Peter Thomas Harnisch was born on September 23, 1966 in Commack Long Island. The six foot right hander went to college becoming a star baseball player at Fordham University in the Bronx. Harnisch was a top prospect drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Orioles in 1987. He went 11-7 at both A & AA in 1988 posting a 2.45 ERA striking out 184 batters in 190 innings.
He got a September call up making his debut at Fenway Park taking a loss & then another in New York in front of many friends & family members.
He began 1988 with the Orioles but was sent down to AAA after two poor starts in April. He went 5-5 at AAA Rochester being brought up again in early July. For the remainder of the season he went 5-9 with a 4.62 ERA.
He earned a spot in the Orioles rotation in 1990 and began the year at 3-0. At the end of July he was 9-5 although he was allowing quite a bit of runs, his 4.31 ERA was respectable. He only won two more games in the final two months, finishing the year at 11-11 with 122 strike outs in 188 innings pitched, posting a 4.34 ERA.
On January 10, 1991 he was traded along with Steve Finley and Curt Schilling to the Houston Astros for Glenn Davis. In Houston he became top starter going 12-9 with a 2.70 ERA (3rd in the NL) & 172 strikeouts (4TH in the NL) making the 1991 All Star team.
In September of that year, he struck out three Philadelphia Phillies batters on nine pitches. Overall he had the best hits per nine innings ratio in the league at 7.0 as well as the third best strike outs per nine innings ratio (7.15).
After an off year going 9-10 in 1992 he won a career high 16 games in 1993, leading the league with four shutouts. He threw two one hitters that year, one coming against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 10th in the first game of a double header. The second came at home in Houston, on September 17th against the San Diego Padres.
Overall he pitched over 200 innings for the third straight year while posting a 2.94 ERA (6th best in the NL). He struck out 188 batters & had five complete games as well (7th in the NL). He allowed the fewest hits per nine innings (7.0) of any pitcher in the NL once again that season. He went 8-5 in the strike shortened 1994 season before being traded to the New York Mets for Juan Castillo in November 1994.
Harnisch was happy to return to his home town area, and the team hyped him up as a local top of the line acquisition. He debuted in the fourth game of the season, pitching six innings while only allowing a run on three hits at Shea Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals. He had a few good starts but would not earn his first win until May 20th when he pitched 8 shut ut innings against the San Diego Padres. He lost his next five decisions and didn’t earn another victory until two months later.
In a game against the Cubs that season, he & Chicago pitchers were throwing bean balls at each other all night. Harnisch came up with no one on base in the late innings & he knew he was going to get it. The ball whizzed by his head & he started yelling, but instead of getting into it with the pitcher, he got into it with the catcher Scott Servais. Interestingly he & Servais were very good friends. Next a 15 minute bench clearing brawl occurred, resulting in over $1000 in fines.
His season was a huge disappointment as he went down with injury missing the final two months. Harnisch would only pitch in 18 games with the Mets that season, after his highly anticipated arrival. He was a measly 2-8 with a 3.68 ERA, 82 strike outs & 24 walks giving up 13 HRs & 45 earned runs in 101 innings.
In 1996 he beat the Rockies in Colorado in his first start, and remained at the .500 mark until mid August. On July 23rd he pitched a four hit shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates, striking out seven at Shea Stadium; it was his best outing of the season. From there he pitched his best baseball of the season as well, winning three straight games allowing just four runs over 26 innings pitched. He bested his record to 807 but then lost his last four decisions of the season.
He pitched in 31 games overall with 194 innings going 8-12 with a 4.21 ERA. He allowed 111 hits in 110 innings, striking out 82 batters. As Generation K failed, Harnisch & the ’96 Mets didn’t do much better.
In 1997 Harnisch quit a 13 year habit of chewing tobacco and suffered depression as a result. The withdrawals gave him headaches, weight loss, sleeplessness, and mental anxiety. He literally became the poster boy for Paxil, making public appearances promoting the drug that helped him cope.
Harnisch said he enjoyed his days playing in New York. The former Fordham guy had moved to Howell, New Jersey & then to Colts Neck New Jersey, commuting up the Garden State Parkway to Shea Stadium for home games.
The Mets released him in 1997 after Bobby Valentine took over, and he signed with the Cincinnati Reds.
In 1998 he was revived in Cincinnati going 14-7 with a 3.14 ERA pitching 202 innings. In 1999 he was the ace of the Reds staff winning 16 games (16-10) with a 3.68 ERA as they tied the Mets for the wild card crown. On the final day of the season Harnisch beat the Brewers in Milwaukee to force the one game playoff. The Mets won the playoff game that decided the wild card winner.
Pete suffered arm trouble had surgery, and was finished by 2001.
Retirement: He finished up a 14 year career with a lifetime 111-103 record with 1368 strike outs 716 walks, posting a 3.89 ERA pitching 1959 innings in 321 games. Harnisch resides in Colts Neck, New Jersey with his wife whom he met back at Fordham through his roommate & teaches kids instructional baseball.