1969 BASEBALL PLAYER OF THE DAY– TOMMY HARPER- SEATTLE PILOTS

 

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Ten points about Tommy Harper-

1.Tommy Harper was the 3rd pick by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft. Harper was an established major leaguer who had a bad year in 1968  and was left unprotected by the Cleveland Indians. He was one of the best players on the Pilots in 1969 leading the AL in steals that year with 73 that was the most steals anyone in the American League had in a season since the immortal Ty Cobb in 1915 and it is still the Seattle Pilot/Milwaukee Brewer franchise record.

2. Harper went to Encinal High School in Alameda, California with future major league players Willie Stargell and Curt Motton. I can’t imagine the athletic teams they had. Both Harper and Motton were born in Louisiana and Stargell was born in Oklahoma- their families all migrated to the same area in California. Harper was the first of the three to make it to the big leagues.

3. Tommy Harper was 5’9″ 165 hit and threw right handed. He would play 15 seasons in major league baseball. He would play with seven different teams- Cincinnati from 1962-67, Cleveland in 1968, Seattle-Milwaukee 1969-71, Boston 1972-74, He split the 1975 season between California and Oakland and in 1976 finished his playing career with Baltimore at the age of 35. He was mainly an outfielder who could play all the outfield positions- but also in some years spent some time at second base and third base. While he wasn’t a star he was a valuable player to have on your team.

4. Career stats- 146 home runs, 567 RBI, .257 career average. He had a good eye at the plate- could draw a walk- his career on base percentage was .338. He was a speedster- 408 career steals while being caught 116 times. His WAR a respectable 25.8.

5. He was the first player in Pilots/Brewers history to come to bat- he grounded out in that plate appearance.

6. As a Cincinnati Red in 1966 he had a 24 game hitting streak. Also in 1969 the year he stole 73 bases- he had four steals in a game for the Pilots against the Boston Red Sox. He led the American League in stolen bases in 1969 and 1973. Back when he was with Cincinnati he led the National League in runs scored in 1965.

7. Tommy Harper’s best season is easy to pick out 1970 the year the Pilots moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers- he was never a big power hitter- the best home run year he had was 1965 when he hit 18 home runs with the Reds. In 1970 he would become the 5th player to join the 30/ 30 club- hitting 31 home runs and stealing 38 bases. He finished 6th in the MVP voting- an impressive showing considering he played on such a bad team.

8. In October 1971 he was involved in a huge 10 player trade when he was sent along with three other players to the Boston Red Sox for six players. He was the best player to go to the Red Sox- the Brewers received a couple big names and got the best of the deal with The Boomer- George Scott and pitcher Jim Lonborg going to the Brewers and having productive years there especially Scott.

9. Harper spent some off seasons in the 60’s in the Air Force. When he was discharged in 1968 they offered to make him a staff sergeant if he re-upped to which Harper replied “I wouldn’t re-up if you make me a general.”

10. Following his playing career Tommy Harper started a long coaching career- first as a minor league instructor for the Montreal Expos, then from 1980-84 as a coach for the Red Sox, 1990-99 back with the Expos and then returning to the Red Sox from 2000-2002. He has since held a position in the Red Sox front office. He is in the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame. He is 77 years old.

 

 

 

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