Category Archives: Grand Slam 1978

We interrupt this blog…

… to promote a new idea. The Dead Ballplayers Society ( has a mission. It reads as follows:

We want to recognize and pay tribute to all the baseball players who have passed on. This involves volunteers around the country. We would like to see an annual expression of tribute by cleaning up and placing a baseball related item at the gravesite of as many baseball playerrs as possible. You can find a cheap baseball at any dollar store, and you can find burial sites at, where it is separated by location and cemetaries. The plan is to make this an annual occurence, and have selected Hall of Fame Induction Weekend (July 24, 2011) as the weekend to pay the tribute. So find a major leaguer buried near you, and adopt his gravesite and pay a visit.

Find them on facebook

#39 Lew Fonseca

Lew Fonseca was born in 1899 in Oakland, California. A survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Fonseca grew up to be a good hitter, but his impact on the game truly took place off the field.
In his teens, Fonseca trained as an opera singer. He had a flair for the dramatic, but he was also a very talented athlete. After graduation from Saint Mary’s, Fonseca signed with San Francisco of the PCL. He was then sold to the Cincinnati Reds, where he broke in as a second baseman, but also played some first base and outfield. He was with the Reds for 4 seasons, but never played in more than 82 games, batting .361 in 81 games in 1922. After the 1924 season, he was cliamed off waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies, and in his first full season he batted .319.
After spending the 1925 season with Newark, he joined the Cleveland Indians for the 1927 season, and became their regular first baseman. He batted .311 and .327, picking up a few MVP votes in 1928. In 1929, he enjoyed his best season, winning the American League batting title with a .369 average with 44 doubles. After an injury-shortened 1930, Fonseca returned in 1931 to fine form, batting .370 in the first two months. However, he qwas then dealt to Chicago for Willie Kamm, and finished the season with a .312 average. He tore a ligament is leg in 1932, and his playing career faded quickly. By 1933, his playing days were over, but he finished with a .316 lifetime batting average in 937 games. However, he had been named the White Sox’ manager prior to 1932, and it was here that his innovations changed the game of baseball.
In 1927, while playing winter ball in southern California, Fonseca took a job as an actor, appearing in a film called “Slide, Kelly, Slide” which also starred baseballers Mike Donlin, Bob Meusel, Irish Meusel and Tony Lazzeri. It was on the set that he found himself intrigued with movies and film. As manager of the White Sox in 1932, he bought a 16mm camera and began to film his players batting and pitching. He used the films to find flaws in their swings and delivery, and worked with the players on that flaw. Now a commonplace occurence, Fonseca was the first manager to do so.
After Fonseca was dismissed early into the 1934 season, Fonseca decided to further his merging of his two loves: baseball and film. He approached AL president Will Harridge about filming various events and marketing the sport through film. After a 30-day trial, Harridge liked what he saw and hired Fonseca for an entire year. In 1935, he produced his first sound film, a highlight film about with game footage, interviews, tips on playing the game, and World Series highlights. He continued producing and directing films for the American League, and eventually the Nationaly League to, for 35 years, capturing such famous baseball events as Bob Feller pitching vs the motorcycle, and Al Gionfriddo’s catch in the 1947 World Series.
He produced the World Series highlight films through the 1960’s, until major league baseball determined that with the advent of TV, a movie department was no longer necessary. Fonseca died in Ely, Iowa, in 1989, at the age of 90.
I think Lew Fonseca is a lot like Lefty O’Doul. Both players were great hitters in abbreviated careers in the same era, but both made their mark out of the uniform (Fonseca with his films, O’Doul with his baseball ambassadorship to Japan). Both men are dark horses to make the hall of fame as innovators, but would not be surprised to see either one get elected on that basis.

The Autograph: Clean, sharp penmanship. If only players of today were this neat. Fonseca was another great signer, like most players in this set.

Below: Lew Fonseca filming Chicago Bears legend George Halas (1953) and Fonseca in the 1960’s

#38 Burleigh Grimes

Born in rural Wisconsin in 1893, Burleigh Grimes wound up developing one of the game’s most devastating spitballs as well as one of the game’s a reputation as one of the games toughest players.
The son of a farmer, Grimes went to work at a young age at a lumberyard, where an accident almost cost him his life. He had a large pile of lumber fall on him, but he somehow emerged relatively unscathed. At 13, while attending a minor league baseball game in St Paul, he was enamored by a spitballer playing for Minneapolis, and was determined to replicate the pitch. In 1912, he signed with Eau Claire in Class D baseball, but the league folded. He moved to Ottumwa in 1913, and was signed by the Detroit Tigers. He was quite successful in the next few seasons, moving from Chattanooga to Birmingham, and in 1916 his contract was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He completed 4 of his five starts with Pittsburgh, and expectations were high. However, in 1917, he had a rough season, going 3-16. Pittsburgh dealt him to Brooklyn in the off-season, and that was where Burleigh Grimes became one of the best pitchers in the National League.
In nine seasons with Brooklyn, he won 20 games 4 times and fell one win short in a fifth. In 1920, Brooklyn won their first pennant as Grimes went 23-11 with a 2.22 ERA. He was not as effective in the World Series, winning one game but losing two, including the seventh and deciding game. He also gave up a grand slam to Cleveland’s Elmer Smith, the first slam in World Series history.
After a couple of mediocre seasons, Brooklyn dealt Grimes to the Giants. Grimes went 19-8, but was at odds all season long with McGraw, who was as strong-willed and rough-and-tumble as Grimes. He was dealt back to Pittsburgh in 1928, where he enjoyed two of his best seasons (25-14, 2.99 ERA in 1928, and 17-7 with a 3.13 ERA in 1929). However, Grimes’ personality allowed Grimes to wear out his welcome, despite his overall effectiveness. From 1930 to 1934, he went from Pittsburgh to Boston to St Louis to Chicago back to St Louis to the New York Yankees and back to Pittsburgh. In 1934, at the age of 40, Grimes was released and his career ended with 270 wins.
Grimes legacy consists of two aspects: his spitball and his toughness. Using slippery elm, his spitball would break 6-8 inches when he has it going on. He went to his mouth on every pitch so hitters wouldn’t know when to expect it, but he also had a decent repertoire of other pitches to complement it. In 1919, major league baseball decided to outlaw the spitball, and 22 pitchers, including Grimes, were permitted to throw the pitch legally for one for season, and after that season, would have to rely on other pitches. Grimes and another spitballer, Bill Doak, petitioned the powers-that-be to allow them to continue to use their bread-and-butter pitches for the remainder of their career. After the 1920 season, 17 pitchers, with Grimes and Doak among them, were permitted to throw the spitball until the retired. Grimes, upon his retirement in 1934, was the last major league pitcher to legally throw a spitball.
Grimes toughness as a competitor is legendary. He would not shave for two days before a start, giving him a dark and sinister scowl that intimidated almost every batter who stepped into the box. He was known for throwing at players, either at their head, behind their head, or at any other part of the body he felt okay to do so. He had a long-running feud with Frankie Frisch, which started when Frisch spiked Grimes in a play at first base in 1919. Every time those two faced each other for the next 10+ years, Frisch knew he was getting at least two pitches thrown at his head.
After his playing days ended, Grimes moved quickly into managing. He managed in the minor leagues before getting a job at the helm of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937, where he managed through 1938. Grimes toughness and temperament were still with him as a manager, indicated in an incident in 1938 when he was giving a critique to young Brooklyn pitcher, stating that he thought the youngster lacked confidence when getting in a jam. The young hurler got snippy, telling Burleigh that if Grimes “wasn’t such an old man”, he would…. well, the kid’s comment was interrupted by Grimes’ fist.
He would never return to manage in the big leagues again, but managed around the Midwest in the minor leagues through 1954, with a few interruptions filled with scouting duties. He scouted for the Yankees, Athletics and Orioles through 1971, when he retired.
Grimes was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964. He wisely invested his salaries from his playing days, and was a very successful rancher and farmer, owning a 230 acre farm near St Louis for years, before moving a little further north in Missouri to a 545 acre farm. He returned to Wisconsin to live out the remainder of his days, and died in December of 1985 at the age of 92 after suffering from cancer. He had no children and was survived by his fifth wife, Lillian (33 years his junior).
I always enjoyed reading about Grimes, and the stories of his toughness are legendary. Despite his mean disposition on the diamond, his teammates, opponents, friends and neighbors all had nothing bad to say about him off the field. He was a very friendly and good-hearted man by all accounts. I was always fascinated by Game 5 of the 1920 World Series, the game in which Grimes not only gave up the grand slam to Elmer Smith but also the first World Series home run by a pitcher (Jim Bagby). The game also featured an unassisted triple play by Cleveland’s Bill Wambsganss. I have stated time and time again that if I could hop on a time machine and witness one game, that would be the game. I had corresponded with Grimes and Wambsganss on and off for a couple of years in the early 1980’s. I remember the news of Grimes’ death like it was yesterday. It was a cold Michigan evening, and my father and I were coming from somewhere, listening to the news on the car radio. They gave a teaser that two of baseball’s legends had died, and then went to commercials. We sat in the car, waiting for the commercials to end to get the names. My dad guessed one had to be Roger Maris, who was suffering from cancer. I somehow just knew it was Grimes and Wamby. I was right. Both had died just two days apart. This really saddened me, because they both were such great men, and the more-notable 1920 World Series participants had been passing away in recent months (aside from Grimes and Wamby in December of ’85, Joe Wood had passed that July, and Elmer Smith and Stan Coveleski the year before). To this day, I find the 1920 World Series to be one of the most compelling. (For what it is worth, Maris did die later that same week.)

The Autograph: Despite his crankiness, Grimes was a great signer through the mail. I got him more than a few times. He always had a nice bold signature, not as shaky as you would expect from a guy with his advanced age and illness. He eventually did shorten his signature to the “B.A. Grimes” that you see on the card above, but most of my samples have the complete “Burleigh A. Grimes”.

Mr and Mrs Grimes at home

#37 Gus Suhr

Gus Suhr was born in San Francisco in 1906, and shortly afterwards moved to Millbrae, California, where he would call home for 65 years. He was signed by the San Francisco Seals of the PCL in 1925, and quickly became one of the league top hitters. Originally a second baseman, Suhr lead the PCL with 64 doubles in 1926. In 1929, he batted .381 with 51 home runs and 177 RBI (the PCL played more games than their Major League counterparts). On the strength of this season, Suhr, now a first baseman, was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After an outstanding rookie season in 1930, Suhr slumped in ’31 and was benched. He returned to in 1932 and stayed there, embarking on a consecutive-games played streak that would reach a then-record in the NL of 822 games before his mother’s death forced him to miss a game. Over this stretch, Suhr was a solid first baseman both at the plate and in the field. Possessing decent power and a good eye, Suhr’s best season was 1936, when he bated .312 along with 118 RBI and 112 runs scored, being named to the National League’s All-Star team. He batted .294 for Pittsburgh in 1938, and halfway through a 1939 season that saw him hit .304, Suhr was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Max Butcher. After a poor start and limited action in 1940, Suhr called it quits and returned to California. During World War 2, he joined up again with the Seals in the PCL, playing three more years. His major league totals include a .279 lifetime batting average and 1446 hits. He, at the time of this blogging, still holds the Pirate record for most games at first base.
After his playing days ended, Suhr operated a liquor store in Millbrae. He moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, in 1990, and was a frequent attendee to spring training games there. In 2002, he appeared at a Piitsburgh Pirate game at PNC Park where the Pirates honored the surviving Pirates who were All-Stars. Suhr happily spent the day enjoying the game and signing autographs. Suhr died in 2004 just a few weeks past his 98th birthday.
The Autograph: Nothing rare about this one at all. 98 years is a long life, and he was in good health and always signed. I do like for Suhr crossed out the incorrect sentence on the back of the card.

#36 Buck Leonard

Walter “Buck” Leonard was born in 1907 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He was unable to attend high school as black were not allowed to in the South at that time. His father, John, died in the influenza epidemic, and Buck was forced to go to work to support his family. He went to work in a textile mill and later as a railroad station shoeshine boy. He played some semi-pro baseball at this time, but when he lost his railroad job, he signed with the Brooklyn Royal Giants in the Negro Leagues. From there, he moved to the legendary Homestead Grays where he became the greatest first baseman in the Negro Leagues. He was a teammate of Josh Gibson, and the two sluggers were dubbed “The Thunder Twins” and were compared to their white Yankee contemporaries, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. During World War 2, Leonard lead the Grays to four-consecutive Black World Series appearances.
In the years before Jackie Robinson’s days with the Dodgers, Leonard, along with Gibson, was approached by Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith about signing with the AL team. Griffith wound up getting cold feet about being the first team to sign black players, and relented. Shortly after Robinson’s debut with Brooklyn, St Louis owner Bill Veeck offered a contract to Leonard, but at 40 years of age, Leonard turned him down, claiming he was to old to play in the Major Leagues.
After the Grays disbanded, Leonard played from 1951-55 in the Mexican League, interrupted by a brief appearance with Portsmouth in the Piedmont League. This stint was Leonard’s only appearance in organized baseball. (The Negro Leagues, with its haphazard scheduling and record keeping, is not recognized by professional baseball as “organized”).
After Leonard’s final game in Mexico at 48 years of age, he returned to Rocky Mount, where he worked as a truant officer and later a gym teacher. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1972. Leonard suffered a stroke in 1986, and he was forced to learn to write with his other hand. He was a regular fixture at Negro League events through the 1980’s and 90’s, and enjoyed years of recognition and adulation (including being the honorary captain for the NL in the 1994 All-Star Game) before dying in 1997 at the age of 90.
The Autograph: This is a good example of his post-stroke autograph. Pre-stroke autographs are not hard to find, but they are definitely not as common as the later versions. He did a lot of card shows over the years, and also was very generous in his through-the-mail habits.

#35 Carl Hubbell

Born in 1903 in Carthage, Missouri, Carl Hubbell came to the major leagues later than most star players, but when he arrived, he made an impact on the game the few would ever make.
Hubbell was a star pitcher in high school, as the left-hander had a good fastball and curveball. After graduation, he pitched in the Oklahoma State League for a few years, and after 1925 his contract was purchased by the Detroit Tigers. By this time, he was developing a pitch that broke the opposite way as a conventional curveball. The pitch, now known as the “screwball” but in earlier years made famous by Christy Mathewson as the “fadeaway,” was thrown by twisting the wrist in the opposite direction. Ty Cobb, the player/manager for the Tigers at the time, forbid the youngster from throwing the pitch, claiming he would hurt his arm. Without his best pitch, Hubbell faltered in spring training and was shipped out by the Tigers to the minor leagues.
While pitching in Beaumont, Texas, Hubbell was permitted to throw the screwball, and he quickly became a dominant pitcher in the league, and was purchased by the New York Giants and John McGraw. Hubbell joined the Giants in mid-1928 at age 25, and quickly made an impact, winning 10 games and posting a 2.83 ERA. In the next four seasons, he won no less than 14 games in a season, and quickly became the ace of the Giants. In 1933, he won 23 games and posted a 1.66 ERA, winning the NL MVP award and leading the Giants to a World Championship. This was the first of 5 consecutive seasons of 20 wins, including 1936 when he lead the Giants to another pennant with a 26-6 record and a 2.31 ERA, winning his second MVP award. The Giants returned to the World Series in 1937 as Hubbell went 22-8. In 1938, Hubbell was slowed by arm trouble, having bone chips removed from his elbow. Now 35, his career was in decline, but still showed occasional signs of brilliance, including a few one-hitters. Hubbell’s career, 16 years in all, came to an end in 1943 at the age of 40. He won 253 games with a .622 winning percentage, and a career 2.98 ERA.
After his retirement, Hubbell was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947. He became the director of the Giants farm system until a stroke in 1977. He retired to Arizona, where he lived the remainder of his life. He died in November of 1988 as the result of injuries suffered in an automobile accident. Carl Hubbell, the “Meal Ticket,” was 85.
Of course, it would be tough to discuss Hubbell without mentioning the 1934 All-Star Game. King Carl turned in one of the most memorable performance in baseball history, striking out five of baseball’s legendary players in succession: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. This single event is what makes Carl Hubbell’s name familiar to casual fans of the game today.
In 1985, my parents dispatched me across the country from Detroit to Phoenix to visit with my best friend, whose family moved out there a few years earlier. At 14, it was fun to travel by myself. I felt very adult. While in Phoenix, me and my friend Paul tried to contact Carl Hubbell to see if we could stop by and visit (helived in nearby Mesa). I spoke to him on the phone, but he said he didn’t feel up to accepting visitors. Oh well, worth a shot.
The autograph: Hubbell autographed everything. As I overheard some autograph hound claim, in jest but probably in truth as well, Hubbell “would sign toilet paper if you sent it to him.”

Below, Hubbell throws out the first pitch at the 1984 All-Star Game. Below that, Hubbell stops by the locker room to talk with Juan Marichal.

#34 Babe Herman

Floyd Caves “Babe” Herman is one of long list of baseball characters, but was also one of the most feared hitters of his era. Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1903, Herman’s family moved to California at an early age. As scouts caught word of the teen’s hitting ability, Herman was signed to a minor league deal with Edmonton in 1921. His hitting caught the attention of Ty Cobb, who was managing the Detroit Tigers, and was invited to the club’s spring training in 1922. Despite a decent showing, he could not crack into the Tigers outfield and was farmed out. In 1925, he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. He joined the Dodgers in 1926, and quickly became a fan favorite.
Herman batted .319 in his rookie year, with 11 home runs, a .500 slugging percentage and a a1th-place finish in the NL MVP voting. He played most of the season at first base, but his fielding was atrocious, committing 14 errors in 101 games. In 1927, he had over 21 errors, and Brooklyn moved him to the outfield. As Brooklyn’s rightfielder, he quickly gained the reputation as the worst fielder in the game, committing over 10 errors in five of his first 6 seasons roaming the outfield. Fresco Thompson, a teammate of Babe’s, said of Herman: “He wore a glove for one reason: because it was a league custom.”
It was easy to forgive his defensive shortcomings, though, because the man could hit. He batted .340 in 1928, followed with a .381 and a .393 average, both of which placed him second in the NL Batting race. Aside from his .393 average in 1930, he also belted 35 home runs and batted in 130 runs. After 1931, he was sent to the Cincinnati Reds where he batted .326 and let the senior circuit in triples. He was then dealt to the Cubs where his career began to tail off. In 1935, he began the season with Pittsburgh, and was sent back to the Reds. In 1937, at 34 years of age, he hung it up after a 17 games with the Tigers. He played for Hollywood in the PCL until World War 2 came around. With major league rosters depleted as player were out fighting the war, Herman returned to the Dodgers in 1945 at 42 years of age. He played in 37 games before finally calling it a career. He finished with a .324 lifetime average, 1818 hits at 997 RBI.
Herman’s legacy is not his hitting, or even his poor fielding. It was his colorful personality and amiable charisma. His most notable moment was occurred in 1926. With Hank DeBerry on third, Dazzy Vance on second and Chick Fewster on first with no one out, Herman lined one into the gap. DeBerry scored the go-ahead run easily. Vance held up a moment to see if the ball was to be caught be the fielder, but when he saw it was going to fall in, took off for third and headed home. Fewster was running on the pitch, and Herman was chugging away full speed. As Herman hit second base, he chose to try and stretch the double into a triple. Unfortunately for Herman, Fewster held up at third and Herman slid in well ahead of the throw, only to find Fewster standing on the base. To make matters even worse, also sliding into third base from home plate was Vance, who thought the throw was headed home and returned to third. Of course, the base went to the lead runner (Vance) and both Fewster and Herman were called out for passing the runner. Babe Herman became the only player in history to ever double into a double play. Despite this a numerous other gaffes in his career, Herman was the first player to hit for the cycle three times, and also hit the first home run in a night game in 1935.
After his playing days ended, Herman served as a scout for 22 years. In the mid 1980’s, Babe suffered a series of strokes that limited his mobility. Finally, in November of 1987, Herman died of pneumonia at the age of 84.
The Autograph: Herman signed whenever he was physically able, but his strokes limited his abilities by the time I got this card signed, probably at most a year before his death.

In the photo below, Babe Herman and Larry French ponder a new career behind the camera.

#33 Billy Herman

William Jennings Bryan Herman was born in New Albany, Indiana in 1909, and broke in with the Chicago Cubs in 1931, where he became a fixture at second base for many years to come. He batted .314 in his first full season as the Cubs won the 1932 pennant. 1934 was the first of 8 seasons that saw Herman selected to the National League All-Star team, and he was one of the most reliable players in the senior circuit. In 1935, he had a league-best 227 hits and 57 doubles as the Cubs rolled to another pennant, but lost the World Series again.
By 1940, Herman’s numbers began to wane, and he saw himself traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers for Charlie Gilbert and John Hudson. Aided by a depleted talent pool due to World War 2, Herman rebounded in 1943 to hit .330 (2nd in the NL) but next season, at age 34, he joined the military and missed 1944 and ’45.
At 36 years of age, it was unexpected that Herman would return from the war as a player, but he played most of 1946, splitting time between Brooklyn and the Boston Braves, playing second, third and first base. He batted a respectable .298. He was traded to Pittsburgh before the 1947 season, and was named player-manager, although he played in only 15 games hitting a paltry .213. He was also relieved of managerial duties before the end of the season as the Pirates went 61-92 under his leadership. It was not his last day on the bench, but his days at the plater were over. His career totals include a lifetime .304 average and over 2300 hits.
Herman moved on to manage in the minor leagues for a few seasons, until he was brought on by the Dodgers as a coach in 1952, followed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1958. In 1960, he became the third base coach for the Boston Red Sox, and in 1964, was named the Red Sox manager for the last two games of the season as the Sox fired Johnny Pesky. The Red Sox fared no better under Herman in 1965, as they lost 100 games and the Sox finished in 9th. Herman was fired partly through the 1966 season.

Billy Herman was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975 by the Veterans Comittee. He died in 1992 of cancer.

The Autograph: Herman was a regular through-the-mail signer, as well as a frequent signer at Hall of Fame ceremonies, spring training and conventions. His autograph is very common.

Herman at the 1986 HOF Ceremony

#32 Terry Moore

Terry Moore was born in 1912 in Vernon, Alabama. Like many Cardinals of his generation, he moved his way through the Cards’ farm system and became a member of one of the more notable outfields in baseball history. Teaming with Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Enos Slughter, Moore was a decent hitter as well as an outstanding defensive player.
Moore hit his stride in 1939, batting .294 while being named to the NL All-Star team for the first of four consecutive years. He batted a cumulative .295 from 1939-1942, with 46 home runs, before heading off to fight in the war.
Like so many other players, Moore returned from the World War 2 a shell of player he was. He hung around until 1948, when St Louis released him. He finished with a .280 lifetime average and 1318 hits.
Moore got his chance to manage in 1954, when he took over the Phillies half-way through the season. Replacing Steve o’Neill, the Phils went 35-42 under Moore, and he was replaced by Mayo Smith in 1955. Moore died in 1995.
Not much is written about Moore, at least nothing outside statistical analyses. I did find this sweet pic shown below of Moore modeling an early prototype of a batting helmet. It is hard to be remembered as a good outfielder when you are outshined by the other two outfielders who happen to be great (just ask Davy Jones, Bob Meusel or Duffy Lewis).
The Autograph: In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Moore enjoyed a resurgence in the hobby as he attended autograph shows along with Stan Musial and Slaughter. He was also one of the first non-HOF or non-HOF-caliber players I wrote to who charged for his autograph. I begrudingly paid the fee for this card.

#31 George Kelly

George “Highpockets” Kelly was born in 1895 in San Francisco, California. A survivor of the 1906 Earthquake, Kelly was a big fan of the Bay City’s PCL club, the Seals. This was an inspiration as he played baseball frequently in his childhood. As a 6’4 teenager, Kelly quickly moved ahead of his classmates, and his natural hitting ability caught the attention of semi-pro clubs around Frisco and Oakland. Fresh out of high school, Kelly signed with Victoria in the NorthWest League in 1915 and quickly caught the attention of John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants. The Giants bought his contract and he was called up to the Giants for a look in late 1915.
After poor performances in limited action for the Giants in 1915 and 1916, Kelly was waived by the Giants shortly into the 1917 season. He was picked up by the Pirates, but faired no better and was let go. McGraw decided to give Kelly another chance, and signed him and sent him to Rochester for the remainder of the 1917 season. Kelly was called on to fight in World War One, and missed the 1918 season. Upom his return to Rochester in 1919, Kelly made the most of his time there and tore up the International League, hitting .356 and 15 home runs. He was poised to return to the National League, but it took a dirty player for him to get his chance.
Hal Chase was the full-time first sacker for the Giants in 1919, and was regarded at the time as the best defensive first baseman the game had ever seen. Chase was no slack at the plate. However, his skill on the field was no match for his lack of moral fiber. Rumors had been floating for years that Chase’s ability was “for sale” and was willing to make some side money by throwing games. Rumors had been flying about Chase’s corruption as early as 1910. By 1919, the stink surrounding Prince Hal had grown strong, and McGraw called up Kelly to be groomed as Chase’s replacement. Kelly resonded by hitting .290 in 32 games. After the season, the National League President received an envelope from an anonymous contact, showing a payment from a gambler to Chase to throw a baseball game in 1918. The Giants terminated Chase’s contract, and Chase never played in the Major Leagues again.
Kelly became the Giants full-time first baseman in 1920, and lead the league in RBI. He followed that up with a home-run title in 1921, helping the Giants to their first of 4 straight pennants. For the next six seasons, Kelly was the best first baseman in the National League, and one of the game’s premier sluggers.
After the 1926 season, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Edd Roush. Although his power numbers were off, mostly due to the change of parks, Kelly still batted around .300 over the next four years, splitting 1930 with the Reds, Cubs, and Minneapolis in the International League. He spent 1931 in the minor leagues, before returning to the National League in 1932, this time with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was released by the Dodgers following the close of the season, and Kelly headed back west. He played sparingly with the Oakland Oaks of the PCL in 1933 before hanging his glove up for good. Kelly finished his 16-year career with a .297 lifetime average and 1020 RBI.
Kelly bounced around the National League for the next 14 years, picking up coaching jobs for old friends, and after that became a scout for the Reds. He lived in retirement in Millbrae, California. Kelly was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, and died in 1984 at the age of 88.

Kelly is often maligned as being one of the worst Hall of Fame selections. Sometimes I think that members of the Veterans Committee thought they were voting for third baseman George Kell (a deserving candidate). He may be one of the weakest selections, but the thing that annoys me most about Kelly being in the Hall of Fame is that he is often posted as the argument for other non-HOF caliber athletes to be inducted (see Hodges, Gil). It is not worth my typing to discuss Kelly’s Hall of Fame credentials (or lack thereof). He is in, and he is never getting out. Let’s not repeat the mistake by letting in other not-quite-qualified players. Oops. We already did (See Rizzuto, Phil).

The Autograph: Always a great signer. I don’t have a lot of Kelly because he died early in my hobby.

#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.