Friday, May 6, 2011

#157 - Vic Harris

Here we have another California kid, another sophomore card, and another guy I can find almost nothing about. That he shares a name with a higher-profile Negro Leaguer isn't much help either. I'm actually glad Vic Harris here has a non-Traded traded card because I don't think I'd be able to fill up the space for two cards. But here he is, looking like a dazzled teenager at Oakland in his airbrushed hat. At least Vic's got his uniform on which gives him a significant step above Fergie Jenkins' card. And that card is an appropriate reference since at the end of '73 Vic was part of the deal that brought the Rangers Jenkins, going to the Cubs with Bill Madlock. During the season Texas gave Vic the chance to show them what he had, moving him for most of the season to center field, replacing Joe Lovitto. He wasn't terrible, but he struck out a bit much for a slap hitter and his vaunted stolen base skills only resulted in thirteen (vs. being caught twelve times). He did make some nice plays to help preserve Jim Bibby's no-hitter and it would be by far his busiest MLB season.

Like Roy White, Vic Harris grew up in Compton. He went to high school in LA and then attended Los Angeles Valley Junior College where he set the school's stolen base record and led the team in hitting his senior (sophomore? - I never know what the second year is at two-year schools) season. He was then drafted by Oakland and had a good season up in Coos Bay, Oregon, sort of a Rookie league team. That guy Charlie Chant was on his team. In '71 he moved up to regular Single A and put up another real good season grabbing a .395 OBA. He split early '72 between Double and Triple A for the A's who then in July sent him with Marty Martinez to the Rangers for Ted Kubiak and Don Mincher. It was an ironic trade since Vic had been exclusively a second baseman until then and Oakland made the trade partly to get Kubiak to fill the gap left by an injured Dick Green, himself a second baseman. Also the A's had Manny Trillo ahead of Vic in the minors. Texas immediately made Vic their starter at second - where he replaced Lenny Randle - and he rewarded them by going 0 for 36 (pretty tough). He would hit above .200 the rest of the way but wasn't making anyone's pulse jump.

Vic got another chance with the Cubs as Chicago's long-time second baseman Glenn Beckert was sent to San Diego. Given the job, Vic again responded pretty poorly and his average slipped back below .200 and the Cubbies had to scramble to get someone to fill the gap. In '75 they acquired - who else - Manny Trillo, who was just not going to sit, and Vic played a tiny bit splitting time between the outfield and infield. In '76 Vic moved to the Cards for Mick Kelleher to do his utility thing and then for the next two seasons to San Francisco in a big trade. '77 wasn't bad but by now Vic was striking out too much and was just getting nowhere on the basepaths. He also put in some time at Triple A those two years. After the '78 season the Giants didn't re-sign him.

For '79 Vic hooked up with Milwaukee and had a nice season at their Triple A club in Vancouver (he played well way up north), hitting .275 with a .361 OBA and 82 runs. He then made it up top for a bit in '80, did OK, and was not signed for the next season. He then did the next best thing, hopping over to Japan to play there for three seasons, he for the Kintetsu Buffaloes. His first year would be his best in pro ball - .268 with 22 homers and 74 RBIs - and he had a decent follow-up in '82 - posting a .368 OBA - although his power numbers tanked. '83 was pretty bad and he returned to the States and one more partial season for Louisville, the Cards' Triple A team in '84. That was it for Vic as he finished with a .217 average. He hit .253 overall in Japan and .280 in the minors.

The Japanese Wikipedia page for Harris is pretty funny. It has some interesting translated stat columns ("Number of Kills" being my favorite). There is an allusion there to Vic returning to Compton and doing something in Japanese-American baseball but I can't tell what it is. Since 2006 his media profile has risen considerably. Since then he has been affiliated as an instructor with the Urban Youth Academy, an MLB-sponsored baseball training school in Compton. He has also been admitted to his school's hall of fame.

Well he started off pretty well in the stolen base department according to his star-bullets. I like the cartoon. It would be interesting to know how many hits he got that way. Vic was a JUCO All-American his second year at LA Valley. He also gets some props in the "Seasons in Hell" book as being a nice guy.

Another easy hookup via the Giants:

1. Harris and Randy Moffitt '77 to '78 Giants.

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