Bucky Harris

Stanley Raymond "Bucky" Harris (November 8, 1896 – November 8, 1977) was an American professional baseball second baseman, manager and executive. While Harris played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Washington Senators and Detroit Tigers,[1] it was his long managerial career that led to his enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame, elected as a manager by the Veterans Committee, in 1975.[2] Hired by the Senators to act as player-manager at the age of 27, Harris would lead the team to the 1924 World Series title, becoming the youngest manager to win a championship and the first rookie manager to do so (four other rookies have accomplished the feat since).[3] Harris managed 29 seasons, fourth most in MLB history. In his tenure as manager for five teams (with two tenures each for Washington and Detroit), Harris won over 2,150 games, three league pennants and two World Series championships, with the gap between appearances/championships in the World Series being the longest in major league history. [4][5]

Bucky Harris
Harris in 1924
Second baseman / Manager
Born: (1896-11-08)November 8, 1896
Port Jervis, New York, U.S.
Died: November 8, 1977(1977-11-08) (aged 81)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 28, 1919, for the Washington Senators
Last MLB appearance
June 12, 1931, for the Detroit Tigers
MLB statistics
Batting average.274
Home runs9
Runs batted in508
Managerial record2,158–2,219
Winning %.493
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Baseball Hall of Fame
Election methodVeterans Committee

Early life

Of Swiss and Welsh descent, Harris was born in Port Jervis, New York, and raised after the age of six in Pittston, Pennsylvania. His father, Thomas, had emigrated from Wales, while his mother, Catherine (Rupp), hailed from Hughestown, near Pittston. His elder brother, Merle, was a minor league second baseman. Bucky Harris left school at age 13 to work at a local colliery, the Butler Mine, as an office boy and, later, a weigh master.[6] In his spare time, Harris played basketball for the Pittston YMCA team as well as sandlot baseball.

Playing and player-manager career

Harris was listed as 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall and 156 pounds (71 kg); he threw and batted right-handed. In 1916, when Harris was 19, Pittston native Hughie Jennings, then the manager of the Detroit Tigers, signed him to his first contract and farmed him to the Class B Muskegon Reds of the Central League, where he struggled as a batsman and was released.[6] Harris then caught on with the Scranton Miners, Norfolk Tars and Reading Pretzels through 1917, before reaching the highest level of minor league baseball with the 1918–1919 Buffalo Bisons of the International League. Harris improved his batting skills during the latter season with the Bisons, making 126 hits and raising his average to .282.

He then was recommended to the Washington Senators by baseball promoter Joe Engel, who led the Chattanooga Lookouts at Engel Stadium. In August 1919, at the age of 22, he came up to Washington but was unimpressive at first,[7] batting a meager .214 and getting into only eight games that first season. Despite this poor showing, owner-manager Clark Griffith made him Washington's regular second baseman in 1920, and before long Harris was batting .300 and making a mark for himself as a tough competitor, standing up to even ferocious superstar Ty Cobb, who threatened Harris when he tagged Cobb in their first encounter.[7]

Harris spent most of his playing career as a second baseman with the Senators (1919–1928). In 1924, he was named player-manager; at the age of 27 he was the youngest manager in the Majors.[7] He proceeded to lead the Senators to their only World Series title in Washington in his rookie season, and was nicknamed "The Boy Wonder."[8] He won a second consecutive American League pennant in 1925, but the Senators lost the 1925 World Series in Pittsburgh in the late innings of Game 7 after leading 3–1 in the Series.[9] Baseball historian William C. Kashatus wrote of his dominant play in the 1924 World Series:[10] "Not only did he set records for chances accepted, double plays and put-outs in the exciting seven-game affair, but he batted .333 and hit two home runs"[10] — including an important roundtripper in Game 7 which opened the scoring and gave Washington a 1–0 lead in the 4th inning. These feats are even more impressive considering that the light-hitting Harris only hit nine home runs during his entire career.

Managing career after 1925

Harris’ initial departure from the Senators in 1928 (he would twice return to manage them again from 1935–1942 and 1950–1954) came in a trade to the Tigers as player-manager.[2] Although he retired as a player after the 1931 season, his playing career effectively ended with his trade to Detroit. Harris only made 11 cameo appearances in the Tiger lineup: seven in 1929 and four in 1931. In all, he appeared in 1,263 games over all or portions of 13 seasons, and collected 1,297 hits, with 224 doubles, 64 triples, nine home runs, 472 bases on balls, and 167 stolen bases. Harris batted .274 lifetime with 508 career runs batted in.

In addition to Harris‘ three separate terms as field leader of the Senators, he also managed the Tigers twice (1929–1933, 1955–1956), Boston Red Sox (1934), Philadelphia Phillies (1943) and New York Yankees (1947–1948).

Senators, Tigers, Red Sox and Phillies (1926–1943)

Bucky Harris in 1929
Harris and Connie Mack shaking hands in 1938

After Harris‘ back-to-back pennants in 1924–1925, he was able to keep the Senators in the first division for the next three seasons, but their win totals declined, from 96 (1925) to 81 (1926), then 85 (1927). When, in 1928, they won only 75 games (against 79 losses), Griffith traded Harris to Detroit and changed managers, with Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson named as his successor. The 1928 Tigers had won only 68 games, and Harris' 1929 edition offered only a slight improvement, winning 70. In five full seasons as the Tigers' manager, he produced only one winning year, 1932, when Detroit went 76–75 and finished fifth and 29+12 games behind the Yankees. In the waning days of 1933, Harris stepped down. His eventual successor, Mickey Cochrane, a future Hall-of-Fame catcher who was acquired from the Philadelphia Athletics, would lead the Tigers as a player-manager to back-to-back pennants in 1934–1935 (and their first-ever world championship in the latter year).

Harris signed as manager of the Red Sox for 1934. Boston was then a habitual tail-ender in the American League, and had registered 15 consecutive losing seasons since its 1918 world championship. The 1933 Red Sox had won only 63 games and finished seventh in the eight-team AL under Marty McManus, but their wealthy new owner, Tom Yawkey, had begun a major rebuilding of both the ball club and Fenway Park. Yawkey jettisoned McManus and personally selected Harris as his new manager, and his 1934 Red Sox, despite an injury-riddled season by newly purchased ace left-handed pitcher Lefty Grove, broke the losing-season streak, finishing at .500 (76–76). But Harris's stay in the Boston dugout lasted only one season. He and Eddie Collins, the Red Sox' general manager, had feuded since their playing days[11] and Yawkey may have hired Harris without consulting Collins. When Joe Cronin, the hard-hitting, 28-year-old playing manager of the Senators, became available on the trade market, Yawkey and Collins moved quickly, sending shortstop Lyn Lary and $225,000 to Washington on October 26, 1934,[12] for Cronin, and then naming him manager for 1935. Harris then took Cronin's old job, returning to Clark Griffith and the Senators.

Harris' second term in Washington lasted for eight seasons (1935–1942), his longest tenure as a skipper. However, he never approached the highs of 1924 or 1925. Only one of his teams, the 1936 Senators, had a winning record (82–71) and first-division finish. Harris kept the club out of the American League basement, but three consecutive seventh-place finishes from 1940–1942 led to his departure and his only season in the National League as skipper of the 1943 Phillies.

Perhaps the worst team (42–109, .278) in baseball in 1942, the Phillies had just been sold to lumberman William D. Cox. Under Harris, the 1943 edition improved to play .424 baseball (39–53), with just three fewer victories than they had in all of 1942. However, Harris chafed at Cox' constant interference. When Harris protested, Cox abruptly fired him on July 27.

Harris then played a role in Cox' banishment from professional baseball for betting on games. On the day after his firing, Harris dropped a bombshell at his hotel room — he had evidence that Cox was betting on baseball.[13] Harris's friends, outraged at his firing, informed Commissioner of Baseball Kenesaw Mountain Landis that Cox was violating baseball's anti-gambling mandate.[14] Landis then summoned Harris to his office to testify in person about Cox' behavior. The owner was suspended indefinitely three months later and banned from baseball outright soon afterward. The Phillies were sold to R. R. M. Carpenter in November 1943.

Yankees (1947–1948)

Harris then spent three seasons out of the big leagues, serving as general manager (1944–1946) and field manager (1944–1945) of the Buffalo Bisons, his old team in the International League. In August 1946, the Yankees' co-owner and GM, Larry MacPhail, appointed Harris to a front-office position.

The tumultuous 1946 season saw MacPhail employ three managers — Joe McCarthy, Bill Dickey, and Johnny Neun — and finish third, 17 games in arrears of the pennant-winning Red Sox. At the close of the season, MacPhail named Harris the Bombers' 1947 manager, and he led them to his third American League pennant — the Yankees' 15th league title.

Behind Most Valuable Player Joe DiMaggio and newly acquired starting pitcher Allie Reynolds, the 1947 Yanks won 97 games and prevailed over the Tigers by a 12-game margin. Then they won Harris's second World Series championship, defeating the Jackie Robinson-led Brooklyn Dodgers in a thrilling, seven-game Fall Classic.

Although MacPhail sold his stake in the Yankees and left baseball immediately after the 1947 Series, Harris returned for a second season as manager. His 1948 Yankees won 94 games to finish a close third in a hectic pennant race, two games behind the Cleveland Indians and Red Sox, who ended the regular season in a tie for first place.[2] But the result dissatisfied the Yankees' post-MacPhail ownership team, Dan Topping and Del Webb, and their new general manager, George Weiss, and they replaced Harris with Casey Stengel. Stengel would lead New York to ten American League pennants and seven World Series titles in the next 12 seasons.

Final terms with Senators and Tigers (1950–1956)

Harris returned to the minor leagues in 1949, as manager of the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League, before launching his third stint as skipper of the Senators, coming off a 104-loss 1949 season. His first campaign, 1950, saw a 17-game improvement for Washington, then he led the Senators to a winning (78–76) mark in 1952, but the team could not escape the second division in Harris's five-year, final term as Washington's manager.

Nevertheless, the Tigers chose Harris to replace Fred Hutchinson as their manager for 1955, and in the first season of his second term in Detroit, Harris again produced a turnaround. The 1955 Tigers won 79 games (eleven more than 1954's edition) and had their first above-.500 season since 1950. Pitcher Ned Garver described Harris as "sympathetic," recalling that he would wait until an inning was over before replacing a pitcher on the mound.[15] Then, Detroit won 82 games in 1956. But the Tigers finished fifth each season, and were experiencing turmoil in their front office; outspoken owner Walter Briggs Jr. was harshly critical of Harris and his coaches during the season[16] and was in the process of selling the team.[17] Fired by new owner Fred Knorr, Harris closed out his 29-year MLB managing career with a win–loss record of 2,158–2,219 (.493). As of September 2019, Harris ranked seventh in MLB manager career wins.[18]

Managerial record

TeamYearRegular seasonPostseason
GamesWonLostWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
WSH1924 1549262.5971st in AL43.571Won World Series (NYG)
WSH1925 1519655.6361st in AL34.429Lost World Series (PIT)
WSH1926 1508169.5404th in AL
WSH1927 1548569.5523rd in AL
WSH1928 1547579.4874th in AL
DET1929 1547084.4556th in AL
DET1930 1547579.4875th in AL
DET1931 1546193.3967th in AL
DET1932 1517675.5035th in AL
DET1933 1527379.480resigned
BOS1934 1527676.5004th in AL
BOS total1527676.50000
WSH1935 1536786.4386th in AL
WSH1936 1538271.5364th in AL
WSH1937 1537380.4776th in AL
WSH1938 1517576.4975th in AL
WSH1939 1526587.4286th in AL
WSH1940 1546490.4167th in AL
WSH1941 1547084.4556th in AL
WSH1942 1516289.4117th in AL
PHI1943 923953.424fired
PHI total923953.42400
NYY1947 1549757.6301st in AL43.571Won World Series (BKN)
NYY1948 1549460.6103rd in AL
NYY total308191117.62043.571
WSH1950 1546787.4355th in AL
WSH1951 1546292.4037th in AL
WSH1952 1547876.5065th in AL
WSH1953 1527676.5005th in AL
WSH1954 1546688.4296th in AL
WSH total275213361416.50077.500
DET1955 1547975.5135th in AL
DET1956 1548272.5325th in AL
DET total1073516557.48100

Front office career

In 1957, at 60, Harris rejoined the Red Sox in a front office capacity. He was assistant general manager to Joe Cronin for two seasons, and then, when Cronin was named president of the American League, succeeded him as GM in January 1959, 24 years after Cronin had displaced Harris as Boston's field manager. Harris served for two losing seasons as general manager of the Red Sox before his firing in late September 1960. On his watch, the Red Sox finally broke the baseball color line by promoting Pumpsie Green from Triple-A on July 21, 1959, more than a dozen years after Robinson's debut with the Dodgers. They were the last of the 16 pre-expansion teams to integrate.[20]

But the Red Sox went 75–79 in 1959 and fell into the second division, beginning a streak of eight straight losing seasons. Then, in 1960, Hall of Famer Ted Williams's final season, they won only 65 games and finished seventh in the eight-team league. Rightfielder Jackie Jensen, still productive at age 33 — he had been 1958's American League MVP and the AL's 1959 runs batted in leader — sat out the entire 1960 campaign in retirement due to his fear of flying.

Harris made a flurry of minor trades in an attempt to shake up his faltering team. His two highest-profile transactions, which occurred during the 1959–1960 offseason, saw him send left-handed pitcher and former bonus baby Frank Baumann to the Chicago White Sox and veteran starting catcher Sammy White to the Indians. But Baumann led the AL in earned run average with the 1960 Chisox (while the player Harris obtained, first baseman Ron Jackson, struggled through only ten games with Boston before being traded away again) and White abruptly retired rather than report to Cleveland, canceling his trade.[21] Harris also ran afoul of Yawkey when he fired Yawkey associate Pinky Higgins as manager and replaced him with Billy Jurges, a Senators' coach, on July 3, 1959, without consulting the owner.[20] Jurges lasted less than a calendar year as the Red Sox' pilot before his firing in June 1960 — and replacement by Higgins. Harris's dismissal followed not quite four months later.

Harris ended his long MLB career as a scout for the White Sox (1961–1962) and special assistant for the new expansion Washington Senators franchise that played in D.C. from 1961 to 1971 before moving on to Arlington, Texas. All told, he spent over 55 years in baseball. He died in Bethesda, Maryland, on his 81st birthday. According to his obituary in the November 10, 1977 Washington Post, Harris died after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was buried at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Hughestown.

Personal life

Harris's father-in-law during his first marriage, which ended in divorce in 1951, was Howard Sutherland, former United States Senator from West Virginia.[22]

See also


  1. "Bucky Harris Stats". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. 2019. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  2. Kashatus, William C., Diamonds in the Coalfields: 21 Remarkable Baseball Players, Managers, and Umpires from Northeast Pennsylvania. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2002, p. 76 ISBN 978-0-7864-1176-4
  3. "Rookie managers who won the World Series". MLB.com.
  4. "Longest gaps between manager stints". MLB.com.
  5. "He's back! 7 incredible facts on Dusty in WS". MLB.com.
  6. Kritzer, Cy, "The Boy Who Bucked the Current", 1947 Baseball Guide and Record Book, St. Louis, Missouri: The Sporting News, 1947, pp. 116-123
  7. Kashatus, op. cit., p. 74
  8. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum official site
  9. Kashatus, op. cit., pp. 74–76
  10. Kashatus, op. cit., p. 75
  11. Huhn, Rick, Eddie Collins: A Baseball Biography. Jefferson, N.C.: Macfarland & Company, 2008, pp. 278–279 ISBN 978-0-7864-3287-5
  12. "Joe Cronin Stats". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. 2019. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  13. Okrent, Daniel (1988). The Ultimate Baseball Book. Boston, USA: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 352. ISBN 0395361451.
  14. article, The New York Times, March 30, 1989
  15. Wolf, Gregory H. "Ned Garver". SABR. Retrieved November 21, 2021.
  16. article, The Associated Press, June 28, 1956
  17. Smiles, Jack, Boy Wonder: A Biography of Baseball's Bucky Harris. Jefferson, N.C.: Macfarland & Company, 2011, p. 261 ISBN 978-0-7864-4160-0
  18. "MLB Managers". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. 2019. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  19. "Bucky Harris Managerial Record". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. 2015. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  20. Smiles, op. cit., pp. 262-268
  21. Holbrook, Bob, "Sox, Lane Wrangle on White." The Boston Globe, March 20, 1960
  22. The Washington Post, November 30, 1978

Further reading

  • Kashatus, William C. (2002). Diamonds in the Coalfields: 21 Remarkable Baseball Players, Managers, and Umpires from Northeast Pennsylvania. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-1176-4.

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