Bob Harrison, a veteran scout who was instrumental in the Mariners' selection of Ken Griffey Jr. as the first player taken in the 1987 Draft and then promotion to the big leagues at the age of 19 after only 129 games in the Minor Leagues, passed away Monday morning. The
Bob Harrison, a veteran scout who was instrumental in the Mariners' selection of Ken Griffey Jr. as the first player taken in the 1987 Draft and then promotion to the big leagues at the age of 19 after only 129 games in the Minor Leagues, passed away Monday morning. The cause of death is not yet known.
Services will take place July 2 at Luyben Dilday Mortuary in Long Beach, Calif., Harrison's hometown.
Harrison, who was 95, began scouting with the Cardinals in the 1960s and was still working on a limited basis with the Mariners, with whom he had been since the franchise's inception in '77.
"This is my life," Harrison said of being an active scout several years ago. "What else would I do? My wife passed away. My kids are grown."
One of Harrison's kids, R.J., is the senior advisor for scouting/baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Harrison's first significant signing was shortstop Garry Templeton for the Cardinals, but his biggest impact came with the Mariners, who initially had only six professional scouts. Mariners players he was credited with signing prior to Griffey included Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds, Buddy Black, Spike Owen and Ed Vande Berg.
While with the Cardinals, Harrison signed a college infielder named Scott Boras. Boras is now one of the most recognized agents in the Major Leagues.
Harrison was the Mariners' national crosschecker in 1987, and Seattle initially had the same rating for Griffey and pitcher Mike Harkey of California State-Fullerton. Mariners owner George Argyros was pushing for Harkey because he preferred a college player, and he also lived in Orange County near Fullerton's campus.
The Mariners' scouting and player development department, however, were unanimous in favor of taking Griffey, and then-Mariners general manager Dick Balderson had Harrison adjust the points given to each player so that Griffey was the clear-cut choice.
"He signed Junior and was behind a lot of the trades and signings the Mariners made over the years," said Balderson. "He had an impact on the game. He was special. He wanted to like players, and would look at what they could do and how they could fit."
Harrison would laugh when people would ask about Griffey jumping from limited playing time at Double-A in 1988 to the Mariners' starting lineup on Opening Day in '89.
"We had our first meeting during the spring and everybody liked Griffey," Harrison said. "But we would be told, 'It doesn't matter what he does down here, he's not making the big league club out of Spring Training.' Every week, we would have a meeting and people would rave about Griffey and we'd be reminded, 'He's not going to make the big league club out of Spring Training.'
"The final week, he's still playing well, and we are told, 'He's not going to make the big league club out of Spring Training.'" I looked up and said, 'OK, but who is going to tell him?'"
Griffey went to the big leagues, the start of a career that led to his induction into the Hall of Fame next month. He was elected by the largest voting percentage, as his selection by 437 of 440 voters (99.3 percent) topped Tom Seaver, who was named on 425 of 430 ballots (98.8 percent) in his first year of eligibility.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.