Harrah was a power-hitting infielder who spent most of his 17-year career on second-division teams. He was the Senators’ primary shortstop in their last season of existence and remained there for the franchise’s first five seasons in Texas. Coming up straight from Double-A ball in 1971, he was overmatched at first, hitting .230 and slugging .290. He improved as a batter and fielder in 1972 after spending the winter studying with Chico Carrasquel in South America. Harrah hit .259 with 10 HR despite missing time with an appendectomy and a shoulder injury; the injury forced him out of the All-Star Game.
He came into his own in 1974, hitting 21 HR with 74 RBI and 79 runs. It was the first of his five 20-HR seasons. He also showed range in the field, leading AL shortstops in putouts and tying in errors. Manager Billy Martin said, “I don’t know how a guy could cover more ground, and he also has that great arm.” In 1975 Harrah improved further, hitting .293 and drawing 98 walks while driving in a career-high 93 runs. It was the first of his .400 on-base percentage seasons; his .406 was fourth in the AL. TSN named him the shortstop on its postseason AL all-star team. In 1976 he had his best year defensively, leading AL shortstops in putouts and total chances per ‘(((game (and errors). He also established the first of his two odd fielding records, accepting no chances at shortstop in a June 25 doubleheader. On September 17 the following year, he set another record by playing 17 innings at third base without recording an assist.
Harrah’s best year offensively came in 1977, when he was moved to third base after Bert Campaneris was signed as a free agent. Harrah led the AL with 109 walks and hit 27 HR, both career highs, and stole 27 bases. He and Bump Wills hit back-to-back inside-the-park home runs at Yankee Stadium, only the second time that was ever accomplished. In 1978 he stole a career-high 31 bases but slumped to .229. He moved back to shortstop at mid-season as Campaneris hit .186.
After the season Harrah was traded to the Indians for Buddy Bell and he replaced Bell at third base. Although the Rangers often had losing records, they had contended in 1974, 1977, and 1978. In Cleveland, Harrah’s talents were buried on a perennial sixth-place finisher that dropped another notch when the expansion Blue Jays finally improved. In his five years with the Indians, Harrah scored 100 runs twice (his career high, in 1980 and 1982). In his only .300 season, .304 in 1982, he also hit 25 HR and finished second in the AL with a .400 on-base percentage. He led AL third basemen in fielding in 1983. At third, he almost always guarded the line, which cut down on his range; he maintained that it was more important to cut off potential doubles than singles. He played in 476 consecutive games before a Dennis Martinez pitch sidelined him with a broken hand in April 1983.
The Yankees acquired Harrah in a five-player deal in February 1984. By the end of spring training, Graig Nettles had been traded to San Diego for panning the club’s planned third-base platoon, and Harrah was not only faced with the pressure of replacing the popular Nettles, but was also blamed for causing his departure. He slumped horribly, lost the job to rookie Mike Pagliarulo, and hit just .217. After the season he was traded back to the Rangers for Billy Sample and a minor league pitcher. Happy to be back in Texas, he was the regular second baseman (Buddy Bell was at 3B) and rebounded to .270. Drawing a career-high 113 walks (second in the majors), he finished third in the AL with a .437 on-base average, behind Wade Boggs and George Brett. He retired after hitting .218 in 1986.