Oct 27, 2014

The All Time Leading Pinch Hitter: Lenny Harris (1998 / 2000-2001)

Leonard Anthony Harris was born October 28, 1964 in Miami Florida. Harris was signed out of high school as a fifth round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 1983.

The five foot ten left hand hitter signed as a third baseman & outfielder. Harris then spent six years in the minors, never hitting more than ten HRs or batting above .285.

In 1988 he hit .338 at AA Glen Falls in 17 games getting promoted to AAA Nashville. There he batted .277 making it to the big leagues as a September call up. In 16 games Harris batted .372 getting noticed. In July 1989 he was traded along with Kal Daniels to the Los Angeles Dodgers on exchange for Mariano Duncan & Tim Leary.

Harris spent five years with the Dodgers becoming their main third baseman by 1990 while also playing some outfield. He hit .304 16 doubles & 15 stolen bases in his first full season in L.A. He followed up batting .287 with 12 steals in 1991 but his average fell off over the next two seasons, bottoming out at .238 by 1993. Harris found himself back in Cincinnati in 1994 signing as a free agent. He hit .310 as a reserve player that year in 66 games.
 
He played four and a half more years with the Reds playing all around the diamond, becoming one of the league's best pitch hitters.

In 1995 he made his first post season with Reds, driving in a run with an RBI single off John Smoltz in Game #3 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. Harris got himself into over 100 games that year as well as the next three seasons, being as versatile as he was.

In 1998 he even pitched one inning for manager Jack McKeon. He struck out a batter and didn't allow a hit or a run. On July 3rd 1998 he was traded to the New York Mets for pitcher John Hudek.

Harris debuted with the Mets on the Fourth of July batting leadoff in a game against the Braves in Atlanta. Harris got a hit in his first two Mets games & got himself over .300 right after the All Star break. On August 4th he drew a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th inning off the San Francisco Giants Joe Mesa, bringing in the game winning run. On August 18th Harris hit a two run HR off former Met Jerry DiPoto helping in a 6-3 win over the Colorado Rockies.

Over the next two weeks he hit four HRs to close out a solid August. Harris saw steady action the rest of the way with the Mets, as a versatile player he saw action in the outfield (65 games) third base (10 games) as well as two games at second base & one game at first.

Overall he hit .232 with 6 HRs seven doubles, five stolen bases & 17 RBIs in 75 games. After the season he signed in Colorado with the Rockies as a free agent. On August 31st he was sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks for their playoff run batting .310 on the season.

In the NLDS against the Mets, he was 0-2 as a pinch hitter. Bobby Valentine liked Harris’ versatility as well as his key late inning pinch hitting. He & the Mets went after him even though he was struggling to bat near .200 that season. On June 2nd, the Mets sent Bill Pulsipher to Arizona in exchange for Harris who was hitting just .188 at the time.

Now his role was pinch hitter and late inning utility guy for Valentines & the 2000 NL Champion Mets. On July 18th during an inter league game at Skydome in Toronto, Harris led off the game with a HR. The Mets went on to win the game 11-7 highlighted by a Mike Piazza grand slam. centerfieldmaz was there in attendance that night.

That month Harris new environment rejuvenated him, he raised his average fifty points hitting two HRs with six RBIs and having a personal six game hit streak. He came through for Bobby Valentine when he got a chance to play. On June 22nd he had a pinch hit double against the Phillies and scored on Derek Bell's base hit. Although the Mets were already ahead, it turned out to be the winning run. On July 27th he hit a HR off Montreal's Hideki Irabu helping Mike Hampton in a one run victory.

In 76 games with the Mets Harris had ten pinch hits, with 42 hits in 157 at bats, raising his average up to .260 for the year. In mid September he had three straight games where he was successful with pinch hits. Harris posted a .381 on base %, scored 22 runs, with three HRs with three triples, six doubles & 13 RBIs. In the 2000 Mets post season, Harris saw action getting seven at bats but went hitless.

In 2001 at age 37, Harris set a bunch of pinch hitting records while wearing a Mets uniform. He set a record for most games as a pinch hitter (83) & most at bats as a pinch hitter (95) in a single season.

On October 6th he set his biggest record of all, coming on the next to last day of the season at Shea Stadium. Lenny Harris came to bat as a pinch hitter in the 6th inning, against the Montreal Expos; Carl Pavano. Harris singled to right field, reaching a mile stone putting him ahead of Manny Mota on the all time pinch hit list. Play was halted as Harris’ Mets team mates rushed to congratulate him on the field. He ended his season with consecutive pinch hits in his last three games.

Overall on the season he got into 110 games batting .222 with five doubles & nine RBIs. In January of 2002 he was involved in a huge ten player three team trade that landed him in Milwaukee with the Brewers.

In Milwaukee he rebounded with another .300 season, playing in 122 games (197 at bats) being used often as a pinch hitter. The well traveled Harris found himself with the Chicago Cubs (2003) & Florida Marlins (2003-2005) over the next three seasons, playing until the age of 41.

In 2003 he won a World Series with the Florida Marlins, coming over as a late season acquisition. In five 2003 post season games he was 1-5 as a pinch hitter in the both the NLDS & NLCS. In his long 18 year career Harris holds the all time record for most pinch hits (212) pinch hit at bats (804) & pinch hit appearances (810 games).

Overall in 1903 games he hit .269 with 1055 hits 37 HRs 161 doubles 21 triples 131 stolen bases 369 RBIs & a .318 on base %. As a New York Met he hit .252 in 261 games.

Retirement: After his playing days he was the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals (2007-2008). He then became a minor league hitting instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In Spring Training of 2010 he was rushed to a hospital with chest pains, there he needed quadruple bypass surgery. In 2011 he was hitting coach for the A ball Great Lakes Loons & more recently with the Gulf Coast Marlins.

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