Saturday, February 04, 2006

February 4th, 1922

Joe Harris Reinstated

I have a theory that a lot of really crazy things happen in baseball in January and February because owners and GMs and such haven't seen a real, live meaningful game in so long that they start making calls in attempt to do something and from this some wacky things emerge. Moves as varied as Babe Ruth being sold to the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez being traded there have happened in January and February, suggesting people are just antsy for some action so odd things start happening.

On that note, we come to Joe Harris' reinstatement. Harris was a pretty decent bat who had been suspended for playing in so-called "outlaw" leagues. However, on this day, Judge Landis removed the suspension, citing Harris' service for the United States in World War I. Actually, that's not quite it. That makes it sound as though Landis rewarded Harris for being a good and dutiful soldier. 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 (I can only assume) who was pardoned on account of post traumatic stress disorder.

As it turned out, if stress was Harris' problem, he might've been better off staying suspended. Harris played for the Senators in 1925 and after coming to the team in a trade, played like a house on fire, batting .323 and posting an OPS over one thousand. He was even better in the World Series, hitting .440 and slugging nearly nine hundred (five of his nine hits were doubles or homers) but the Senators lost a heartbreaker in seven games after Walter Johnson blew a one-run lead with just four outs to go. In 1927, Johnson was now on his one-time nemesis, the Pirates, and playing again in the World Series. This time, of course, there was little drama as the Yankees swept the Bucs in four games.

Harris started 1928 scorching hot, but trailed off after a trade to Brooklyn and never played in the Majors after that season. Harris lived for several more years, dying in Pennsylvania in 1968, leaving behind the memory of both his 1925 World Series performance and his legacy as the man readmitted to baseball on account of shell shock; another one of baseball's strange February stories.

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