Friday, October 29, 2010

Unknown Heroes Pt. 2: Greg A. Harris

The first baseball card trade I ever made was for a Greg Harris card. My older brother and I had just started getting into baseball cards. It was the first time for me, but my brother had been into them previously and got back into them as I was. He and I used to walk to the Kwik Shop and buy a fountain drink and a pack of baseball cards. By this point, I had three 1991 Topps Red Sox cards to my name after two packs. I was going to buy my third pack. I remember being extremely disappointed that my pack did not contain a single Red Sox card, the first pack that that had happened. Hey, I was 10. Well my brother, in one of the nicest things he had ever done for me, offered to trade me his Greg Harris card that he got that day, in exchange for the checklist card I got in my pack. Not even another player, the checklist. I still remember that moment fondly.

Greg A. Harris, as he was referred to by some card companies due to a Greg Harris pitching for San Diego at the same time, was a right-handed pitcher for the Red Sox from 1989 through part of 1994. He was very durable and pitched in a variety of roles. In 1989, he was an effective middle reliever. In 1990, he won 13 games as a decent third starter. In 1991, he began as a starter and then was converted back to middle relief where he stayed for the rest of his time with Boston.

1993 was the first year that I really started watching Harris. I was intrigued by his durability. Harris pitched in a league-leading and then-Red Sox record 80 games that year. He was effective too, with a 3.77 ERA and he pitched 112.1 innings, striking out 103. He won six games and saved eight. Harris was not a great player, but he was a very important part of the team.

The other thing that fascinated me about Greg Harris was that he was ambidextrous. Harris pitched right-handed but boasted that he could pitch reasonably well left-handed as well. Unfortunately, Red Sox management would not let him do so in a major league game, which always irritated me. It was not until just before the end of his career that he was allowed to pitch left-handed in a game. Of course by that point, he was out of Boston.

1993's work must have strained his arm. He was ineffective in 1994 with an 8.28 ERA and was released in June. Harris was 37 in 1993, so he may have been worked too hard. Harris landed with the Yankees to finish out the year and then pitched in Montreal in 1995, where he pitched well again and was finally able to achieve his goal. It's too bad Boston would not let him do it there.

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