Jack Harshman

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Jack Harshman
Jack Harshman 1952.JPG
Harshman in 1952
Pitcher/Pinch hitter/First baseman
Born:(1927-07-12)July 12, 1927
San Diego, California
Died: August 17, 2013(2013-08-17) (aged 86)
Georgetown, Texas
Batted: LeftThrew: Left
MLB debut
September 16, 1948, for the New York Giants
Last MLB appearance
October 1, 1960, for the Cleveland Indians
MLB statistics
Win–loss record 69–65
Earned run average 3.50
Strikeouts 741
Batting average .179
Home runs 21
Runs batted in 65

John Elvin Harshman (July 12, 1927 – August 17, 2013) was an American Major League Baseball pitcher with the New York Giants, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, and Cleveland Indians between 1948 and 1960. He batted and threw left-handed. [1]

Major League Baseball Professional baseball league

Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization, the oldest of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in the National League (NL) and American League (AL), with 15 teams in each league. The NL and AL were formed as separate legal entities in 1876 and 1901 respectively. After cooperating but remaining legally separate entities beginning in 1903, the leagues merged into a single organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball in 2000. The organization also oversees Minor League Baseball, which comprises 256 teams affiliated with the Major League clubs. With the World Baseball Softball Confederation, MLB manages the international World Baseball Classic tournament.

Pitcher the player responsible for throwing ("pitching") the ball to the batters in a game of baseball or softball

In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throws the baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the pitcher is assigned the number 1. The pitcher is often considered the most important player on the defensive side of the game, and as such is situated at the right end of the defensive spectrum. There are many different types of pitchers, such as the starting pitcher, relief pitcher, middle reliever, lefty specialist, setup man, and the closer.

Chicago White Sox Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in Chicago, Illinois, United States

The Chicago White Sox are an American professional baseball team based in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) Central division. The White Sox are owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, and play their home games at Guaranteed Rate Field, located on the city's South Side. They are one of two major league clubs in Chicago; the other is the Chicago Cubs, who are a member of the National League (NL) Central division.


From slugger to pitcher

Harshman was born in San Diego, California, in 1927. He began his professional career at the age of 17 in 1945 for the San Diego Padres of the minor league AA Pacific Coast League. For his first five seasons, Harshman was being trained and conditioned to be a major league hitter instead of a pitcher. Harshman's short stint in San Diego ended with a .254 batting average in 67 at-bats. [1]

The San Diego Padres were a minor league baseball team which played in the Pacific Coast League from 1936 through 1968. The team that would eventually become the Padres was well traveled prior to moving to San Diego. It began its existence in 1903 as the Sacramento Solons, a charter member of the PCL. The team moved to Tacoma in 1904, returned to Sacramento in 1905, then left the PCL altogether for the next three seasons. The Solons rejoined the PCL in 1909, then moved to San Francisco during the 1914 season, finishing out the season as the San Francisco Missions. The team was sold to businessman Bill "Hardpan" Lane, who moved the team to Salt Lake City for the 1915 season as the Salt Lake Bees.

The Pacific Coast League (PCL) is a Minor League Baseball league operating in the Western, Midwestern, and Southeastern United States. Along with the International League and the Mexican League, it is one of three leagues playing at the Triple-A level, which is one grade below Major League Baseball. It is officially named the Pacific Coast League of Professional Baseball Clubs, Inc. Its headquarters are in Round Rock, Texas.

Batting average (baseball)

In baseball, the batting average (BA) is defined by the number of hits divided by at bats. It is usually reported to three decimal places and read without the decimal: A player with a batting average of .300 is "batting three-hundred." If necessary to break ties, batting averages could be taken beyond the .001 measurement. In this context, a .001 is considered a "point," such that a .235 batter is 5 points higher than a .230 batter.

In 1946, Harshman moved over to the Class C Modesto Reds, where he hit .288 in 56 games before being shipped back to the PCL San Diego squad for only 3 games. 1947 was his first busy season as he played in 151 games for the Victoria Athletics in the Western International League. Harshman smashed 36 home runs while batting a modest .306. He then moved up yet again to the San Diego squad for just 11 games and a poor .148 average. [1] Despite the sluggish ending, the major league New York Giants purchased his contract as a first baseman in December 1947. [2]

The Victoria Athletics were a Western International League baseball team based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada that existed from 1946 to 1951. From 1947 to 1949, they were affiliated with the New York Yankees. They played their home games at Royal Athletic Park.

The Western International League was a mid- to higher-level minor league baseball circuit in the northwest United States and western Canada. Informally known as the "Willy" loop, it operated in 1922, 1937–1942, and 1946–1954. In 1955, the league changed its name to the Northwest League, and still operates today as a Class A-Short Season loop under that name.

Home run in baseball, a 4-base hit, often by hitting the ball over the outfield fence between the foul poles without 1st touching the ground; inside-the-park home runs—where the batter reaches home safely while the ball is in play—are possible but rare

In baseball, a home run is scored when the ball is hit in such a way that the batter is able to circle the bases and reach home safely in one play without any errors being committed by the defensive team in the process. In modern baseball, the feat is typically achieved by hitting the ball over the outfield fence between the foul poles without first touching the ground or running to home plate and scoring a point, resulting in an automatic home run. There is also the "inside-the-park" home run where the batter reaches home safely while the baseball is in play on the field.

1948 had a change of scenery for Harshman. He went to the Jersey City Giants of the AAA International League. He posted fairly average but modest numbers for the squad, hitting 24 home runs, driving in 76 runs, and batting .245. He received a brief call up to the Giants, but only batted .250 in 9 plate appearances. [1]

Jersey City Giants

The Jersey City Giants was the name of a high-level American minor league baseball franchise that played in Jersey City, New Jersey, as the top farm system affiliate of the New York Giants from 1937 through 1950. The Jersey City club played in the International League. They were commonly referred to as the Little Giants.

International League Minor League Baseball league of AAA teams operating in the eastern United States

The International League (IL) is a Minor League Baseball league that operates in the eastern United States and is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio. Like the Pacific Coast League and the Mexican League, it plays at the Triple-A level, which is one step below Major League Baseball.

1949 was a breakout year for the young 21-year-old slugger. In 150 games for the AA Minneapolis Millers, Harshman smashed 40 home runs and had 111 RBI. 1950 saw an unexpected change in Jack's progression. He batted a terrible .193 in 35 games for the Class A Jacksonville Tars and a below average .230 for Minneapolis. His second Major League stint with the Giants went even worse, batting just .125 in 32 at bats. [1]

Minneapolis Millers Minor League Baseball team

The Minneapolis Millers were an American professional minor league baseball team that played in Minneapolis, Minnesota, through 1960. In the 19th century a different Minneapolis Millers were part of the Western League. The team played first in Athletic Park and later Nicollet Park.

It was around this point that management thought about changing Harshman's role in the organization. During his sluggish 1950 season, he was brought in to pitch two games for the Jacksonville Tars. He threw for 12 innings and a 6.75 ERA, splitting his 2 games for a 1–1 record. [1]

In 1951 Harshman got back on track with his slugging career. In 154 games for the Nashville Volunteers, he crashed 47 home runs with a fair .251 average. However, his manager once again experimented with Jack potentially being a pitcher, letting him take the field in 5 games. He posted another 1–1 record, but lowered his ERA to 3.94. [1]

Despite bringing a huge bat in the previous season, the decision was made to give Harshman double duty as a pitcher and occasional utility hitter. He batted .222 with 8 home runs and 15 RBI in just 135 at bats, but most of his work for the 1952 season came from on the mound. Harshman pitched in 26 games with 14 starts, threw a total of 131 innings with 78 strikeouts, a 4.67 ERA, and an average 6–7 win-loss record. [1]

1953 was Harshman's breakout year. In the AA Southern Association Nashville Volunteers, Jack posted a remarkable 23–7 record with a 3.27 ERA. [1]

Chicago White Sox

Despite his successful transition from a first baseman slugger to a young phenom pitcher, the New York baseball Giants allowed the Chicago White Sox to purchase Harshman's contract. Jack made his White Sox debut against the Cleveland Indians on April 14, 1954. He started the game, but only lasted 323 innings after being tagged for 4 earned runs on 8 hits. [3] After another poor 213 innings start on April 19, [4] Harshman was demoted to the bullpen. He continued to struggle until he was given another start on June 6. He responded by throwing a 7-hit shutout against the Washington Senators. [5] On July 25, he struck out 16 Red Sox hitters, including the great Ted Williams in a complete game for a 5–2 win. [6] At the time it was the most strikeouts in the long history of Fenway Park. The record would stand for 32 years until a young flamethrower named Roger Clemens fanned a Major League best 20 batters. [7] After that, Jack settled down and had a largely successful season overall, including an exceptional performance for the month of August. Jack posted a 6–0 record with 47 strikeouts and a microscopic 0.77 ERA. His first full season posted some impressive numbers: A 14–8 win-loss record, a 2.95 ERA, 4 complete game shut-outs, and 134 strikeouts, which was good enough for 5th in the American League. [1]

Harshman found moderate success in the 1955 season by putting up an 11–7 record and a 3.36 ERA while finishing 9th in the AL in strikeouts with 116. [1] On June 21, 1956, at Comiskey Park, Jack achieved a rarity in Major League Baseball that had only happened twice before in the modern era. Both he and the opposing Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Connie Johnson threw a one-hit complete game. Harshman picked up the win 1 to 0. [8] Jack would go on to throw three more shutouts in the season, compiling a 15–12 record with a 3.10 ERA and 143 strikeouts, good enough for 8th in the league. [1]

Baltimore Orioles

1956 turned out to be the last solid season for Harshman, as the rest of his career was downhill from thereon out. Following an 8–8 season with the 1957 White Sox, [1] Harshman, Larry Doby and Jim Marshall were traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Billy Goodman, Tito Francona and Ray Moore at the Winter meetings. [9] When it was discovered by the Orioles that Harshman was suffering from a slipped disc, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ordered the Chisox to send either $20,000 or an acceptable player to the Orioles. Russ Heman was sent to Baltimore to complete this deal. [10]

In 1958 many of Harshman's numbers improved. His ERA was a career-low 2.89, 3rd best in the AL, and he compiled a career-high 161 strikeouts to go with 3 shutouts. However, run support was scarce and he ended the season with a 12–15 record. [1]

Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians

Harshman became a journeyman in 1959, playing for three different teams throughout the season. Jack got off to an awful start for the Orioles with an 0–6 record and a 6.85 ERA before being traded to the Boston Red Sox for Billy Hoeft on June 15, 1959. [11] Harshman would only spend one month with the Red Sox, going 2–3 with a 6.57 ERA in 2 starts and 6 games of relief. [1]

The Cleveland Indians bought Harshman's contract on July 30, 1959. [12] At this point, he finally settled down and posted up a 5–1 record to go with a 2.59 ERA in 66 innings of work. [1]

1960 would prove to be the final season for Harshman in the majors. At the age of 32, his back problems were catching up with him. He was forced onto the disabled list on April 24 after checking into the Cleveland Lakeside Hospital to treat problems connected to slipped discs. [13] It would take three months before he would take the mound again. Right from the start, he could not regain his groove. On July 24, the Red Sox teed him off on 5 runs on 3 hits and 4 walks before being pulled after just 3 innings. He would never get back on track, ending his final season with a 2–4 record and a 3.98 ERA. [1]

In October, Harshman was released by the Indians. [14] In 1961, Jack participated in spring training in an effort to make the Los Angeles Angels roster, but instead ended up with a familiar team from his first professional year, the AAA Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres. He would go on to pitch in only 4 games, compiling a 0–1 record and a 6.00 ERA. [1]


On August 17, 2013, Harshman died in Georgetown, Texas where he lived. He was 86 years old. [15] He was buried at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

Personal life

Harshman was married to his wife, Virginia. [15] He had three sisters and one brother. He was related to the actress Margo Harshman, and former Washington State University and University of Washington basketball coach Marv Harshman. Jack has a daughter Patricia "Patty" Michaels (née Harshman) born in 1947. And three grandsons, Michael "Mike" Lydon, Charlie Lydon, and Johnny Lydon. Jack also has a daughter Jacquelyn "Jackie" Harshman born in 1962.

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Pitching Splits, Batter Matchups, Daily pitching logs at Retrosheet and daily pitching gamelogs at Baseball-Reference.com.
  2. "Giants Acquire San Diego Star". Sarasota Herald-Tribune . 4 December 1947. p. 9.
  3. "Chisox Whip Hoeft; Dorish Stars in Relief". The Milwaukee Sentinel . 15 April 1954. p. D1.
  4. Burns, Edward (20 April 1954). "Sox Fall, 6 to 3; Lemon Yields 3 Hits". Chicago Tribune . Associated Press. p. 4-2.
  5. "White Sox Extend Streak to Five By Beating Senators, 5-3 and 6-0; Minoso's 2-Run Homer Wins Opener -- Harshman Triumphs on Mound in Second Game". New York Times . Associated Press. 7 June 1954. p. 26.
  6. Prell, Edward (26 July 1954). "16 Harshman Whiffs Spur Sox". Chicago Tribune . p. B1.
  7. Shaughnessy, Dan (30 April 1986). "Clemens fans a record 20". The Boston Globe .
  8. "White Sox Shade Orioles in Duel of One-Hitters, 1-0". The Sporting News . 27 June 1956. p. 10.
  9. "Chisox Get Francona, Moore & Goodman". Milwaukee Journal . December 4, 1957.
  10. "Heman Goes to Orioles in 7 Player Deal". Portsmouth Times . February 1, 1958.
  11. "Red Sox Get Harshman; Hoeft Goes to Orioles in Trade of Southpaws". New York Times . 16 June 1959. p. 42.
  12. "Indians Purchase Jack Harshman". The Milwaukee Journal . 30 July 1959. p. 14.
  13. "Hurler Jack Harshman Put On Disabled List". Sarasota Herald-Tribune . Associated Press. 24 April 1960. p. 34.
  14. "Indians Drop Harshman". New York Times . 19 October 1960. p. 58.
  15. 1 2 "Jack HARSHMAN". Austin American-Statesman . August 22, 2013.