Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It Is Time for the Nitty Gritty Card of the Day, From 1957 Topps Baseball, It's...

Chuck Harmon. That's right, it is time for the Nitty Gritty Card of the Day! Today’s card is from 1957 Topps, card #299 of Reds outfielder Charles B. Harmon. Harmon is on the list of 23 players battling it out to be the next player that I collect. Harmon has yet to get any votes, but that makes sense because I don’t think he has any certified autographs or relic cards. That eliminates him from the guidelines, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t an interesting player to collect. He just has a whole lot less cards than most guys on the list. He has his own website which shows off his cards, his career stats, accolades and accomplishments. He is currently living in Cincinnati, where he has lived and worked since retiring from pro baseball. He is a super TTM signer for those interested in that sort of thing. Like Larry Doby he had several careers in pro athletics. He played for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues in 1947. He starred for the Boston Celtics of the NBA in the early 50s. He spent 3 years in the Navy during World War II and he was “the Integrator” of the Cincinnati Reds and also played for the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals. After hanging up his spikes, he worked as a scout for the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves and Indiana Pacers. He originally signed with the St. Louis Browns in 1947 after graduating from the University of Toledo. He was among the first African Americans to sign a major league contract, but he wouldn’t make his big league debut for another 7 years. He spent a total of 11 seasons playing minor league ball, before and after his big league career. Over that span he owns a career batting average of .320. He topped the .300 mark 8 times and topped the .350 mark 4 times. After being traded around to several different organizations, he ended up in the Reds system in 1952 and on April 17, 1954 the Cincinnati Reds became the 15th major league baseball team to integrate. In the same game two players, pinch hitter Nino Escalera and Chuck Harmon made their debut. Escalera, who was a star in Puerto Rico and in the minor leagues, saw limited playing time in his only big league season, but Chuck Harmon enjoyed a longer career. It was really long if you believe the back of this card which says he played in 223 games in 1954. According to Baseball Reference he only played in 94 games in ’54, splitting his time between 1st base and third base. Over his career he spent time at those positions along with all 3 outfield spots. As a 30-year-old rookie Harmon batted .238 with 2 homers and 25 RBI. The next season he set his career best mark in the majors with 5 homers and 28 RBI. On May 10, 1957 Harmon was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Glen Gorbous. He is in a Cards uniform on this card and batted .333 for the Red Birds. His time in St. Louis was VERY brief. He played in just 9 games, mainly as a late inning defensive replacement in the outfield, but also as a pinch runner. He had just 3 at-bats for the Cards, but his lone hit was an RBI triple. After St. Louis, he spent his final days in the big leagues with Philadelphia, appearing in 56 games for the Phillies and batting .256. In 1959 he batted .300 with 11 homers and 101 RBI in AAA and he played AAA ball up until 1962, but never returned to the big leagues. He retired as a player in 1962, but continued as a scout. He is now in his 80s and fully retired from the game that he loves, but he still enjoys going to Reds games and talking baseball. He also enjoys getting fan mail and signing autographs through the mail. You can find his mailing address on his website, Chuck Harmon dot org. Don't forget to add this blog to your rolls and enter the contest on the previous post. 52 years, LATER!

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