Note: This page discusses 1950s All-Star outfielder Harry Simpson. For the Baseball Australia Hall of Famer of the same name, click here.
Harry Leon Simpson
(Suitcase or Goody)
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 180 lb.
- Debut 1946
- American League Debut April 21, 1951
- Final Game September 27, 1959
- Born November 30, 1924 in Atlanta, GA USA
- Died April 3, 1979 in Akron, OH USA
Harry Simpson was an outfielder 19 years (1946-1964), three in the Negro Leagues (1946-1948); eight in the majors (1951-1953 and 1955-1959) and ten in the minors (1949-1950, 1954 and 1960-1964). Simpson was born on December 3, 1925, in the Dalton neighborhood of Atlanta, GA. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 for World War II and discharged in 1946 (BN). He married Johnnie Cooper on August 15, 1946. Signed by scout Goose Curry, he had been scouted by Eddie Gottlieb and Abe Saperstein for the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro National League, as an amateur free agent in 1946 at age 20.
Simpson was a left-handed power hitter who began his career with the Stars in 1946, hitting .333 in limited action, with 3 homers in only 51 at bats. The next year, while gaining more playing time, his average dropped to .244, but he showed good speed and proved to be a capable fielder.
After another year with the Stars, he was signed by the Cleveland Indians and entered organized baseball in 1949 with the Wilkes-Barre Indians in the Eastern League at age 23. He hit .305 and led the league in home runs, RBI and runs scored. This offensive production earned him a promotion to the San Diego Padres in the Pacific Coast League in 1950, where he enjoyed another excellent offensive output that included a .323 batting average and league leadership in triples and RBI.
The next year, 1951, marked his rookie year in the major leagues with Cleveland at 25 years of age. He broke into the big leagues on April 21st, but proved a little disappointing as he hit only .229. On September 2nd, Simpson, Al Rosen and Luke Easter hit consecutive home runs in the 1st inning, as Cleveland beat the St. Louis Browns, 5–1.
In 1952, playing as a regular, he rebounded with a respectable offensive output that included a .266 batting average, 21 doubles, 10 triples and 10 home runs. On April 26th, the Detroit Tigers' Art Houtteman's no-hit bid was broken up on a two-out, 9th-inning hit by Simpson, but the Tigers romped over the Indians, 13-0. But after a drop in production in 1953, he found himself with the Indianapolis Indians in the American Association for the 1954 season.
After a winter in Cuba, where he managed only a .212 batting average with Mariano, he was back in the majors again when he was purchased by the Kansas City Athletics from Cleveland on May 11, 1955 and hit an even .300 for the year. In 1956 he had his best power season and led the American League in triples while batting .270. He was traded by Kansas City on June 15, 1957 with Ryne Duren and Jim Pisoni to the New York Yankees for Billy Martin, Ralph Terry, Woodie Held and Bob Martyn in more fallout over the Copacabana nightclub incident. He found himself in pinstripes for parts of the 1957 and 1958 seasons.
On the trading deadline on June 15, 1958, he was traded by the Yankees with 1954 Rookie of the Year Bob Grim back to Kansas City for Duke Maas and Virgil Trucks. Simpson's trade from the first-place Yankees to the cellar-dwelling Athletics was announced in the middle of a Yankees game with the Detroit Tigers. Nonetheless the Yankees ran out of bench players and sent Simpson, technically an Athletic by this time, up as a pinch hitter.
On May 2, 1959 he was traded by Kansas City to the Chicago White Sox for Ray Boone. On August 25, 1959 he was traded by the White Sox, who were taking out pennant insurance, with minor leaguer Bob Sagers to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ted Kluszewski; Klu hit .297 during the season and a torrid .391 in the World Series. For his part, Simpson played his final major league game on September 27th at age 33.
On October 13th, he was purchased by the White Sox from the Pirates. In 1959 he had played with three different teams but could not find a home, and ended up back with San Diego for the 1960 season. The next year he hit .303 with 24 home runs and 105 RBI and in 1962 he hit .279 with 19 home runs for Indianapolis. But when he started the 1963 season still in the minors, he traveled below the border to close out his career in the Mexican League. In 1963 and 1964 he hit .334 and .306 with 21 and 14 homers for the Mexico City Red Devils, ending his baseball career at age 38.
One of the early black players in the American League, Simpson earned the nickname "Suitcase" because his large feet, a characteristic shared by a comic book character of that name; he lived up to the nickname by playing for 17 teams in 11 years. Casey Stengel once called him the best defensive right fielder in the American League. A minor league HR and RBI champion, his best major league year was 1956, when he batted .293 with 21 HR and 105 RBI for the A's. His 11 triples in 1956 and nine in 1957 tied him for the league lead. (RTM) In the 1956 All-Star Game, he pinch hit and struck out. In the 1957 World Series against the Milwaukee Braves, he played in 5 games and was 1 for 12 with 4 strikeouts.
In 1950, his best year in the minors, he had 225 hits, 121 runs, 41 doubles, 19 triples, 33 home runs and 156 RBI at (.323/~.384/.578) in 178 games.
Only twelve African Americans broke into the big leagues through 1950. Eight broke in in 1951 including Simpson, making him somewhere between 13th and 20th. Only three players have hit grand slam home runs for five different teams: Walker Cooper, Dave Kingman and Dave Winfield. Simpson hit slams for four different teams (Indians, Yankees, Athletics and White Sox). Two teams in the history of the majors have sported as many as six past or present triples leaders: the 1941 Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1957 Yankees (with Simpson, Hank Bauer, Andy Carey, Mickey Mantle, Gil McDougald and Enos Slaughter)
Overall in the major leagues, he had 752 hits, 343 runs, 101 doubles, 41 triples, 73 home runs, 381 RBI and 17 stolen bases at (.266/.331/.408) in 888 games. In the minors, he had 162 home runs and 806 RBI.
While Simpson was a member of the Indianapolis Indians in 1954, his four-year-old son was hit by a car and killed.
He had black hair and brown eyes, his ancestry was African American and his principal hobbies were hunting and fishing. He was a machinist for Goodyear Aerospace until his retirement in 1967. He died at his home at age 54 in Akron, OH from a heart attack on April 3, 1979 and is buried at West Hill Cemetery in Dalton, GA
- AL All-Star (1956)
- 2-time AL Triples Leader (1956 & 1957)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1956)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (1956)
Principal sources for Harry Simpson include newspaper obituaries (OB), government Veteran records (VA,CM,CW), Stars & Stripes (S&S), Sporting Life (SL), The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs (1953;1955-1960) (WW), old Baseball Registers (1952-1953;1955-1959) (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN (none) (DAG), Stars&Stripes (S&S), The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase (PD), The Baseball Library (BL), Baseball in World War II Europe by Gary Bedingfield (GB) ; The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James A. Riley; The Pacific Coast League: A Statistical History, 1903-1957 by Dennis Snelling; The International League: Year-by-year Statistics, 1884-1953 by Marshall D. Wright; The American Association: Year-By-Year Statistics for the Baseball Minor League, 1902-1952 by Marshall D. Wright and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others.