Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gail Harris - A 'Giant' gentleman until the end

Autographed photo of Gail Harris
Last week, I was presented with the unfortunate news of the passing of Boyd "Gail" Harris, one of the dwindling number of the remaining New York Giants. He just celebrated his 81st birthday a month prior.

Harris was a first baseman with the Giants from 1955-57, and holds the distinction of being the last player for Giants to hit a home run before their move to San Francisco. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers at the end of the 1957 season, and led the Tigers in home runs, hitting 20 in 1958.He played with the Tigers until 1960, but could not capture the success he had during his first year in Detroit.

I wrote to Harris in September and asked if I could interview him about his experiences playing in New York with the Giants. Two weeks later, I received a reply from Harris. To my surprise, Harris, on his own dime sent me an envelope filled with signed photos, copies of team photos, photocopied stories about his time with the Giants, and a short note offering to contact him via e-mail or phone to talk.

After delaying for a few weeks due to other projects, I e-mailed Harris at the end of October. After no reply for a few days, I called him at the number listed and left him a voice mail. Sadly, we never connected. Early last week, I received the notice of Harris' passing. Judging by Mr. Harris' generosity, I am sure that he was too ill to respond once I contacted him.

One of the letters he included shared his memories of actor Jeff Chandler, who was a tremendous baseball fan, working out with the Giants when they trained in Arizona. Harris formed a kinship with Chandler, as Harris was part Cherokee Indian, and was given the nickname of "Cochise," the name of the character Chandler played in Broken Arrow. Harris' letter recalling Chandler that he sent is pictured below, as well as a slideshow of all of the correspondence he sent.

While Harris was never the star that many of his Hall of Fame teammates grew to be, the generosity he displayed so late in his life, is another testament to the Hall of Fame character that so many men of his era shared. I have a feeling that if we would have been able to talk about his time uptown in the Polo Grounds, that it would have further confirmed the caliber of Gail Harris. Rest in peace.








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