Jul 28, 2015

Former New York Giants N.L. Victory Leader: Larry Jansen (1947-1954)

Lawrence Joseph Jansen was born July 16, 1920 in Verboort, Oregon. The right hander was the last AAA pitcher to win 30 games, while pitching for the San Francisco Seals. In 1946 he led the Pacific Coast league in wins (30), earned run average (1.57) and winning percentage (.833)

He was brought up to the New York Giants in 1947 & in his rookie season he led the league in winning percentage (8.08%) and tied for second in victories going 21-9. He completed 20 of 30 starts, pitched 248 innings and posted a 3.16 ERA. If it weren’t for Jackie Robinson he would have won the Rookie of the Year Award, as Jansen came in second.

He was a great control pitcher and had the fewest walks per nine innings allowed (2.02). He would come in second place in that category in the league three more times. Jansen became one of the top pitchers in the league in the late 1940’s & early 1950’s. He was in the top four in victories four times from 1947-1951, leading the league with 23 wins in 1951.

Through those years he was also among the leaders in shutouts, complete games, innings & strikeouts as well. In 1950 he won 19 games (19-13) with a 3.08 ERA & led the NL in shutouts (5) making his first All Star appearance.

In the 1950 All-Star Game, he pitched five innings, striking out six batters, allowing only one hit and no runs before finally being replaced in the 12th inning. Since then No pitcher has pitched more than four innings in an All-Star Game.

The 1951 Giants are famous for one of the best regular season comebacks in baseball history. That season Jansen and team mate Sal Maglie both led the NL with 23 wins. Jansen pitched a career high 278 innings with three shutouts, and a 3.01 ERA, allowing 1.8 walks per nine innings (2nd in the NL). Jansen had six wins in the final month of the season & won his last five decisions. He was the winning pitcher on the last day of regular season against the Boston Braves clinching at least a tie. Because of that start he didn’t get any starts in the Giant/ Dodger playoff Series.

Post Season: In the final playoff game Jansen began warming up in the first inning, but did not relieve Sal Maglie until the 9th inning. Jansen recalls “Well, we were behind 4-1 at the time, so I just did my best to get three guys out. The Dodger players were hollering out at me from the dugout, "You can go home tomorrow," that kind of stuff. They let me have it pretty good.”

When Bobby Thomson hit his famous HR; “the Shot Heard 'Round the World” in the bottom of the ninth to win the game & the pennant, Jansen was the winning pitcher. His World Series wasn’t that impressive as he went 0-2 allowing seven earned runs over two games pitching in ten innings.

In his career Jansen allowed 191 HRs (226th most all time), leading the league in long balls twice. He battled back problems & then arm troubles over the next couple years. He won 11 games in 1952 going 11-11 with a 4.09 ERA. In 1953 he lost 16 games (11-16) with a 4.14 ERA & then arm issues put him at 2-2 with no post season during the Giants 1954 Championship season. He did help out by serving as a coach during that season.

His missed all of 1955 then went to the Cincinnati Reds going 2-3 in eight games before retiring in 1956. Lifetime Jansen was 123-89 (.578 win %) with a 3.58 ERA, walking only 410 batters in 1,766 innings pitched.

Retirement: Interestingly, with the low salaries of his day, he had to work in a pharmacy in Jackson Heights, Queens during the off season for extra pay.

After his playing days he first managed & coached in the Pacific Coast League. He became the San Francisco Giants pitching coach in 1961 under former team mate Alvin Dark. He remained there for 11 years (1961-1971), coaching Hall-of-Famers Gaylord Perry and Juan Marichal along the way & getting to two post seasona.

In 1972 he went to the Chicago Cubs as pitching coach under his old manager, Leo Durocher. After Durocher was fired he coached for another former Giants teammate, Whitey Lockman in 1973. He retired to his home town in Oregeon and lived peacefully until his passing at the age of 89 in 2009.

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