Vic Harris, 73, who died Thursday in California, was an outfielder and manager of the Homestead Grays in the ola Negro National League.
A lifetime 314 hitter and one of the most feared baserunners in the old Negro leagues. Harris managed perhaps the finest black team ever put together, the Grays of 1930-46. The team featured Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Buck Leonard, Judy Johnson. Smokey Joe Williams and many other stars. The 1931 club won 134 games and lost 18.
Harris had one of the most impressive managerial records in any professional sport, winning eight pennants in nine years, 1937-45. He might have made it nine in a row, but left baseball one season for a defense job during World War II.
Among his pupils who went on to the major leagues were Luke Easter. Bob Thurman and Luis Marquez.
A slashing baserunner, Harris would "just undress" the second baseman going into second, said Buck Leonard.
"Cut you in a minute," said exshortstop Dick Seay, who often had to leap out of the way of Harris' spikes. "Cut you and laugh, 'Get the hell out of the way.'"
The Grays played Dizzy Dean's AllStars in a barnstorming tour in 1934, the year Dean won 30 games for the Cards. Harris hit Dean's first pitch for a triple.
Next time up, Harris precipitated a riot after he was hit on the arm by an infielder's throw and was called out by an umpire for interference. Harris pulled the ump's face mask and let it snap back. The umpire then threw him out of the game.
The Grays poured onto the held, fists swinging. Even the usually mild-mannered Josh Gibson joined in lustily.
The umpire threatened to sue Harris until Art Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and a good friend of Harris, calmed everyone.
Harris lived in quiet retirement in suburban Pacoima, Calif., a deceptively mild-mannered man tending his flowers and fruit trees. He survived one operation for cancer but not the second.