Thursday, June 02, 2005


June 2nd, 1987

Pete Harnisch Drafted

(If you can't tell, its draft season, I'll be doing drafted players for the next couple of days.)

As I think I’ve said before, I believe all players of any career longer than a cup of coffee are involved in at least one interesting story. Some, like Pete Harnisch, manage to involve themselves in several interesting stories.

Harnisch who still holds the strikeout and ERA records for Fordham University (presumably because the records of another Rams' Major Leaguer, Ed Walsh, are a bit shaky), was drafted by the Orioles in 1987 and promoted in September 1988 to an Orioles team that had started the season a worst-ever 0-21 (the ’62 Mets were 5-16, the ’03 Tigers 2-19) and were more than forty games under .500 by the time Harnisch was pitching. Not surprisingly, he lost his first two starts. The next year however, featured the “Why Not?” Orioles, who went from thirty-four games out of first to just two in the course of one season. Harnisch made two starts in April, was demoted to Triple-A then recalled in July making fifteen starts and finishing the year five and nine.

Harnisch, who left Fordham with the fastball-slider-change combination that would serve him well for the bulk of his career, joined the Oriole rotation for good in 1990. A quick step back in history is required before we can continue Pete’s story, however. In 1988,
Baltimore had given the Red Sox pitcher Mike Boddicker for their stretch run in exchange for two players you’ve probably heard of: Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling. For reasons known only to them, after the 1990 season Baltimore traded Schilling and Steve Finley and Harnisch to the Astros for Glenn Davis, who proceeded to stink and cost a lot of money doing it. Schilling would be traded again before developing into the huge blowha---er, very good starter he remains to this day, but Finley and Harnisch paid instant dividends for Houston, especially Harnisch who was fifth in ERA, four in strikeouts and made the All-Star team his first year. After a few years of up and down, the Astros let Harnisch go and he signed with the Mets for 1995.

In 1997, after a successful ’95 season, and a less successful ’96, Harnisch gave up chewing smokeless tobacco before the season started and found he was losing his appetite and suffering from insomnia. Visiting his doctor, Harnisch was diagnosed with depression and put on medication. Although he had seemingly recovered—he started Opening Day for the Mets—he would not pitch again until August. After feuding with Bobby Valentine regarding his condition, Harnisch was sent to the Brewers to end the season and become a free agent.

Signing with Cincinnati in the off-season, he pitched effectively, well enough in fact, to be the win leader on the 1999 team that lost a one-game playoff to the Mets. Arm problems began to derail him shortly thereafter, but he remained with the Reds for the rest of his career. Appropriately enough for a man whose career ran into such a wide collection of stories, Harnisch managed one more piece of trivia by pitching the then-Enron Field’s first shutout, defeating his former team 4-0.

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