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Vic Harris (Negro Leagues)

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Elander Victor Harris
(Vicious Vic)

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 10", Weight 168 lb.

[edit] Biographical Information

Outfielder Vic Harris was a very good Negro League player for a long time, including 23 years with the Homestead Grays. He was also one of the most successful managers in league history. As a player, he was known as a good overall player who hustled and hit to the whole field, as well as being a good hit-and-run man. He hit .299 during his career. His nickname of "Vicious Vic" refers to his reputation for violent behavior, including off the field.

Vic moved to Pittsburgh, PA in 1914 and played baseball at the local YMCA. He broke into professional baseball shortly after his 18th birthday, joining the Cleveland Tate Stars and hitting .300/.355/.314 in 21 games, 16 in right field and five in left, fielding .933. He hit .287 the next year for the Cleveland Browns.

Harris began his long association with Homestead in 1925, when they were not a member of any established league. The Grays rarely played other top black teams in those years and so statistics are limited - when they did, they often showed themselves to be superior. Harris hit .250 in documented games against top teams in 1926 and .297 in 1927. He hit .294 the latter year in an exhibition series against Eddie Rommel and Rube Walberg.

When Homestead joined the Eastern Colored League in 1928, Harris only hit .204 before the league folded. He improved significantly in 1929, batting .350 in the high-offense American Negro League.

Harris hit .341 in 1930, then .234 in another Jekyll-and-Hyde turn. Vic hit .316 for the 1932 Grays and .433 with the Detroit Wolves - overall, his .357 was second to Bill Perkins in the East-West League.

In 1933, Harris hit .321 with Homestead. He was selected to the first East-West Game, going 0 for 1 with a walk and an error as the starting left fielder for the East. Harris put on a show with the 1934 Pittsburgh Crawfords; his .381 average was fourth in the Negro National League and his 8 doubles tied for fourth place. He was 1 for 2 in that year's East-West contest.

The 1935 season brought Vic back to Homestead. He hit .342 with surprising power - his eight homers tied for fifth in the league and were even with Hall-of-Fame slugger Turkey Stearnes. In '36, the 30/31-year-old outfielder hit .315. Vic had three 0-fors in exhibition games against major leaguers in '35-'36.

Vic became Homestead's manager in 1937 (one source lists 1935). Hitting only .229, he guided the Grays to a NNL title, the first of nine straight. It obviously didn't hurt that Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard were on tne club. As a manager, he remained aggressive in his dealings with umpires and other teams but was generally quiet and laid-back with his own players. He hit just 3 for 15 in a post-season East-West series in '37.

Player-manager Harris improved to .375 in 1938, second on the team to Leonard and fifth in the NNL. Leading off and playing left field in the first East-West Game of 1938, Vic was 1 for 5 with a double and a run. He concluded the decade with a .164 season for the Grays, a .259 mark in the Cuban Winter League, a .190 postseason for Homestead and a 1 for 2 turn in the second East-West Game of the year.

In 1940, Harris hit .256 and his four triples tied for second in the league. Harris hit .246 in '41 and led his team to their fifth straight pennant as the manager. He also hit 7 doubles, tied for third in the league. He was additionally the winning manager in the 1941 East-West Game.

In 1942, Harris guided the East to two All-Star victories and went 0 for 1 in his fifth game as a player in that contest. He only hit .216 in the regular season at age 36-37, then batted .259 in the Negro World Series against the Kansas City Monarchs. 1943 was the 7th straight pennant for Harris's Homestead team. He hit .298 and also managed the East in the 1943 East-West Game, which they lost.

Harris worked in a defense plant in part of 1943 and 1944, replaced by Candy Jim Taylor. One source lists him as Homestead's manager in 1945; the other lists his return as 1946. He managed the East in the 1945 East-West Game and both '46 games, going 1-2 in that period. Vic played and coached in the first 1947 East-West Game and managed the 1948 game, his 8th time as the East's manager, four more than Oscar Charleston, the next-most-frequent manager.

Harris guided Harrisburg to a title in 1948, then coached the 1949 Baltimore Elite Giants and managed the 1950 Birmingham Black Barons. Additionally, he managed Santurce in the Puerto Rican Winter League from 1947-1950.

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