Pick A Bat, Any Bat
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
The 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.