Monday, February 20, 2017

#29 Jack Harshman - Chicago White Sox


Jack Elvin Harshman
Chicago White Sox
Pitcher

Bats:  Left  Throws:  Left  Height:  6'2"  Weight:  178
Born:  July 12, 1927, San Diego, CA
Acquired:  Traded by San Diego (PCL) to the New York Giants for Mike Budnick, Jack Graham, Jake Wade and $65,000, December 4, 1947
Major League Teams:  New York Giants 1952; Chicago White Sox 1954-1957; Baltimore Orioles 1958-1959; Boston Red Sox 1959; Cleveland Indians 1959-1960
Died:  August 17, 2013, Georgetown, TX (age 86)

Jack Harshman began his professional baseball career as a first baseman, but went on to have success as a left-handed pitcher with the White Sox and Orioles.  In 1947, Harshman hit 37 home runs for the Victoria Athletics (of the Western International League) and the San Diego Padres (of the Pacific Coast League) drawing the attention of the New York Giants.  The Giants acquired him that December, and he was their opening day first baseman in 1950.

Harshman began the transition to a full-time pitcher in 1953 and was traded to the White Sox in 1954 where he became a key member of their rotation.  That season, he struck out 16 Red Sox batters on July 25th to establish a franchise record and he threw a 16-inning shutout against the Tigers on August 13th.  Harshman finished his eight-year pitching career with a 69-65 record and a 3.50 ERA over 217 games.  He also hit 21 home runs in 424 at bats.

Building the Set
September 15, 2007 from Dad's eBay purchases - Card #301
Our first son Doug was born in December 2006, and this happy event led directly to my Dad visiting us on a more regular basis.  Dad was living by himself at this point in Mays Landing, New Jersey and he detested the 40 minute ride north to our house.  Among all the very positive memories I have of my Dad, one of my few negative memories is the fact that he absolutely seemed to loathe driving and that loathing increased exponentially if there was traffic or if it were dark.  But he made the trips anyway, sometimes staying no more than an hour, because he was so incredibly anxious and excited to spend time with his grandson.

By the time his second grandson (Ben) was born in April 2010, my Dad's health had begun failing and whatever visits we had were pre-arranged or consisted of us visiting him.  Which is why these visits during Doug's infancy and first few years are so special to me.  My Dad would show up, ecstatic to see Doug, there would be some small talk and we'd complain about the Phillies, and then he'd leave.  But on his way out, he'd always say he'd see us again in a few days and I'd look forward to these visits.

Dad with Jenna, Doug and me riding a merry-go-round
in Ocean City, August 2007
This background is needed to better explain how this Jack Harshman card came into our set.  In 2007, My Dad's days mostly consisted of an occasional round of golf, calls and visits to his kids - my sister and me, watching cable news, an afternoon nap and scouring eBay. Most (but not all) of his eBay purchases benefitted me in the form of 1956 Topps cards we needed for our set.  He'd show up at our house for a visit with Doug and nonchalantly hand me one of his recent purchases.  He handed me this Harshman card on September 15, 2007, along with a Jack Crimian (#319) card.

Throughout 2007, I suspect he had a backlog of purchased 1956 Topps cards piled up on his desk at his house, and he'd grab one or two to deliver to me as he was heading out the door to make the 40 minute drive to visit Doug.  Not to ruin the ending for this blog, but this is how we finished the 1956 Topps set.  Not with one last glorious purchase at a baseball card show, but with my Dad systematically and methodically checking off cards from our checklist through eBay purchases.

Together with my Mom, he'd deliver the last 29 cards we needed to complete the set as a Christmas present to me that year.

The Card
I'm awful with my stadium history and I had to do a little research to confirm my suspicion that the action photo was taken at Yankee Stadium.  The "No Betting" sign was my first clue and you can make out the "BA" in the Ballantine Beer advertisement on the far right in the background.  The portrait photo used is the same as was used on Harshman's 1954 and 1955 Topps cards.

The cartoon panels on the back reference Harshman's beginnings as a first baseman and the artist made sure the caricature actually slightly resembles him.

1956 Season
Harshman's best year came in 1956, when he went 15-11 for the White Sox with a 3.10 ERA, striking out 143 (but walking 102) over 226 2/3 innings.  The White Sox would finish the year in third place in the American League behind the pitching of Harshman, Billy Pierce (#160) and Dick Donovan (#18).  Harshman also slugged six home runs in 71 at-bats that season.

One of his best performances of the season came against the Indians, when he and Indians pitcher Herb Score (#140) both threw two-hit complete games with the White Sox winning, 1-0.

1954 Topps #173
 
1960 Topps #112
 
2009 Topps Heritage Real One
Autographs #ROA-JH
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1954 Topps #173
First Topps Card:  1954 Topps #173
Last Topps Card:  1960 Topps #112
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2009 Topps Heritage Real One Autographs #ROA-JH

26 - Harshman non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 2/19/17

Sources:  
Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
SABR
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.

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