Harry Heslet

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Harry Reuben Heslet (Bud)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Harry Heslet was a minor league catcher and outfielder who spent 14 seasons on the farm, including four years at Triple-A. He hit 314 career home runs, including 51 in his final season. He won five home run titles, just shy of half the seasons he played in.

He began his professional career in 1940, playing for the Norfolk Yankees and the Joplin Miners and hitting a combined .287 with nine home runs in 104 games. He was named the Western League's All-Star catcher. In 1941, he was with Joplin again and he hit .281 with 12 home runs in 119 games. He again played with Joplin in 1942, hitting .343 with 13 home runs in 87. He led the Western Association in batting average.

He did not play from 1943 to 1945 due to World War II. He returned with a bang in 1946 while playing for the Twin Falls Cowboys - that season, he hit .308 with 29 home runs in 124 games. He led the Pioneer League in both homers and RBI (124). With the Binghamton Triplets in 1947, he hit .288 with 24 home runs. He led the Eastern League in homers, two ahead of Ken Wood. At age 27, he finally made it to AAA as he played for the Newark Bears in 1948 and 1949, hitting .266/.349/.421 with nine home runs and 43 RBI in 91 games in 1948 and .228/.322/.412 with 22 home runs and 75 RBI in 140 games in 1949. He began playing the outfield in addition to catching in 1948 and would be practically a full-time outfielder by 1950. Heslet tied for 9th in the 1949 International League in homers, even with Chet Laabs, George Schmees and Coaker Triplett. Every other player in the league with 20+ homers would appear in the majors during their career.

Heslet played with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1950 and 1951. In his first year with the team, he hit .256/.354/.471 with 21 home runs and 71 RBI in 135 games. He was 5th in the IL in homers behind Russ Derry, Laabs, Bill Glynn and Jack Wallaesa. The following year, he hit .257/.350/.380 with six home runs and 27 RBI in 80 games to end his run in AAA. With the San Antonio Missions in 1952, he hit .283/.370/.491 with 31 home runs in 155 games; he led the Texas League in dingers by eight.

In 1953 and 1954, and for part of 1955, Heslet played for the Shreveport Sports. He hit .269/.350/.551 with 41 home runs and 100 RBI in 150 games in 1953, leading the TL in home runs by 11 over Jim Baxes, was 5th in RBI and was second in slugging, 9 points behind Joe Frazier. In 1954, he hit .263/.368/.503 with 31 home runs and 100 RBI in 150 games. He was 5th in the TL in homers and just missed the top 10 in homers. He split the 1955 season between the Sports and the Sacramento Solons, hitting .219 with 15 home runs and 37 RBI in 102 games.

He played his final season in 1956, with the Visalia Cubs. That year, he hit .334 with 51 home runs, 172 RBI and 175 hits in 140 games - all career highs. Both his home run and RBI totals were California League records. Of course, this was the lowest level Heslet had played in for a decade and the California League in those days was an extreme hitter's league. Heslet won his last home run title, 7 ahead of Dick Greco and also led in both runs and RBI. His .685 slugging percentage tied Greco for second behind Joe Brovia. Despite posting such solid numbers, 1956 would be his final professional season. According to a MinorLeagueBaseball.com article ([1]), he retired because, "...I had a boy [Joseph] who was two and a half years old, and I wanted to get him settled...The only way to do that was to give up baseball, stay home and be a dad. So I retired..."

Overall, Heslet hit .279 with 1,164 RBI, 266 doubles, 48 triples and 314 home runs in 1,711 games in his 14-year career. He never reached the major leagues.

Sources include The Minor League Register ed. by W. Lloyd Johnson, 1953 Baseball Guide