Tag Archives: New York Giants

Jack Harshman, New York Giants…Slugger?

Pick A Bat, Any Bat

Jack Harshman NY Giants 3 16 1950

Jack Harshman first came up to the major leagues with the New York Giants for five games in 1948 at the age of 20, with a reputation as a slugging first baseman. In 1949 he spent the entire season at the Giants top AAA farm club in Minneapolis where he clouted 40 home runs and knocked in 111 RBI’s while batting a respectable .270. The Giants had expectations that Harshman was going to be able to translate his minor league success into the majors. This March 16, 1950 photograph’s caption says:

Simply “Bats” About The Game

Phoenix, Ariz: New York Giants’ first baseman Jack Harshman, who has been slamming the ball with great style during exhibition games, might well wind up being “Rookie of the Year.” Here, Harshman selects a bat prior to displaying his “diamond” skill in a game. Credit (Acme) 3/16/50

Harshman ended up playing only nine games with the Giants in 1950. He played all season in the minors in 1951 hitting 47 home runs. He was called up again by the Giants in 1952 for three games and was sent down again to the minors for the entire 1953 season. Harshman had been in the Giants organization for six years and played a grand total of 17 games in the big leagues. His low minor league batting averages (.218, .230 etc.) was a major contributor to preventing his progress with the Giants. On September 19, 1953 Harshman was sold to the Chicago White Sox.

I’ve Got An Idea – Make Him A Pitcher

Jack Harshman 1956 ToppsThe White Sox converted Harshman to a pitcher. In his first season with Chicago in 1954, Harshman struck out 16 Red Sox in one game and pitched a 16 inning complete game 1-0 shut-out against the Tigers. In that game, it is estimated that Harshman threw 245 pitches. Thank goodness there were no modern day pitch counts! From 1954 to 1957 with the White Sox, Harshman won 48 games while losing only 34 with a 3.33 ERA.

I never saw Jack Harshman play, but I have a few of his baseball cards, and he always looks happy in them. Maybe it was because he had found success as a pitcher rather than a hitter.

Harahman went on to play for Baltimore, Boston and Cleveland before being released by the Indians in October of 1960 at the young age of 32. His career won and lost record was 69-65. His hitting, which was so hyped when he was breaking into the game, was not a factor in his career. In 521 career at bats, Harshman hit 21 home runs (not bad for a pitcher) drove in 65 runs and batted .179.

As far as the news publicity photo, maybe one bat would have been sufficient instead of nine.

UPDATE: Jack Harshman passed away August 17, 2013 at age 86.

When Ballplayers Spent Time With The Fans

Bobby Thomson and A Young Fan

Sure it’s just a posed publicity photo, but there was a time when ballplayers actually did interact with fans.  At the New York Giants’ spring training home in Phoenix, Arizona,  Bobby Thomson demonstrates to a little cowboy, Dennis Filan age five, the proper way to grip a baseball bat on March 6, 1953.

Thomson, who will forever occupy a spot in every Giants fans heart for hitting the most famous homerun in baseball history the  “shot heard ’round the world” in 1951, was typical of  many ballplayers before astronomical salaries became the norm for baseball.  These players spent time among the fans.

Not only that, most players worked other jobs in the off-season to make ends meet. They lived among regular people, who went to the ballgames and had daily interactions with them. In New York and many other major league cities, most players took public transportation or walked to the ballpark from their homes. The players were an integral part of the community they played in.

It’s one of the reasons baseball is so screwed up today. Continue reading

Jackie Robinson Packs Up And Retires

A Classy Man Calls It A Career – January 7, 1957

55 Years Later- Remembering The December 13, 1956 Trade That Shocked New York

In this January 7, 1957 photograph Jackie Robinson packs up the contents of his locker from Ebbets Field, his home for his entire ten year major league career.

After the 1956 season Jackie Robinson’s legs were gone. He was no longer the player he once was and he knew it. He batted a respectable .275 with ten homers.  But rather than continue playing with eroding skills, Robinson would retire at the age of 37.

One problem: except for his family and future non-baseball employer, Robinson didn’t tell anyone of his decision.

The Trade

The Dodgers shocked everyone including Robinson, with a December 13, 1956 trade to the New York Giants for Dick Littlefield and $35,000 for the Dodger legend.  After the trade announcement, fans of the Dodgers were outraged. Brooklynites believed that Robinson would retire rather than play for the hated crosstown rival Giants. But they did not know Robinson had already decided before the trade that he was retiring.

All Robinson would publicly say was he would “inform the Giants by January 14, if he would play in 1957.”

The reason Robinson couldn’t announce his retirement was because he had signed a contract to write an exclusive article for Look magazine, about his retirement in December which would not hit the newsstands until January 8.

Announcing his retirement on January 7, many Dodger fans were happy Robinson would not be playing for the Giants.  Robinson said he had decided to take a position with Chock full O’Nuts as Vice President of personnel rather than play baseball.

Whether Robinson would have played for the Giants had he not retired is open to speculation.

click to read Robinson’s letter

Robinson’s January 14, 1957 letter to Giants owner Horace Stoneham takes the high road. Robinson says he appreciates being offered the chance to play for the Giants, but he has “decided to devote his full time to business opportunities.”

The Agony of Defeat

The Day After The Yankees Were Swept in a Late Season Doubleheader – 1954

The day of September 13, 1954 was not a happy one for Yankees fans as can be seen above. Reality sank in for eleven-year-old Walter Golle as he sat in front of Yankee Stadium. The dejection shown in Walter’s face reflected the fact that the Yankees would not be in the World Series for the first time since 1948 when Walter was five-years-old. The Yankees had won five consecutive World Series from 1949-1953.

The day before, on September 12, the Cleveland Indians had swept the Yankees in a doubleheader in Cleveland. The games were witnessed by 86,563 fans, the largest crowd to ever see a baseball game in the cavernous Municipal Stadium.

September 12, 1954 Municipal Stadium Filled

Bob Lemon won the first game 4-1 for his twenty-second win of the year and Early Wynn triumphed 3-2 in the second game for his twenty-first victory. The Yankees ended the day being 8 and a half games behind the Indians, reducing Cleveland’s magic number for clinching the pennant to three games.

The Indians would go on to win an American League record 111 games. They finished the season eight games ahead of the Yankees.  Miraculously the New York Giants defeated the heavily favored Indians four games to none in the World Series.

Walter eventually got over the Yankees 1954 failure. Maybe that is an assumption.

Here is what Walter looked like 46 years later in 2000 featured in The Norwood News Inquiring Photographer section.

Vintage Photos – Stealing Home

or Jackie Robinson Makes Stealing Home Look Easy

One of the most famous film highlights of a baseball game is from September 28, Game 1 of the 1955 World Series where the Brooklyn Dodgers star Jackie Robinson stole home against the New York Yankees. The photograph above captures the bang-bang action. The play was incredibly close and you could look at the film 100 times and still not be sure of the outcome. Robinson was called safe by umpire Bill Summers. To this day, Yankees catcher Yogi Berra vehemently Continue reading