Sunday, August 4, 2013

Forgotten Stars Pt. 5: Tommy Harper

When a team that has as long a history as the Red Sox it is natural to have players who have been largely forgotten. These are some players who simply do not get mentioned anymore or are largely forgotten.
It was not that long ago that "Tommy Harper" was the answer to a trivia question.  In 2009, Jacoby Ellsbury broke Harper's 36-year-old single season team stolen base record.  Since Ellsbury eclipsed his mark, hardly anyone remembers that it was Harper who held the team's record.

Harper was a veteran of about ten years before he was traded to the Red Sox in October of 1971 in the deal that sent Ken Brett, Jim Lonborg, and George Scott among others to Milwaukee and brought Marty Pattin and Lew Krausse to Boston as well.  Harper was the rare speedster of that time that also had some pop.  He was a member of the 30/30 club while in Milwaukee in 1970.

Harper was 31 by the time he arrived in Boston and speedy players typically do not age well.  Nevertheless, Harper provided two good seasons.  In 1972, he hit .254/.341/.388 with 14 home runs, 49 RBIs, and 25 stolen bases.  That performance was good enough to garner him a little MVP consideration, he finished 24th in the voting, but it was not his best season in Boston.

In 1973, Harper had what was likely the second best season of his career.  He finished the season hitting .281/.351/.422 with 17 home runs, 71 RBIs, and 54 stolen bases.  That was the season he broke the team record for stolen bases that was previously held by Tris Speaker back in 1911 when he stole 52.  Harper lead the league in stolen bases in 1973, a rarity for Red Sox.

The next season Harper's numbers declined drastically.  Harper's days as a regular were over and he was traded to the Angels for Bob Heise.  He played two more seasons.

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