
195 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-18-1929 with PIT

After being scouted and signed by Connie Mack’s son while playing semi-pro ball in Oregon, pitcher Larry French was sold to the Pirates for $55,000 making his debut in 1929.  
    
Despite the fact he won 17 games in his first full season in the Pirate rotation good for 4th in the senior circuit, French would lose an NL high 18 contests in 1930 while giving up 325 hits in 274 2/3 innings.  Throughout his time in Pittsburgh, French would give up more hits than innings pitched except for 1933 when he allowed 290 in 291 1/3 frames.  What Larry did have going for him was control as the California native gave up only 397 walks in his 6 year stay in the Burgh good for 2.37 bases on balls every nine innings of work.
    
The southpaw went 15-13 in 1931 before winning 18 games in each of the next two seasons including a 2.72 ERA in 1933 which would represent his lowest mark until his final season with the Dodgers in 1942.
    
French slumped to 12-18 in 1934 and was dealt to the Cubs in what would turn out to be a very misguided move for the Pirates.  The sent him and an aging Freddie Lindstrom to Chicago for Guy Bush, Jim Weaver and Babe Herman.  While French became a star in the Windy City, only Weaver would contribute to the Bucs going 28-16 in ’35 and ‘36 before going to the Cards in 1938.
    
Larry won 5 games in the Cubs 21 game win streak in 1935 that helped the club find its way to the World Series against Detroit.  During that fall classic, French was involved in a situation that was not one of his proudest moments as he got on Tiger superstar Hank Greenberg with some other teammates constantly throwing out derogatory comments about Greenberg’s Jewish heritage.
   
The durable hurler, who pitched in over 40 contests for 7 seasons in a row, was traded to the Dodgers after 5 ½ more seasons with the Cubbies that included another World Series appearance in 1938 and his one and only all-star game selection in 1940.  After a sub-par 1941 campaign where Larry went 5-14, he rebounded with a 14-5 mark in 1942 leading the league in winning percentage at .789 while accumulating a miniscule 1.83 ERA.
    
Knowing his time was short in the majors as the 35 year old pitcher was stuck at 197 wins with an induction into the Navy at hand, French petitioned the powers that be to be able to stay close to home in order that he was able to pitch long enough to get his 3 wins for 200 career victories.  He even made the offer that he would contribute his entire salary of $8,000 to the Navy Relief Fund if they granted his wish.  Not wanting to start a trend, the Navy denied his request, which, as Larry correctly predicted ended his career 3 wins short of his goal.
    
French not only went into the service, but fought bravely on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion.  He spent several days on the beach ducking bullets, luckily surviving the horrific experience.  Larry was not finished with the armed forces as he stayed in the reserves and once again answered the call during the Korean Conflict.  He retired from the service in 1969 with the rank of Captain.
    
In the realm of things, considering his fight for life and death on the famed French beach during that pivotal day in the nations history, 200 career wins turned out not to be as defining a moment as Larry probably thought it originally was.  200 game winners are quickly forgotten while true American hero’s who fought to preserve our way of life will always be treasured.

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Tagged:
1935 World Series, Brooklyn Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Larry French, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, WWII

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