Hall of Famer Stanley (Bucky) Harris, the "boy wonder" player-manager who at age 27 guided the Washington Senators to their only World Series title in 1924, died Tuesday night on his 81st birthday.
Mr. Harris, who managed five major-league teams during his 29-year stint as a pilot, including the 1947 world champion New York Yankees, died at Wildwood Health Center in Bethesda. He had suffered for years from Parkinson's disease.
Mr. Harris managed the Senatros, who moved to Arlington, Tex., after the 1971 baseball season, on the three occasions for a total of 18 years. Private services will be held Friday in Pittston, Pa.
Mr. Harris was born in Port Jervis, N.Y., Nov. 8, 1396. His family moved to Pittston, where the agressive, curly-haried youngster began to play all sports, particularly basketball and baseball. Both were to have a Isting effect on his life.
In 1915 Mr. Harris signed with Pittston, of the Eastern Pennsylvania League, and four years later was purchased by Clark Griffith, president of the washington Senators.
Mr. Harris was a 22-year-old second baseman when he came up with the Senators in 1919 and wasn't impressive. He hit only 214 and played in only eight games. But Mr. Harris didn't have much to beat out. The regular Washington second baseman in 1918 was Ray Morgan, a .233 hitter. In 1919, it was Hal Janvrin, who batted .178. Griffith took a chance on the scrappy Harris and installed him as his second baseman in 1920.
Rookies received a severe hazing in those days of the greats in the American League - Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Geroge SIsler, Harry Heilmann, Tris Speaker, Joe Jackson, Jim Bagby Sr., Carl Mays and Eddie Cicotte. It was a tough league to break into but freshman Harris met the challenge by batting .300.
There was a story of a confrontation between the rookie and the king of them all - Cobb. Mr. Harris was 5-foot-9 and weighed 156 pounds. Cobb was 6-1 and 175 pounds of meanness. Cobb was famous for breaking up double plays. In his first encounter with Harris, Cobb came into second base the usual way - with his spikes high. But the rookies didn't flinch and thumped the great man on the back with the tag.
"The next time you try that, Bush (for Busher)," said Cobb. "I'll carve you like a turkey."
"The next time, old man," said Mr. Harris, 10 years younger, "that you come at me like that I'm going to hit you right between the eyes with the ball."
"Do you know," said a mellowed Cobb many years later, "I had to laugh at the spunky kid. I think he would have done what he threatened, too. I liked him for that. He was my kind of ballplayer and we always played hard against each other - hrd but always with respect."
Basketball still played a part in Mr. Harris' baseball career. In the winter of 1923 Mr. Harris, as usual, went home to Pittston to play professional basketball, which Griffith specifically had forbidden him to play.
Mr. Harris was injured in a game and returned to Washington to attend a New Year's Eve dance at the old Wardman (now Sheraton) Park Hotel. The late road secretary of the Senators, E. B. Eynon Jr., lived at the Wardman and spotted his crippled second baseman.
Eynon reported to Griffith, who sent Mr. Harris packing to Tampa, Fla., then the Senators' spring training site. Griffith asked Mr. Harris if he would be willing to shift to third base because a deal was in the works for Eddie Colins. Griffith also hinted to the 27-year-old Harris that there was a possibility Collins would be the next manager.
Griffith changed his mind and named Mr. Harris as playing manager.
He won the pennant in his first season and in the 1924 World Series he was matched against New York Giants, managed by John McGraw. The press made much of the meeting between the 27-year-old Harris, dubbed "The Boy Wonder," after piloting the Senators to their first pennant and the 51-year-old Muggsy McGraw, whose baseball pedigree went back to the Baltimore Orioles when they were first in the major leagues. McGraw was accounted the master strategist. He had won 10 pennants and knew all the tricks. But Bucky Harris showed him a new one in that 1924 World Series.
It was in the deciding seventh game that Harris suggested a bold paln to Griffith. Bill Terry, the Giats lefthanded first baseman who batted .429 in the series, was murdering Washington pitching. McGraw was a bit ahead of his time and believed in the platooning. Mr. Harris suggested to Griffith that he could start a righthanded pitcher, Curly Ogden, for one inning and then come in with southpaw George Mogridge. Mr. Harris reasoned McGraw would start platooning with Mogridge in the box, and take Terry out of the game.
Mogridge replaced Ogden after the first inning. McGraws was not that easily fooled. He kept Terry in the lineup for five innings, and then lifted him. Mr. Harris countered with his righthanded relief ace. Fred Marberry, in the sixth and then came in with his main man, Walter Johnson, in the eighth.
The game went 12 innings until Washington's Earl McNeely hit a roller to third base. The ball hit a pibble and bounced over the head of Giants third baseman Freddie Linstrom as Muddy Ruel scored from second base with the winning run. It gave Washington its first and only World Series title.
Mr. Harris won the pennant again with the Senators in 1925, but lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-7, in the seventh game.
The Senators owned a four-run lead in that one but Kiki Cuyler's two-run double in the eighth was the deciding factor. Johnson was the starting pitcher and the aging (37) righthander wanted one more World Series victory to cap his distinguished career.
The game was played on a rainy day and it seemed prophetic that Johnson's last World Series appearance should be shrouded in fog and gloom.
Ban Johnson (no relation to Walter) was president of the American League and hated the National League with a passion.
He was upset because he thought Mr. Harris had let sentiment outweigh his better judgement by leaving the veteran pitcher in the game when Pittsbirgh started to hit him hard.
"We got into Union Station in Washington that night." Mr. Harris recalled, "and there was a wire waiting for me from Ban Johnson. He accused me of allowing sentiment to interfere with my ability to manage. He said I should not have picked Walter as my 'must-win' pitcher and that I had let the American League down. I thought Walter could do the job and I thought he had enough to win.
"I was in no mood for second-guessing so I fired a telegram right back to Ban Johnson at the station. I forgot what I said but I remember I was unhappy with Mr. Johnson. I doubt that telegram is remembered for posterity."
Mr. Harris was wrong. that telegraph was remembered because, years later, after Ban Johnson's death, an office cleark came up with the telegram, which he had preserved. The telegram to the league president read: "I have no apologies or alibis. I went down with my best."
That was typical of Bucky Harris' career. He always went with his best. He managed for 29 years after 12 years as a ballplayer in which he batted 274.
As a player, Mr. Harris concentrated his energies getting on base. He hit mostly singles and doubles and yet his runs-batted-in total was amazingly good for a man who batted second.
Mr. Harris had only 11 home runs in his major league career. But the measure of the man was his performance in the 1924 World Series against the Giants as a player-manager. He hit two home runs and drove in seven runs for a .333 batting average.
There was other wasy Mr. Harris got on base. Every opposing pitcher knew that with the bases filled and Mr. Harris at bat, it took a miracle to prevent a run from scoring. The reason was that he would "accidentally" get hit by a pitch. He tied an American League record for being hit by pitched balls, 21, in 1920.
Mr. Harris was an exceptional fielder. He established a record for a second baseman with his 429 putouts in 1922 and led his position in fielding in 1927. He led the league in putouts four times. Mr. Harris had tremendous range and went after everything. He handled 54 chances in the 1924 World Series and accepted 13 chances in the fourth game of the 1925 series against Pittsburgh.
Mr. Harris managed Washington from 1924 through 1928; Detroit from 1929 through 1933; Boston in 1934; Washington again from 1935 through 1942; the Philadelphia Phillies in 1943; the Yankees in 1947 and 1948; Washington from 1950 through 1954, and Detroit 1955-56.
He had a winning percentage of .493 with three pennants and eight first division finishes.
Mr. Harris always inspired trememdous loyalty in his players because he handled them as adults. When he was fired by Phillies' owner William Cox in 1944, the players called a strike and then changed their mind. There was also much dissatisfaction from the Yankees when he was released after losing the 1948 pennant on the last day. He was replaced by Casey Stengel.
Mr. Harris showed how he operated in a scene on a train going from Washington to Detroit after the late Mickey Harris, a pitcher and no relation, had joined the Senators in 1950.
Manager Harris was having dinner with a couple of newspapermen when pitcher Harris took a table across the aisle.
The pitcher ordered a double scotch and then looked at his manager and said: "Do you mind if your players have a drink?"
The manager crooked a crooked finger, broken seven times in competition, and shook it amiably at his namesake. "I don't care if or how much you drink," the manager said, "as long as you can pitch. If you can't pitch, your fanny will be back in Chattanooga (then the Senators' Double-A farm club) before the ice in your next drink melts."
Harris worked as a special scout for the Washington team before it moved to Texas.
He was at that last game on Sept. 30, 1971, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. "I still can't believe it's happening," he said, "and I never thought I'd see the day when they would leave Washington without a franchise. I've lived in the Washington area for over 50 years and I guess I'll feel the loss of the Senators as much as anybody.
"Lord, there are so many memories - so many fine players I played with and against. If I had to pick the greatest I guess I'd have to mention Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. They were really great."
Mr. Harris' despair at losing his beloved Senators in the fall of 1971 was tempered by a note of pride. His son, Stanley Sutherland Harris, was named to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and is now an associate judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
Mr. Harris leaves another son, Richard, of Springfield, Va., and a daughter Sally Gooch of Orlando, Fla. and nine grandhildren.
Mr. Harris was married to Elizabeth Sutherland in 1926 and it was one of the highlights of the Washington social season. Mrs. Harris' father was a onetime U.S. Senator from West Virginia, Howard Sutherland. Her brother, Lt. Gen. Richard Sutherland, was an aide to gen. Douglas MacArthur in World War II.
Mr. Harris and the late George Preston Marshall, who controlled the majority stock in the Redskins before his death in 1969 at age 72, were longtime friends and roomed together as bachelors.
"When Marshall moved the Redskins from Boston in 1937," Mr. Harris once revealed., "he ran short of money. He wanted to borrow $5,000 from me to meet the payroll, giving me a dubstantial block of stock in exchange.
"I couldn't see it. Id didn't think Washington would be a good football town. You can see how wrong I was."
In his later years, the once-durable Mr. Harris was operated on for cataracts in both eyes and then developed Parkinson's disease. He was virtually immobilized in the last years of his life because of a calcium deposit in has right hip, the result of his playing days. He entered the retirement home shortly after his 75th birthday.
Mr. Harris was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.