Bright in 1962.
September 22, 1929|
Kansas City, Missouri
|Died: March 13, 2000
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|August 7, 1958 for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 30, 1965 for the Chicago Cubs|
|Career highlights and awards|
Harry James Bright (September 22, 1929 – March 13, 2000) was an American first baseman, third baseman, utilityman and scout in Major League Baseball, and a longtime player and manager in minor league baseball. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Bright stood 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, weighed 190 pounds (86 kg), and threw and batted right-handed.
During his minor league playing career, Bright was known for his versatility in the field — he played every infield position, caught and played the outfield — his batting ability, and his frequent changes of address: in a 12-year stretch, 1947 through 1958, he played for 14 different minor league teams and at least four different MLB organizations. He led the Class C West Texas-New Mexico League in batting average in 1950 with a .413 mark. Two years later, as the 22-year-old playing manager of the Janesville Cubs of the Class D Wisconsin State League, Bright led the league in runs batted in with 101 — although Janesville finished seventh in the eight-team WSL.
Bright's best minor league season came when he was a 30-year-old veteran playing for the 1960 Salt Lake City Bees in the Pacific Coast League. He slugged 27 home runs, led the PCL with 119 RBI and batted .313. Bright was a fixture in the Pacific Coast League of the 1950s, having played three and a half seasons for the Sacramento Solons (1955–58). He became a resident of Sacramento, and later managed the Solons in 1975.
Bright's first Major League trials came with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he played in parts of the 1958 and 1960 seasons, and spent all of 1959 on the Pirate roster, appearing in 40 games in a utility role. On December 16, 1960, he was traded by the Pirates to the American League's new expansion franchise, the Washington Senators, where he played two full Major League seasons and enjoyed his most sustained success. In 1962, he played in 113 games, mostly at first base, swatted 17 homers, knocked in 67 RBI and batted .273. But at season's end, the Senators swapped the 33-year-old Bright to the Cincinnati Reds for a young first baseman, Rogelio Álvarez.
Bright batted only once for the 1963 Reds before his contract was sold on April 21 to the defending world champion New York Yankees, who were seeking a right-handed bat off their bench. He stuck with the club all season long, batting .236 with seven homers in 157 at-bats as the Yanks copped another AL pennant.
Then, in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series, Bright made history when he was sent up as a ninth-inning pinch hitter against Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bright struck out, enabling Koufax to set a new mark (broken five years later by Bob Gibson) for strikeouts (15) in a World Series game. Said Bright: "It's a hell of a thing. I wait 17 years to get into a World Series. Then I finally get up there, and 69,000 people are yelling — yelling for me to strike out." 1 To compound matters, the game was played in Bright's home ballpark, Yankee Stadium.
Bright struck out again in his only other World Series at bat, and by 1964 he had returned to the minors with the Triple-A Richmond Virginians. His MLB career ended in 1965, as a pinch hitter for the Chicago Cubs. All told, Bright appeared in 309 MLB games over all or parts of eight seasons, batting .255 with 32 homers and 126 RBI.
In 1967, Bright "resumed" his minor league managerial career in the farm system of the Chicago Cubs after a 15-year hiatus, taking over the reins of the Quincy Cubs of the Class A Midwest League, a decade and a half after his stint as playing skipper of the Cubbies' Janesville affiliate. He later managed in the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves organizations, and scouted for the Montreal Expos. He died in Sacramento at the age of 70.
- "K is for Koufax," Time Magazine, October 11, 1963
- Spink, C.C. Johnson, ed., The 1965 Official Baseball Register. St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1965.
- K is for Koufax, TIME Magazine, October 11, 1963
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- Venezuelan Professional Baseball League statistics