Tuesday, June 2, 2009

# 104 -- Toby Harrah

Toby Harrah

Toby Harrah. Dick Nen. Robb Nen. I know there are more ballplayers with palindromes for last names, but Harrah would have to be the longest. He had a long career. I didn't realize he broke in as a 20-year old in 1969. He pinch ran in 7 games and pinch hit in 1. Amazing year in 1969: starts the season in A ball ends the season in the big leagues playing for Ted Williams.

Even though he was an All-Star 4 times, I never thought of him among the best shortstops in the league at the time. However, he would have fit today's game very well. He was a solid, but not exceptional fielder. He had pop in his bat, hitting over 20 homers 5 times and had 5 years drawing over 90 walks. However, the typical shortstop in the 70's had good range in the field and if he did anything at the plate, it was hit for average and steal bases. That wasn't Toby's game. He hit over .270 only 3 times, but could steal bases.

Toby took the shortstop job in 1971 and didn't look back. He was the Ranger All-Star representative in 1972, but that was kind of like saying someone "runs fast for a catcher." Toby is staring off into space on the card, not because he's wondering how it would be to share a locker room with Bobby Murcer, Rod Carew, Carl Yastrzemski, Reggie Jackson, et. al. (he didn't play in the All-Star Game because of injury. Bobby Grich played the whole game because Earl Weaver was the manager, although Campaneris and Patek appeared to be available), but because he's wearing a Washington Senators cap that's not allowed in the 1972 set. I personally don't care much for this card because it just doesn't do anything.

Toby's career had a few oddities:
1. June 25, 1976. Played doubleheader at shortstop with no fielding chances. (He went 6-8, 2 HR, 8 RBI and 2 BB's offensively.)
2. September 17, 1977. Played 17 innings at 3rd without an assist (he had 1 putout, catching a throw from SS Bert Campaneris and tagging Rod Carew, who was trying to advance from 2nd to 3rd on a grounder to short, which we're taught not to try to do).
3. August 27, 1977. Along with Bump Wills, hit back-to-back jacks in Yankee Stadium. Big deal you say? Would you be impressed with the oddity if I told you they were both inside-the-parkers?

The question on the back of the card about circling the bases held too much intrigue for me to let pass. They didn't time guys hitting inside the park homers in the 20's. Apparently between games of doubleheaders (for all of you under the age of 38, a "doubleheader" is something where baseball teams used to schedule 2 games in 1 day, usually on Sunday, but also sometimes during the week, especially if there had been a rainout) they would hold contests. One of these was to have an around the bases race. Evar Swanson was an outfielder for the Reds and White Sox who'd also played in the NFL and ran track in college. Apparently he set the "record" in a September doubleheader at 13.3 seconds. Later, during his final year in 1934, he was timed at 14.8 seconds. I guess he slowed enough that he was out of the league. During that doubleheader, Al Simmons of the A's hit a fungo (throw it up and hit it) 428' and Hal Trosky threw a ball 376 feet. These contests alone make me wish they had doubleheaders now.

1972 Feature
Sorry, ladies, this is for all the guys out there. This was the cover of Life Magazine on June 2, 1972. I have to post it:

A couple of months later the movie "Kansas City Bomber" was released. I didn't see it at the theater when I was 8, but I remember seeing it several times on TV in later years. Can you imagine why Raquel Welch in a roller derby movie would stay ingrained in my pre-pubescent mind? I don't remember much of the plot, but I remember thinking "She's pretty," or something like that. She was certainly more interesting than George McGovern (I liked Nixon).


  1. Toby Harrah was one of my favorites when I was growing up. It was sad when he ended up a Yankee.

    Rachel Welch was a bit before my time. But pretty girls and roller derby? Me like.

  2. Since MLB insists on playing three full-length seven game series in the postseason, I propose a new rule to shorten the regular season a bit--everyone has to play doubleheaders on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day, just like in the old days. It'll never happen, of course, but it would be fun...

  3. You know why it'll never happen? Because by losing the gate of those 3 games, each team probably loses the gross revenue of an 8th inning setup man (that's another phrase you never heard 30 years ago).

  4. Raquel Welch...a timeless hottie.