Larry French was a 6’1” pitcher from Visalia, CA. The southpaw was born November 1st, 1907 and made his first professional appearance with the “C” level Ogden Gunners of the Utah-Idaho League in 1926. He went 8-7, 5.91 before getting promoted to the “AA” level Portland Beavers, going 1-0 over 17 innings. He spent the next two seasons with the Beavers, collecting a 22-29 overall record with a 4.25 ERA.
French made his major league debut with the Pirates in 1929, finishing six of his 13 starts (out of 30 overall appearances). He went 7-5 with a 4.90 ERA and a save. On May 7th, he got a 10-inning complete game win over the New York Giants, 3-2, allowing six hits and striking out four. Pittsburgh finished in second place at 88-65, 10.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs.
In 1930, French led the NL by facing 1232 batters. He finished 21 (NL 3rd) of 35 (NL 2nd) starts, collecting a 17-18 record with a 4.36 ERA (this record ranked him fourth in wins, first in losses). He also struck out 90 batters, ranking him eighth in the NL. His best game of the campaign may have been his first, a complete game, 7-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in which he allowed two hits and only one unearned run. On May 20th, he pitched a four hit shutout over the Reds, 5-0, one of three goose eggs he pitched through the season. Pittsburgh posted an 80-74 record, 12 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in fifth place in the NL.
1931 would see French post a 15-13 record with a 3.26 ERA. He completed 20 (NL 5th) of his 33 (NL 2nd) starts, ranking second in the league with 275.2 innings pitched. He was the Pirates opening day starter. On June 10th, he pitched a complete game three-hitter, allowing only an unearned run in a 5-1 win over the Giants. On July 25th, in the second game of a doubleheader, he pitched a complete game 14-inning (bet you don’t see that again) 3-2 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers, allowing 15 hits and striking out five. The Bucs went 75-79, 26 games behind the Cardinals and fifth in the NL.
French went 18-16 (fourth in wins) in 1932 with an NL sixth best 3.02 ERA. He led the senior circuit by pitching in 47 games, ranking fifth with four saves. He also pitched three shutouts that season. On May 20th, he blanked the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-0 by pitching a complete game two-hitter, striking out four. Later, in the first half of a doubleheader on June 26th, he won another 5-0 decision, pitching a complete game four hitter over the Reds. The Pirates missed the pennant by four games at 86-68 behind the Cubs.
In 1933, French posted an 18-13 (NL sixth in wins) record with another progressive career low and NL seventh best 2.72 ERA, the fifth time in five years he accomplished the feat. He completed 21 of 35 games along with 12 relief appearances. He also ranked ninth in the NL with a 1.184 WHIP. He also tossed a league third leading five shutouts. On May 8th, he struck out five and allowed only three hits in a 3-0 win over the Boston Braves. The Pirates lost the pennant by five games to the New York Giants with an 87-67 record. French finished 15th in the NL MVP voting.
1934 would see French post a 12-18 record with a 3.58 ERA. He finished 16 of his 34 starts, including three shutouts. He struck out three and allowed only three hits on July 26th in game one of a doubleheader, a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates (lack of) success that season mirrored French’s, as they missed out on the money by 19.5 games behind the pennant winning Cardinals, at 74-76. After the season the Pirates traded him to the Cubs with outfielder Freddie Lindstrom for pitcher Guy Bush, outfielder Babe Herman, and pitcher Jim Weaver.
French pitched for Chicago for the next six and a half seasons, compiling a 95-84 record with a 3.54 ERA, making the 1940 all-star team. He closed out his career with just over a season in Brooklyn. In 1942, his final major league season, he went 15-4 with career bests 1.104 WHIP and 1.83 ERA.
All-Time Statline: Six seasons, 87-83, 3.50 ERA, 254 games, 183 starts, 103 CG, 15 shutouts, nine saves, 1502.2 innings pitched, 1646 hits allowed, walked 397, struck out 475, 1.360 WHIP, 17.1 wins above replacement.