Joe Harris (harrijo03)

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Joseph Harris

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 170 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Joe Harris was a first baseman /outfielder for 22 years, two in semipro/town team ball (1910-1911); eight in the minors (1912-1916 and 1929-1931); three in independent "outlaw" ball (1919-1921) and ten in the Majors (1914; 1917; 1919 and 1922-1928); losing one year to the Military.

He was born on May 20, 1891 in Coulter, PA. His father had immigrated from Staffordshire, England and his mother from Scotland. It is unknown where, or even if, he attended high school. A Coulter(s) local history publication says that the children of his father (whose name was also Joseph) worked in the local coal mine at age 12. If he did attend high school it would have been in Coulter(s) or in Meyersdale, PA. He and at least two of his siblings were playing baseball in Meyersdale when he was 17, and almost certainly were working in the mines there. Scouted by Charles "Pop" Kelchner, after playing for semipro and town teams (1910-1911), he broke into organized baseball in 1912 at age 21 at about the same time as three of his brothers, when he played with the McKeesport Tubers of the Ohio-Pennsylvania League (1912) and the Bay City Beavers of the Southern Michigan League (1913-1914). At 23 years of age, he broke into the big leagues on June 9, 1914 with the New York Yankees, getting into 2 games, and then returned to Bay City.

He played for the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern Association (1915-1916); and the Cleveland Indians (1917) when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1918, losing the entire season to Uncle Sam.

He served with the 80th Division, 320th Infantry. Sent to France, his wartime bunkmate was Johnny Miljus, with whom he would be together again as members of the Pittsburgh Pirates team in the 1927 World Series. The first major attack the U.S. Army made was in the Argonne Woods, north of Verdun, against an enemy well placed in defensive positions in the difficult terrain thick with forest and underbrush. Although the Americans attacked with great spirit, their assault ground to a halt, and they took heavy casualties. Harris and Miljus were both gassed and Miljus was bayoneted. Later he (Harris) suffered a cracked skull in a truck accident which apparently limited his play in 1919 and almost ended his baseball career. This caused a permanent injury around the eye that was cosmetically corrected between the 1925 and 1926 seasons. It is not known if this affected his vision nor which eye it was but it did provoke an unusual batting stance.

Mustered out as a Sergeant when the War was over (NP), he returned to the Indians and was in time to play 62 games for them in 1919. When the season was over, he played for an industrial team in Franklin, PA. The Indians offered him $5,000.00 for 1920. So did the Franklin team in the Franklin Oil City League. They offered to set Harris up in business too. And he had become enthralled with a local girl in Franklin. Harris then stayed with Franklin for the 1920 season. Judge Landis promptly banned him from baseball for life for having "played with and against ineligible players in independent games". He stayed on with Frankin of the Two-Team League (1920-1921) and married Pearl Hepner of Franklin PA on February 4, 1921. When Franklin disbanded, he joined the Clearfield Terriers.

His application for reinstatement was then accepted by Landis, making him the first ballplayer to be reinstated after receiving a lifetime banishment. Landis mentioned, when he reinstated Harris that he'd been through some bad experiences due to his war service - perhaps (and this is purely conjecture) there were headaches associated with the skull injury. What Landis actually said was that the impact of the war on Harris - who had reportedly been gassed during a battle - caused him to make poor decisions. Harris then became the first player (we can only assume) who was pardoned on account of post traumatic stress disorder.

He played for the Boston Red Sox (1922-1925); Washington Senators (1925-1926); Pittsburgh Pirates (1927-1928); and Brooklyn Robins (1928), where he played his final major league game on September 25, 1928 at age 37. He returned to the minors and played with the Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League (1929); the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League (IL) (1930-1931); and the Buffalo Bisons of the IL (1931); ending his baseball career at age 40.

Harris playing for Washington

Harris batted over .300 each of his full seasons except his last. A starting outfielder for the Red Sox in 1922 and 1923 before moving to first base in 1924, Harris was traded to Washington during the 1925 season and hit .323 to help the Senators to the pennant. He batted .440 with three home runs, two doubles, six RBI and three two-hit games for a slugging average of .880 in the seven-game World Series loss to Pittsburgh. (ME) On May 31, 1927 Harris has five hits, including a double and two triples to lead the first-place Pirates to a 10-9 win over the Chicago Cubs, as the Bucs score nine runs in the last four innings. he returned to the World Series that year, facing the New York Yankees, considered by many to be the greatest team of all time; the Yankees swept the Pirates in four games.

In the 1925 World Series, he became the first player to hit a home run in his first World Series at bat and, teamed with Goose Goslin, the first back-to-back home runs in World Series play. He participated in two triple plays in his career, putting him on another short list. His .317 lifetime batting average places him at #62 all time, just below Roberto Clemente. And his .404 lifetime on-base percentage places him #48 on that list, just below Arky Vaughan.

His best season was 1922 when he had 162 Hits, 28 Doubles, 11 Triples, 13 home runs, 76 RBI and a Batting Average of .335 (.335/.400/.520). In the minors, it would be 1914, when he had 197 Hits, 135 Runs, 39 Doubles, 22 Triples, 10 home runs, 42 Stolen bases and a Batting Average of .386 (.386/.472/.608).

In the Majors, he played 970 Games with 963 Hits, 201 Doubles, 64 Triples, 47 Home runs, 517 RBI and a Batting Average of .317. In the Minors, he played 823 Games with 909 Hits, 174 Doubles, 88 Triples, 44 Home runs, 99 Stolen Bases and a Batting Average of .322.

He retired to his billiard parlor/bowling alley. He had brown hair and grey eyes, his ancestry was Scotch-Irish and his principal hobby was hunting. He died at age 68 at his home in Renton, PA from emphysema on December 10, 1959 and is buried at Sunset Hill Memorial Gardens in Cranberry, PA.


Harris is related to a number of professional ballplayers. The currently known list is:

For a more complete story, see The Joe Harris Family by Bob Harris

Career Highlights[edit]

  • Led Ohio-Pennsylvania League first basemen in Fielding Percentage, 1912 (.992)
  • Led Southern Michigan League in Hits (197), Triples (22) and Batting Average (.386), 1914
  • Led Southern Association first basemen in Putouts (1,567), 1915
  • Led Southern Association in Home runs (9), 1916
  • First ballplayer to be reinstated after receiving a lifetime banishment.
  • First player to hit a home run in first World Series At Bat, October 7, 1925
  • First back-to-back homers in the World Series (with Goose Goslin), October 11, 1925
  • Hit over .300 in eight of his ten years, missing only his cup of coffee year (two games) and his final year (only 112 At Bats)
  • Participated in two triple plays


Principal sources for Joe Harris (harrijo03) include newspaper obituaries (OB), government Veteran records (VA,CM,CW), Stars & Stripes (S&S), Sporting Life (SL), The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs {{{WW}}} (WW), old Baseball Registers {{{BR}}} (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN {{{DAG}}} (DAG), Stars&Stripes (S&S), The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase (PD), The Baseball Library (BL), Baseball in World War II Europe by Gary Bedingfield (GB) {{{MORE}}} and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others. including The Historical Register, compiled by Bob Hoie & Carlos Bauer

Related Sites[edit]