This Date In Royals History–1969 Edition: June 23

ChuckHarrison

The Royals had a day off as they traveled from Seattle to Oakland for a three-game series.

We continue meeting the 1969 Royals with a look at first baseman Chuck Harrison. Charles William Harrison was born on April 25, 1941, in Abilene, Texas. He attended Texas Tech where he played football (defensive end, with future Chiefs great E.J. Holub) as well as baseball. After his college career, he signed as an amateur free agent with the nascent Houston Colt .45s in 1963, as they prepared for their second season as a franchise. In just his second year in the minors (1964), Harrison belted 40 home runs for San Antonio in the Class AA Texas League. In 1965, he hit 34 home runs for Class AAA Oklahoma City. That got him a September callup, and he made his debut on September 15 that year. Almost immediately, he enjoyed a career highlight; on the 26th, he blasted a walkoff three-run home run against Cincinnati. While the Astros were mired in ninth place in the National League, the Reds were in a tight pennant race with San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Harrison had worked hard to overcome two negative opinions of his play: that he couldn’t hit the curve and he couldn’t field. The 1966 season would be his big chance to play regularly. It didn’t go well at first, as he hit just .172/.242/.310 through May 6, when he was sent back to the minors. He got a break when Jim Gentile, who had been hitting well for Houston, got thrown out of a June 12 game, then threw his bat at an umpire twice. The Astros were done with Gentile, and summoned Harrison from Oklahoma City.

Harrison played nearly every day the rest of the 1966 season, and finished with a .256/.316/.380 line. That was good for a 99 OPS+, meaning he was just under league average. Still, his power had not translated from the minors to the majors. It probably didn’t help that he was playing in the cavernous Astrodome, but it was clear that he needed a good year in 1967 to remain in Houston’s plans, as evidenced by Houston’s offseason trade for Eddie Mathews.

Harrison and Mathews split the first-base job for most of the season, and Harrison never really gave the Astros reason to play him more often. He hit .243/.292/.350 in 70 games, battled injuries, and was optioned to the minors at one point. The emergence of Doug Rader and the need to find playing time for Rusty Staub made Harrison expendable, and after the season he was traded to Atlanta. He spent the entire 1968 season at Class AAA Richmond, where he hit 25 home runs but had a modest .251/.333/.441 line.

Just days after the 1968 expansion draft, the Royals purchased Harrison from the Braves. With no established first baseman in his way, Harrison figured to have a chance to play. And he did appear in 75 games, but hit just .221/.276/.296. With Bob Oliver emerging as a much better hitter, Harrison spent 1970 at Omaha, hitting .279/.380/.494 with 21 homers. That earned him another look with the Royals in 1971, but he once again couldn’t capitalize, batting .217/.266/.287 in 49 games.

That was the end of Harrison’s major-league career. He played one more year at Class AAA, this time at Denver for the Texas Rangers’ farm team. He was inducted into the Texas Tech Hall of Fame in 2009.

Today’s birthdays: None

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