Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tommy Harper (#214)

Tommy Harper played in the major leagues for 15 seasons (1962-76). He spent his first 6 seasons with the Reds, then played for 6 American League teams over the rest of his career.

Harper was signed by the Reds in 1960, and played 2 seasons as a 2nd baseman with their class-B Topeka team in the Three-I League.

He began the 1962 season as the Reds’ starting 3rd baseman, but after batting .174 after 6 games, he was sent down to their triple-A San Diego Padres for the rest of the 1962 season.

Harper returned to Cincinnati to start the 1963 season. He was a starting outfielder from the get-go, but to my surprise (tonight!), he was the team’s primary RIGHT fielder, with Frank Robinson shifting over to left field, replacing the previous year’s tandem of Wally Post and Jerry Lynch. For 2 weeks in late-April/early-May, Harper inexplicably started 19 consecutive games in center field, while the regular CF Vada Pinson started those same 19 games in right field. After that stint in center, Tommy was out of the starting lineup for 2 months, relegated to pinch-running and the occasional start in right field, before regaining his right field job in mid-July.

 In 1964, Harper only played in 100 games (80 starts in left field). It appears that he was with the team for the entire season, because there are no large gaps in his playing time (indicating time on the DL) nor was he in the minors.

For the next 2 seasons, he was an everyday regular for the Reds. In 1965 he played 159 games, and led the NL with 126 runs scored, with a slash line of 18 HR/64 RBI/.257, and followed that up with 5/31/.278 in 1966. After starting 153 games in left in ’65, with the trade of Frank Robinson he moved over to right field in 1966 and started 90 games there, along with a few dozen starts at the other 2 spots.

In Tommy’s last season with the Reds (1967), he missed 7 weeks in June and July, but was otherwise the team’s regular right fielder. After the season, Harper was traded to the Indians for pitcher George Culver and 1st baseman Fred Whitfield.

In his only season with the Indians, he was the #2 outfielder behind Jose Cardenal. Harper split his time between the 2 corners, with Lee Maye, Lou Johnson, and Russ Snyder filling in around him.

After the ’68 season, Harper was drafted by the expansion Seattle Pilots, and became a regular infielder for the first time since his minor-league days. He began the season at 2nd base, but moved to 3rd base midway through the year. Although he lead the league with 73 stolen bases, he also led by being thrown out 18 times.

He stayed with the team for 2 more seasons after their move to Milwaukee, and was the Brewers’ 3rd baseman in ’70 and 3B-LF in ’71. He made his only all-star appearance in 1970.

After 1971, it was on to Boston, as Harper was part of the 10-player trade that sent George Scott, Jim Lonborg and 4 others to the Brewers for Harper and pitchers Lew Krausse and Marty Pattin.

Tommy was a starting outfielder with the Red Sox for 2 seasons, then split the ’74 season between left field and DH. He also won his 2nd AL stolen base crown in 1973 by swiping 54 bases.

After the 1974 season he was traded to the Angels to open up some outfield spots for rookies Jim Rice and Fred Lynn. All the Sox got in return was utility infielder Bob Heise :(.

Harper DH’ed for the Angels for part of 1975, then finished up the season as a bench player with the Athletics. He spent his last season (1976) on the Orioles’ bench.

1 comment:

Mark Hoyle said...

Just met Tommy at a signing last Sunday. He really is not a big guy at all. Very surprised