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Wednesday, January 29 2020 @ 10:48 am UTC
1960 Revisited - September 21   
By Bobster

Wednesday, September 21, 1960---The Pirates (90-55) were off as they traveled home to meet the Cubs in a doubleheader. However, the Cardinals (83-61) lost to the Dodgers to slip 6½ games behind. The Pirates’ magic number was now 4. In the A.L., the Yankees won their 6th straight, 10-3 over the Washington Senators.

As the Pirates fought for a pennant, their September call-ups were seeing little action. Lefthander Diomedes Olivo had been useful in a pair of 2-inning, scoreless relief stints. But otherwise, Jim Umbricht, Bennie Daniels and Earl Francis hadn’t gotten into a game since their September recall, shortstop Dick Barone hadn’t gotten off the bench, R.C. Stevens had made a pair of pinch-hitting appearances and was being used as a late-inning defensive replacement for Stuart at 1B, and Harry Bright had been used as a pinch-hitter three times.

Few players ever persevered like Harry Bright. He began his professional career in the minors in 1946 at age 16. In the minor leagues, he generally hit around .300 with 10-20 HRs a year. He played virtually every position except pitcher, but was usually at 1B, 2B, 3B or OF. But despite beginning at such a young age, he didn’t get his first taste of the big leagues until 12 years later as an “old” rookie of 28 when he spent the last 2 months of the 1958 season with the Pirates as a back-up thirdbaseman, starting 5 games and going 6 for 24 (.250) with 1 HR and 3 RBIs. The Pirates liked Bright enough to keep him on the roster for the entire 1959 season. But he was basically a pinch-hitter, starting only 3 games all year and appearing in the field in only 8 games throughout the entire season. Bright didn’t make the 1960 Pirate team out of spring training and spent the season with the Bucs’ AAA Salt Lake City team. There, he had 587 ABs with 27 HRs, 119 RBIs and batted .313 while splitting his time between SS and 3B. By this time, Bright was 30 years old, had been in professional baseball 14 years but had only 72 ABs in the majors. He earned a September call-up as a pinch hitter with the Pirates in 1960 within weeks of his 31st birthday.

After the 1960 season, the Pirates would trade Bright to the expansion Washington Senators along with Bennie Daniels and R.C. Stevens in exchange for pitcher Bobby Shantz, who the Senators had selected off the Yankees roster in the expansion draft. There, for just the 2nd time in 15 years, he made a major league team out of spring training. He was a utility player and started 45 games at 3B and 6 at catcher for the 1961 Senators. His modest total of 183 ABs was more than he had previously accumulated in the majors in his 15 year professional career. He had 4 HRs, 21 RBIs and a.240 average for the Senators in 1961. But in 1962, at age 32 and in his 16th professional season, Bright finally got his chance and did well. It was the finest season of his long career. He began the season on the Senators’ bench but soon took over as the regular firstbaseman. He finally made his mark as a major leaguer as he tied for the team lead with 17 HRs and was 2nd in team RBIs with 67. He batted .273 in 392 ABs. But the Senators traded Bright to the Reds after the 1962 season. And in April of 1963, the Reds sold his contract to the Yankees. The 1963 Yankees won 104 games and swept the Dodgers in the World Series. Bright was a back-up at 1B and 3B. In 157 ABs, he hit .236 with 7 HRs and 23 RBIs at age 33. He was hitless in 2 World Series pinch hit attempts. Bright had persevered for 17 years and finally established himself with 3 consecutive years as a major leaguer and had a World Series ring as a Yankee. Then it was back to the minors in 1964. He was a pinch hitter for the Cubs in 1965 until being released in mid-season. He returned to the minors in 1965 and 1966. And in 1967, at age 37, he became a minor league manager. Harry Bright was a guy who just wouldn’t stop trying, no matter how many times he was sent down, and eventually got his day in the sun. And a World Series ring. Rocky Nelson was on that same path.

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