Bucky Harris

“First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League,” ran the old saw about Washington, but in 1924 the perennial AL tail-ender Senators were World Champions. In his first season at the helm was 27-year-old Bucky Harris, the youngest regular ML manager and the team’s second baseman. Washington’s rugged “Boy Manager” led by example and earned the respect of such veterans as Walter Johnson, Sam Rice, and Roger Peckinpaugh.

In the 1924 World Series against the Giants, Harris batted .333 and hit two home runs. He also set records for chances accepted, double plays, and putouts in the exciting seven-game affair. His base hit in the eighth inning of the deciding contest tied the score, and the Senators rallied in the twelfth to clinch Washington’s one and only World Championship. It was in that contest that Harris the manager won acclaim. His strategy of replacing righthanded starter Curly Ogden with lefthander George Mogridge after only two batters forced the Giants’ hard-hitting Bill Terry out of the lineup.

Harris learned baseball in the mining region of northeastern Pennsylvania. After leaving school at 13, he worked in a local colliery. Hughie Jennings, another future Hall of Famer from Harris’s home town of Pittston, arranged for the scrappy youngster’s first job in pro ball, in 1915. Harris reached the majors in 1919.

An exceptional fielder, he topped AL second basemen in putouts four times and in double plays a record five straight times (1921-25). An adequate hitter with base stealing ability, Harris had a knack for being hit by pitches. An outstanding basketball player, he played professionally with local Pennsylvania teams during the off-season, until concerned Washington officials ordered him to cease.

Under Harris, the Senators repeated as AL champs in 1925, but lost a hard-fought seven-game Series to the Pirates. After suffering his first losing season in 1928, he was traded to, and named manager of, the Tigers. Except for a few appearances at second base, Harris was a bench manager from then on. He spent five unsuccessful seasons directing the Tigers, one with the Red Sox, and then eight more with the Senators, never finishing higher than fourth. Despite the many losing campaigns, Harris was regarded as a knowledgeable manager and was extremely popular with his players. His patient, gentlemanly manner inspired such loyalty that when the Phillies fired Harris in mid-1943, his players threatened to strike.

Between ML jobs, Harris managed in the International and Pacific Coast leagues. In 1947, he led the Yankees to a World Series victory, and was named TSN Manager of the Year. He was dropped abruptly a year later after a 94-60 third-place finish. Though he managed for another seven years, Harris never again landed in the first division.

Harris also served as assistant GM of the Red Sox and scouted for the White Sox. Named a special assignment scout with the expansion Washington Senators in 1963, he finished where he had begun his ML career a half century earlier. Harris, the youngest man to lead a major league team to a World Series victory, was elected, as a manager, to the Hall of Fame in 1975 by the Veterans Committee.