In a pinch

Harris, the game's most prolific pinch-hitter, debuts on BBWAA ballot

December 18, 2010
Lenny Harris recorded the most pinch hits in big league history. (NBHOF/Pilling)

View a photo gallery of the 2011 BBWAA ballot

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – It was a job Lenny Harris never wanted, because it meant he wasn't playing regularly.

But pinch-hitting became Harris' destiny. And no one did it better.

Harris, the major's career pinch-hitting leader who played 18 seasons for the Reds, Dodgers, Mets, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Cubs and Brewers, is one of 33 players on the 2011 Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for the Class of 2011 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Harris is making his debut on the BBWAA ballot.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 5. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2011. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 24 in Cooperstown.

Born Oct. 28, 1964, in Miami, Fla., Harris was taken by the Reds in the fifth round of the 1983 MLB Draft. He made it to the majors in 1988 on the strength of his infield defense, and after being traded to the Dodgers in 1989 he became a regular – averaging 139 games a season from 1990-92, mostly at third base. But by then, Harris had already established himself as one of the game's most prolific pinch-hitters.

"I couldn't hit; I swear I couldn't hit," said Harris, who had a career average of .269, including six seasons at better than .300. "But it's amazing, because you work hard at some things, you get better."

Harris returned to the Reds in 1994, then embarked on the nomadic life of a pinch-hitter – playing for seven teams in his final eight years starting in 1998. When he retired following the 2005 season, Harris had amassed 212 pinch-hits – obliterating the former record of 150 held by Manny Mota. Harris also has more pinch-hit at-bats (804) than any player in history. In his last season in the majors in 2005, Harris appeared in 83 games with the Marlins – but appeared in the field just seven times.

In 18 seasons, Harris played in 1,903 games, amassing 1,055 hits. More than 20 percent of all his hits came as a pinch-hitter.

"Nobody wants it," Harris said of his role. "Pinch-hitting is like the most boring job in America.

"If that record is ever broken, it will be just one other angry man like me who wants to play every day."

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum