Jack Harshman, first base
Padres: 1945-46, 1961 Everybody knew that Jack Harshman was a slugger when he signed with the Padres, but it was as a pitcher that he made his mark in the Big Leagues. Yet, twice in the minors, he led his league in home runs. From 1954 through 1958, Jack was consistently among American League leaders in strikeouts and ERA. He has the highest all-time home run percentage (number of home runs per one hundred times at bat) for pitchers with more than 350 at bats.
[Jack Harshman, interview by Bill Swank, 16 January 1995, transcript notes.]
I started playing organized sandlot ball in San Diego when I was twelve. I was able to play with the sixteen-year-olds and that was at first base, too. When I was a junior, I played in an exhibition game at Lane Field against Satchel Paige. At the time, I didn’t realize how great he was. I remember trying to hit against him and that was just a joke.
San Diego High and Hoover played the championship game at Lane. I hit a home run and almost hit another one out. That was unusual for a high school kid and Pepper Martin [Padre manager] was there. Brooklyn and St. Louis were scouting me. Both teams offered contracts. In those days, it was more an opportunity than money. My Dad and I decided that it might be to my benefit to sign with the Padres and wait for an organization that needed a first baseman. I might have never gotten a chance to play behind Gil Hodges. Bill Starr was the owner of the Padres. We’d talked and never gotten to the bottom line and a figure. We decided that if he’d offer our figure, we’d take it. Then, Pepper Martin came into the office. Starr didn’t really want him there. Pepper was very honest and up-front. He said, “Mr. Starr, do you want this young man to play for the Padres?” That put him on the spot. He said, “Yes.” Martin said, “Then give him the money!” He gave me $3,000 to sign and I’d get an additional $4,000 if I got to the majors. Bill Starr made a lot of money when he sold me! You had to be careful what you said, because they [teammates] were much older. They didn’t accept young players. If you’re here, somebody they liked and knew wouldn’t be.