A ballplayer’s ballplayer, Toby Harrah was a multi-faceted threat on the ball diamond. Solid defensively at any infield position, Harrah was exceptionally gifted at the combining of talents. Many players either hit for power but don’t run well, or are swift on the base paths but lack the lumber. Toby combined the two – speed and power – and topped it off with one of the finest batting eyes of his time.
Toby made his debut with the new Washington Senators in 1969 under skipper Ted Williams. Just 20 years old at the time, Toby didn’t make the regular lineup until 1971 – the year before the Senators relocated to Texas and became the Rangers. Using his gritty style of play, Harrah was named to the All-Star squad in 1972 in the Rangers first year of existence. Although an All-Star in ’72, Harrah didn’t really establish himself until 1973 when he was the only American League shortstop to have a double digit homerun output.
In 1974, Toby led all shortstops with 21 homeruns, thus making him the only Major League shortstop to slug over .400. He led his AL peers in runs, doubles, homeruns, RBI and slugging average. Toby drew 50 walks but fanned 65 times: it would be the last season until his final campaign in which he’d strikeout more than he walked.
What you should look for in a Hall of Fame candidate is a player that separates himself substantially from his position peers. Toby led all Major League shortstops with 20 homers, 93 RBI, .458 slugging average and 98 walks in 1975. He also stole 23 bases making him the only 20 HR/20 SB infielder in all of baseball. He was the complete package, using his stick, wheels and eye to create a fine all round talent.
Toby’s 91 walks were good for second in the American League in 1976, and again, he was the only Major League shortstop to reach double digits in the homerun department. His 109 walks topped the American league in 1977, giving him an on-base percentage close to .400. That season he also reached his high water mark in homeruns, clubbing 27 while stealing an identical 27 bases, making him again, the only 20/20 infielder in the American League.
Keeping his eye honed and his wheels in proper working condition, Toby stole 31 bases in 1978 while drawing 83 walks. Due to a lower batting average than usual, the Rangers traded Toby to Cleveland for Buddy Bell after the season and Harrah had another 20 homerun season for the Indians. And, as I’m sure you’ve finally got it by now, Toby stole 20 bases thus making him the lone 20/20 infielder in the American League in 1979.
Toby scored 100 runs for the first time in 1980, using his exceptional on-base skills to get on and allow teammates to drive him in. His 100 runs were scored for a sixth place team, indictaing that the man who gets on base via the walk is a valauble commodity. Even though he was saddled to a poor Cleveland team, Toby led 3B in runs scored during the 1981 season due in large part to his high walk totals.
The top hitting AL third baseman in 1982, Toby played in every game, hitting 25 long balls on a .304 batting average. He drew a position best 84 walks and his on-base percentage was two points shy of the elusive .400 mark. Rewarded with his fourth All-Star appearance, Toby also garnered a handful of MVP votes.
George Steinbrenner took interest in Toby and acquired him for the 1984 season, exchanging speedster Otis Nixon and relief hurler George Frazier for him. His stay in New York was brief, thanks to the broken hand he suffered in 1983 that hindered his effectiveness throughout the 1984 campaign. The Yankees, having the market cornered on impatience, sent Toby to the Rangers for backup outfielder Billy Sample. Back in the Lone Star state, Harrah had a fine comeback performance, finishing second in the AL with 113 walks while posting an amazing .432 on-base percentage.
Toby played one final year with the Rangers in ’86, the first time he struck out more than he walked since the 1974 season.
G 2,155/R 1,115/H 1,954/2B 307/HR 195/RBI 918/BB 1,153/SO 868/SB 238/BA .264/SA .395