Saturday, November 21, 2009

1976 Topps #274 - Tommy Harper

  • Tommy Harper was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1960. After playing in the minors from 1960-1962, Harper had a cup of coffee at the end of the 1962 season. He batted .174 in 23 at bats.
  • In 1963 Harper became the regular right fielder. He batted .260 and stole 12 bases while being caught only once. Except for one season (1968 when he was a backup guy), this would be Tommy's lowest stolen base total until his last season in 1976.
  • Harper was a fourth outfielder in 1964 but still managed to steal 24 bases. Here is a May 1964 Baseball Digest article about Tommy. He had his first big season in 1965, leading the NL in runs scored with 126. He also homered 18 times. He started in RF in 1966 and had a better batting average (.278), but his numbers in the other areas were lower. Here is a September 1966 Baseball Digest article about Harper. Tommy was a fourth outfielder in 1967 and batted only .225 in 365 at bats. After the season he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for three players.
  • Tommy started in LF for Cleveland in 1968 but batted only .217. After the 1968 season Harper was picked by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft. In 1969 Harper's batting average wasn't much better (.235), but he led the AL in stolen bases with 73. Here is an August 1969 Baseball Digest article about Harper.
  • The Pilots moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and the move seemed to agree with Harper. Tommy had his best season as he batted .296 with 31 home runs. He appeared in the 1970 All Star game and was caught stealing after being inserted as a pinch runner for Harmon Killebrew. Harper was a versatille player in 1970 as he started over 50 games at 2B and 3B and 21 games in CF.
  • Tommy played all over the place again in 1971 but his numbers were down (.258 with 14 HR and 25 stolen bases). Harper was traded to the Boston Red Sox after the season in a multi-player deal.
  • Harper spent three seasons (1972-1974) with the Red Sox. He started in CF in 1972 and had a season that was similar to his '71 season. In 1973 Tommy started in LF and received some minor MVP consideration. He led the AL in stolen bases with 54 and batted .281 with 17 HR and 71 RBI. His legs started to go in 1974 and he became a backup, batting .237 with 28 stolen bases in 118 games. After the '74 season Harper was traded to the California Angels for Bob Heise.
  • Tommy was a fourth outfielder with the Angels in 1975. He didn't do much with the Angels (.239 in 285 AB) and he was purchased by the Oakland A's on August 13 for the stretch run. Harper played well for the A's in the last six weeks of the season -- he batted .319 in 69 at bats and stole seven bases without being caught. He finally appeared in the postseason in 1975 and walked in his only plate appearance. Harper was released after the season and caught on with the Baltimore Orioles during spring training in 1976. He didn't do a whole lot for the Orioles (.234 in 77 at bats) and was released after the season.
  • Harper had several stints as a coach. He coached for the Red Sox from 1980-1984 but was fired during spring training in 1985 after complaining in the media about the team allowing the segregated Elks Club in Winter Haven, FL to invite only white personnel to its establishment. Tommy later sued the Red Sox for wrongful termination and won his case. He coached with the Montreal Expos from 1990-1999 and then went back to the Red Sox to coach from 2000-2002. He is still a player development consultant with the Red Sox.
  • Liked to face: Dave McNally (.375 in 56 AB); Clyde Wright (.381 in 63 AB); Jim Perry (.351 in 57 AB)
  • Hated to face: Mike Cuellar (.192 with 29 strikeouts in 99 AB); Vida Blue (.189 in 74 AB); Bob Gibson (.158 in 38 AB)

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