Thursday, April 22, 2010
#30 Larry French
Larry French was born in 1907 in Visalia, California. He joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1929, and from there embarked on a long and successful career, becoming one of the the top lefthanded pitchers in the National League in the 1930's.
After a 7-5 record in his rookie season in '29, he became a mainstay in the Pirates rotation, winning 17 and 15 games before attaining two 18-win seasons in 1932 and 1933. After slumping to 12-18 in 1934, he was traded to the Cubs where his career was resurrected. With a pennant-winning team, French went 17-10 with a 2.96 ERA, but lost two games in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. He followed that up with an 18-9 record in 1936 and 16-10 in '37.
After a few more solid seasons for the Cubs, French was traded to the Dodgers near the end of the 1941 season. In 1942, at 34 years of age, French went 15-4 with a 1.83 ERA (7 innings shy of qualifying for the league lead) in time split between the bullpen and the rotation.
Following the 1942 season, French found beginning of a new career and a new calling. Already a member of the Navy Reserve Corps, French joined the Navy full-time and never again appeared on the diamond. He won 197 games in his career, and threw over 3100 innings.
French saw action in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June of 1944, and also found himself in the Okinawa invasion the following year in the Pacific. He was released from active duty in late 1945, and contemplated returning to baseball to get those three wins he needed to get 200, but decided against it. He stayed in the Naval Reserve, and in 1951 he was recalled when the Korean War erupted. After the Korean War, he remained stationed in San Diego, and in 1965 was promoted to Commanding Officer. He retired from the Navy in 1969, and lived in San Diego the rest of his life, playing golf and squash, as well as gardening with his wife, Thelma. French died in 1987 at 79 years of age, and is the only man in baseball history to have served ten years in both the military and Major League baseball.
The Autograph: There was a stretch where French stopped responding to autograph requests through the mail, but not when I got this card signed.