WHEN THE WASHINGTON SENATORS hied off to Texas in 1971, few in town felt more forlorn than Bucky Harris, who died at the age of 81 the other day. More than anyone else in the major leagues he gave the city its strongest reasons for looking on itself as a baseball town. As the manager of the 1924 Senators, with Walter (Big Train) Johnson on the mound, Leon (Goose) Goslin in left field and Calvin Coolidge in the White House, Mr. Harris won for Washington its only World Series. That was the era of the player manager, and fittingly the man who managed well also played well: In the seven games of the Series, he hit two home runs and enough doubles and singles to get the fans to start calling him "the boy wonder."

Mr. Harris was 27 at the time, and perhaps too young to get the apple when going up against such choke-inducing legends as john McGraw of the New York Giants. But for the next 32 years, going from Washington to Detroit and Boston, back to Washington, then to Philadelphia and New York, and back still another time to Washington, and finally for two last years in Detroit, Mr. Harris became more than a manager. He was also a presence. He proved that professional sports could be enhanced as much by modesty and self-control as by the big play and the great season. In an unpublised manuscript titled "When Washington Loved Baseball: The Story of the 1924-25 Pennant-Winning Teams," Lawrence Amman tells of growing up in Detroit: "In the sandlot games in which I took part as a boy the captain or leader of a team was automatically named 'Bucky.' To us, the manager of the Detroit Tigers in 1955 and '56 was the symbol of what a manager was supposed to be - older, quiet, wise, strong and experienced. The nickname was still used in our sandlot games a few years after Harris had left Detroit."

After he left baseball, tributes continued to come to Mr. Harris, including in 1975 induction into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y. On that occasion, it was said that few selections were more popular among the rank-and-file of baseball - all those thousands of former players who had been shaped or touched by Bucky Harris in his long and happy career. He was able to turn a game into a profession, and by doing so uplift whatever communtiy in which he happened to working. Washington not only had the fine pleasure of Mr. Harris's company for 18 years as a man of baseball, but we also enjoyed him when he chose to live here in retirement as a man of renown.