Papini was one of California’s best ever
Considered one of the best athletes to ever come out of California Area, Larry Papini did not end his athletic career on the field.
After a successful run at the high school and collegiate levels, Papini signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox and played several seasons in their farm system.
Once done playing, Papini embarked on a successful coaching career, and for his athletic achievements, he will be inducted into the Mid Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame on Friday at the Willow Room in Rostraver Township.
“I am honored and to me, it means that people get to remember what you have done athletically and academically years ago that people may have forgotten,” he said. “Today, we tend to get caught up in the present and forget about the past.”
While a standout athlete in both football as an All-State player and in basketball as an all-section first-teamer, it was on the diamond that Papini is best remembered.
After helping lead California to a section title during his senior year, Papini played basketball and baseball at California State Teachers College, now known as California University of Pennsylvania in 1952-53 and 1953-54.
Playing for the Charleroi Merchants in 1954, the 20-year-old Papini signed a professional contract with the Red Sox that May.
Also sought after by the Pirates, Dodgers, and Reds among other Major League teams, Papini began his pro career with Bluefield (W.Va.), Boston’s team in the Class D Appalachian League.
He also played for Decatur, Ill. in the Midwest League and for Crestview, Fla. in the Alabama-Florida League.
During his professional career, Papini hit a respectable .273 and had a .396 slugging average with five home runs before deciding to end his pro career.
Papini returned home and resumed playing for the Merchants.
The 1960 season was the final one for Papini and the Merchants, but Papini was about to venture into the next chapter of his sports life.
Hired as a teacher at California Community High School in 1956, and at different times he served as the head of coach of its football, baseball, and both the boys and girls basketball teams.
Did Papini know that he would always stay involved with sports?
“With my generation in the 1950s, guys would go to the mill or mine and very few got signed (to play professionally),” he said. “Some guys had family obligations and education wasn’t important at that time.
“However, I always knew that I would be involved and coached a long time.”
Papini and his wife Jessie are the parents of five children and have 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
is a former freelancer.