April 23, 1924 |
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|April 17, 1954 for the Cincinnati Redlegs|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 15, 1957 for the Philadelphia Phillies|
|Runs batted in||59|
Charles Byron Harmon (born April 23, 1924) is retired American professional baseball player, a former utility player in Major League Baseball who played for the Cincinnati Redlegs (1954–1956), St. Louis Cardinals (1956–1957) and Philadelphia Phillies (1957). He batted and threw right-handed.
Schooled as a sportsman at Dunbar Elementary by legendary Wonder Fiver Burl Friddle, Harmon went on to play for two straight Indiana state basketball championship teams with the Washington Hatchets in 1941 and 1942. His brother Bill also played for the 1941 champions. Harmon and longtime teammate/friend Art Grove then reunited with Friddle to play for the University of Toledo, and promptly helped an all-freshman squad (that included Gary's Davage Minor) to make the final game of the National Invitational Tournament, losing to St John's. Both Grove and Minor went on to play professional basketball. Harmon was a College All-American in basketball at the University of Toledo.
For its 1950-51 season the National Basketball Association was integrated. Harmon tried out for the Boston Celtics but was cut along with Isaac "Rabbit" Walthour, another black star, although Chuck Cooper did make the Celtic squad. Harmon finished that season as player-coach of Utica in the American Basketball League, in the process becoming one of if not the first Afro-American to coach an integrated professional basketball team.
On April 17, 1954, he became the first Black American to play for the Cincinnati Reds. Pinch-hitting for pitcher Corky Valentine against Lew Burdette, Harmon flied out in the seventh inning of a 5-1 loss to the Milwaukee Braves at County Stadium. In the same game he followed another Cincinnati black rookie, Puerto Rican born Nino Escalera. He got his first hit on April 25, 1954. Starting and leading off for the Reds at home in Crosley Field in a 3-2 win over the Chicago Cubs, Harmon singled in the first inning off Howie Pollet. He later doubled and scored on an error, and drew one walk. His final game was the site of his first, Milwaukee's County Stadium on September 15, 1957 where, appearing as a pinch runner for the Philadelphia Phillies, he scored his final run on a double play.
Harmon hit over .300 during five consecutive minor league seasons but never approached such numbers in the majors. He also played for the Cardinals and Phillies, and in Puerto Rico winter baseball for four years.
In a four-season major league career, Harmon was a .238 hitter with seven home runs and 59 RBI in 289 games played. After his Major League career ended, he played four seasons in the minors, from 1958 to 1961 in AAA leagues for five teams.
Following his playing career, Harmon worked as a scout with the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves in baseball, and the Indiana Pacers in basketball. Later he worked as an administrative assistant for the Hamilton County Court System in Cincinnati, Ohio. He remains active in SWAP (Seniors With A Purpose) and other youth related services.
Harmon was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.
On April 20, 2004 (the 50th anniversary of Harmon's debut as the Reds' first African-American player), the Cincinnati Reds honored him during Chuck Harmon Recognition Night at Great American Ball Park. The pregame ceremonies included the unveiling of a special historic plaque, which now hangs near the entrance of the ballpark.
- When Harmon stole 9 bases in 1955, it tied him for tenth in the National League. Among those on the list were Gene Baker, Ernie Banks, Don Hoak, and Duke Snider. It took Harmon only 96 games to get 9 stolen bases. By contrast, it took the other four players an average of 138 games to steal the same number of bases.
- Chuck Harmon Official Site
- Baseball Library
- Baseball Reference
- Cincinnati Historical Society Library
- Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame
- Harmon Honored, Cincinnati Enquirer, Aug. 10 1997