One of the things my father discovered among my grandmother's effects
was an undated newspaper clipping (above) of a game that my grandfather
(Dave Harris) had pitched in for Elmira, New York. My father had not
been aware that his father had ever played for Elmira.
About thirty years later it dawned on me that I had the means to find
out when this game had been played, and also uncover the extent of his
career in Elmira. His date of birth narrowed the plausible years to
19041915. With some help from my SABR brethren, I was able to
further narrow it down to the Elmira team that began play in the New
York State League in 1908. I also located a library in New York that
had the Elmira newspaper of that era on microfilm; I was able to have
this microfilm loaned to my local library.
I was able to get 6 months of microfilm delivered per batch. I started
looking at 1908. I found 1908 box scores that had some of the same players
as my clipping, so I knew I was on the right track. It took a few lunch
hours over the course of a week to scan through a season of box scores.
With no further luck in 1908, I had that season sent back and waited another
couple weeks for 1909 to arrive. I eventually found that the game matching
the clipping the game was played on Apr/26/1912 (just a week or two after
the Titantic sank).
The first mention of Harris in the Elmira papers is Apr/11/1912, in a
preseason article about the team. The listing of the squad includes Harris
as a pitcher. It also includes a Harris as a second baseman, but I
discovered later (May/16) that this was a Merle Harris, who would not make
the final cut.
The next mention is Apr/16, in the box score for a preseason game vs.
Mansfield Normal School. Harris pitched four scoreless innings in relief,
striking out five. He also had a hit and scored a run in his only at bat.
The article mentions that he pitched better than the pitcher he relieved.
Next is Apr/20, for a preseason game vs. Addison (which may have been a high
school team). Harris started and pitched three scoreless innings, striking
out one. He also had a double in two at bats. The article doesn't mention
anything about the game.
The next mention was Apr/22, for a preseason game vs. Harrisburg, a team
that was probably of a similar caliber to Elmira (Elmira played in the New
York State League; Harrisburg in the Tri-State league). Harris pitched the
final two innings of a 2-1 loss, giving up no runs and striking out 2. He
struck out in his only trip to the plate. The game was played on a Sunday,
which only a couple years earlier would have been cause for the players to
The next mention was Apr/23. Harris is listed in the roster for the season-
opening trip to Scranton. The squad consits of 17 players, seven of them
Harris is conspicuously not mentioned in an Apr/24 article about the next
day's season-opener. One parapgraph talks about the pitching staff and
mentions five of the seven pitchers, and "the youngsters". Harris would have
been 26 years old at the time.
The Apr/27 paper contains the box score for the second game of the season,
(played Apr/26). Harris started and pitched seven innings as Elmira visited
Scranton, leaving the game with his team trailing 4-3 (Elmira won the game
6-4). He struck out four, walked two, and gave up eight hits. At the
plate, he had a double in three at bats. This is the game of the newspaper
clipping, but the clipping must have been from the Scranton paper. Quoting
"While Harris was no puzzlement to the Scrantonians, he succeeded in
holding them in check, while his teammates were doing the assault and
A side note: the May/3 paper included a brief article about some of the
league's teams wanting to raise the salary limit. The limit at that time
was $100 per player. It's not clear whether this is per month or per
Harris' next game appearance was May/5 (in the May/6 paper), in a home game
against Scranton. He pitched the final three innings of an 8-1 loss, giving
up three runs. Quoting the paper:
"[The Scranton batters] found the offerings of "Snitz" Applegate and
Harris quite to their liking. Applegate has pitched better ball in
his life time and we know it, and Harris, who relieved him in the seventh
inning, didn't have a Chinaman's chance to do what Applegate ought to
The next mention of Harris is May/17. Elmira was embarking on a four game
visit to Troy, and the paper mentioned that
"[Elmira] has Hoch, McIlvane, Gotell and Harris to send against the
Trojans, and at least two of these should win their games."
I took this to mean that those would be the starting pitchers in those four
games. But there were two rainouts that weekend, and he did not pitch.
The first of those games was rained out (Elmira had two rainouts each of the
first three weeks of the season, which prevented the establishment of any
pitching rotation), so the May/18 paper had a position-by-position rundown
of the state of the team. Harris was the last pitcher mentioned, in this
"[Swetonick] is young and may prove worthy to be called a pitcher in a
season or two. On the sandlots of Pittsburgh, playing amateur ball, he
took [Elmira manager] Calhoun's eye. The professional ranks is a
different story. Harris, another youngster, can be classified in the
Side note: the Elmira manager, Calhoun, spent the offseason as a detective
in the Pittsburgh police department.
Harris' final appearance (and mention) was May/23 (the May/24 paper). He
pitched the final three innings in a 5-0 loss, giving up one run and
striking out one. At the plate, he was oh for one.
There is no further mention of Harris in the Elmira papers. My best guess
is that he was released on May/24, when the team signed one Jim Swift. The
signing was announced with much fanfare in the May/25 paper, but no mention
is made as to which player was released. On Jun/3, the signing of another
new pitcher is announced, and Snitz Applegate is released. A Jun/4 article
discusses the pitching staff and Harris is not mentioned.
It is also worth noting that, in all the articles above, not once was a
first name mentioned for Harris (except for the other Harris, Merle). However,
the Baseball Library in Cooperstown provided me a condtract card for "David
Harris" that was assigned to Elmira and later Traverse City in 1912. I have yet
to follow up on Traverse City to see if he reported there.
I currently don't know if this is the full extent of Dave Harris' professional
career. My father says he also had played for Vandergrift (a town in western
Pennsylvania). But there was no professional team in organized baseball in
Vandergrift during those years. So either the team was an amateur or semi-pro
team, or perhaps an outlaw professional team. The mention above of "the
sandlots of Pittsburgh" may be a clue; Vandergrift is only 24 miles from
Pittsburgh. Perhaps he was playing in Vandergrift when discovered by Elmira
My thanks to SABR members Jerry Jackson, Bob McConnell, and Bob Hoie for their
help and guidance. And to the New York State Library for providing microfilm of
the Elmira Advertiser.
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