Inductee — Charles Harmon

charlesharmonCharles Harmon

Class of 1995

Birthplace: Washington, IN

Player

Biography:

HARMON, Charles Byron (“The Glove”) – born April 23, 1924, Washington; lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati (NL) 1954-1956, St. Louis (NL) 1956-1957, Philadelphia (NL), 1957. 3B, OF, 1B. 289g, 592ab, 7, .238. Debuted April 17, 1954. 6-2, 175, BR, TR.

Although he wasn’t Cincinnati’s first black player, versatile Chuck Harmon was the first African American to play for the Reds. An outstanding baseball, football and basketball player at Washington High School, he helped the Hatchets win state basketball titles in 1941 and 1942. Harmon sparked the University of Toledo to the championship game of the 1943 National Invitational Tournament as a freshman. Later that year he left school to enter the navy. For a time he played on the Great Lakes Naval Station’s black baseball squad and roomed with Larry Doby, who became the American League’s first black player in 1947 with the Cleveland Indians.

Discharged in 1946, Harmon returned to college and earned three more letters in basketball. He was Toledo’s second-leading scorer in both the 1947-1948 and 1948-1949 seasons. Harmon also played two more years of college baseball in 1947 and 1948, and spent one week with a barnstorming team before signing his first professional contract with the St. Louis Browns in ’47. That year Harmon played 54 games as an outfielder for Gloversville-Johnstown, N.Y. (Canadian-American). Out of organized ball in 1948, he played with the independent Fort Wayne General Electric team. In 1949 Harmon returned to Gloversville. Later that summer he shifted to Olean, N.Y. (PONY), hitting .351 in 31 games.

Harmon put together four consecutive .300-plus seasons in the minors from 1950 to 1953. In 1951 he batted .375 for pennant-winning Olean with a league-leading 143 runs batted in. Cincinnati acquired Harmon prior to ’53, and that season he became the first black player in the history of the Tulsa (Texas) franchise. Harmon made the Cincinnati roster in 1954 as a third baseman-first baseman. When he pinch-hit on opening day, Harmon became the Reds’ first African American player (the previous batter, pinch-hitter Nino Escalera, was also black, but Escalera was a native Puerto Rican).

Harmon remained with the Reds as a backup at first, third and the outfield until 1956, when he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1957 the Cardinals dealt him to the Philadelphia Phillies. A year later he returned to the minor leagues, and his .310 average in 1959 helped Salt Lake City to its first Pacific Coast League title. He finished his career with Hawaii (Pacific Coast) in 1961. Harmon settled in Indianapolis, where he operated a service station until 1969. He eventually joined MacGregor Athletic Products as national baseball promotions manager and moved to Cincinnati.

Harmon, who had been a player-coach for a professional basketball team in Utica, N.Y., in 1951-1952, also worked as a part-time scout for the Indiana Pacers in the early 1970s. As a big leaguer, he had three different gloves – one each for the outfield, first base and third base – which led to his nickname. Harmon Field, a Little League diamond in his native Washington, is named in his honor. In 1995 Harmon was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame.

From The Encyclopedia of Indiana-Born Major League Baseball Players, copyright © 2007 by Pete Cava. Reproduced with the authors permission.