Harris with the Baltimore Orioles in 1955
|Pitcher / Manager|
Born: January 17, 1915|
New Castle, Alabama
Died: November 11, 1996 (aged 81)|
Pell City, Alabama
|April 19, 1941, for the Philadelphia Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 11, 1947, for the Washington Senators|
|Earned run average||4.16|
Born in the village of New Castle, Alabama, Harris began his playing career with the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association in 1937. His catcher that season was Paul Richards, who in 1938 became Atlanta's player-manager. Richards and Harris would form a decades-long association in baseball at the minor and Major League levels.
The 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m), 185 lb (84 kg) Harris compiled a 35–63 record with a 4.16 earned-run average in 151 American League games with the Philadelphia Athletics and (briefly) Washington Senators in 1941–44 and 1946–47. He missed the 1945 season while serving in the United States Navy in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. As a big leaguer, Harris allowed 874 hits and 265 bases on balls in 820 innings pitched and 151 games, with 232 strikeouts. He pitched at the Triple-A level during his last three active seasons in pro ball.
The remainder of Harris' Major League career would be spent working in tandem with Richards, initially as a coach with the Chicago White Sox (1951–54), Baltimore Orioles (1955–61), and Houston Colt .45s (1962–64). In each case he worked under Richards, who was either his manager, general manager, or (in Baltimore from 1955 to 1958) both. Despite his playing background, Harris was never a pitching coach; he usually served as a third-base coach.
Manager of Astros and Braves
Harris' first managerial experience came late in the 1961 season. Richards stepped down as skipper of the Orioles on August 30 to become the general manager of the expansion Colt .45s, and Harris took command as interim pilot of the OrioIes on September 1. He led them to 17 wins in 27 games (.630), as the club finished third in the American League. After the season, however, Harris rejoined Richards in Houston as a coach, and Billy Hitchcock took over as Baltimore's permanent skipper for 1962.
Harris served for almost three full seasons as a Colt .45 coach under Harry Craft, until September 19, 1964, when Richards promoted him to manager. In 1965, Harris managed the re-christened Houston Astros, serving for the team's debut season in the Astrodome. But the 1965 Astros went only 65–97 to finish ninth in the ten-team National League, and at the end of the year, Richards was fired and Harris was replaced by Grady Hatton as the Astros' pilot. Harris then served as a Houston scout in 1966.
In August 1966, Richards became the vice president for baseball operations (in effect, general manager) of the Atlanta Braves and Harris rejoined his old boss in 1967 as skipper of the Richmond Braves, Atlanta's Triple-A farm club. Then, from 1968 to the middle of the 1972 season, Harris managed the big-league Braves (ironically, succeeding Hitchcock).
Harris led Atlanta to 93 victories and the first-ever National League West Division championship in 1969 (both the National and American Leagues now had two divisions after expanding from 10 teams to 12) for the franchise's first postseason berth since losing the 1958 World Series as the Milwaukee Braves. But Harris' Braves lost the National League Championship Series to the eventual world champion New York Mets. When the Braves slumped in ensuing years, Richards was fired during the 1972 season, on June 1, and Harris was replaced as manager by former Braves' third baseman Eddie Mathews on August 6. Harris' final managerial record was 466–488 (.488).