Larry Eschen was the son of a major leaguer. His father Jim played four seasons of professional baseball from 1913-1916. Jim bounced around the minors playing for several Class A and AA clubs. These teams featured several future Hall of Famers and infamous players such as Burleigh Grimes, Joe McCarthy, Dolf Luque, Bill Wambsganss, and Sad Sam Jones. In 1915, Jim finally made it to the majors where he enjoyed a (very) brief stint with the Cleveland Indians. He appeared in 15 games where he hit .238 (11-42). Jim’s big league career didn’t last long, but he did have a few memorable teammates: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Billy Southworth, and Ray Chapman.
Nearly three decades later, Larry would follow in his father’s footsteps and embark on a professional baseball career. Larry would go on to have his own Hall of Fame connection while playing for the 1942 Lancaster Red Roses where he was illegally optioned.
“I was at Lancaster two weeks – illegal option – Had options at Wilmington so couldn’t do same with two teams”
While at Lancaster, Larry teamed up with future Hall of Famer George Kell. We asked Larry what he remember most of George during the ’42 season.
“George Kell [was] a fine fellow from Sweetsboro, Arkansas. At Lancaster ’42 with wife Charlene. We walked to the park together. In ’43 Kell hit .398 highest in all of baseball. We wrote when he played for the Tigers”
According to Baseball-Reference, Kell hit .396 in 1943. Whatever the correct number is, Kell had a terrific season. Kell’s contract was purchased by the Philadelphia Athletics in September and never returned to the minors. Kell would go on to enjoy a 15 year major league career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1983.
Eschen’s career took a different route than that of Kell. Eschen made his major league debut with the Philadelphia Athletics, skippered by Connie Mack, on June 16, 1942. He entered the game at shortstop, replacing Pete Suder. Larry came to bat once in that game and struck out. He went on to appear in 11 more games for the A’s that season and came to bat 14 more times. Larry never recorded a hit and saw his final big league action on July 17, 1942. Shortly after he was drafted into the Army. In 1943, Larry played 42 games in Class A before being shipped of to serve during WWII:
“7/42 -> 8/46, Army Air Corps, 21 months E.T.O [European Theater of Operations]”
Larry served honorably in the military. He rose through the ranks from Private to Captain within two years. His service, however, likely cost him a prolonged baseball career. Eschen was released by the A’s, along with three other players, on December 8, 1942. When asked about the player moves, Mack remarked, “They weren’t much help to us last season.” Larry returned to baseball briefly in 1946. He appeared in 17 games for the Schenectady Chiefs and Hartford Chiefs. Shortly after, Eschen retired from the game.
Still young, at 26, Eschen returned to college where he earned his Master of Education (M.S.Ed). Larry would go on to a long career in education:
“’47 -> ’75, Teacher, Coach, Counselor in N.Y.S High Schools”
Mr. Eschen will be 92 in September. Thanks for taking the time to respond to us!
Full text of our correspondence. Click to enlarge.