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Harmon becomes part of Hall of Fame after visit

Former Phillies infielder donates glove used during record-setting game in 1971
MLB.com

One thing leads to another, just like a grounder to the shortstop is followed by a flip to the second baseman and a relay to first to complete the double play.

Terry Harmon played 10 seasons in the big leagues as a utility infielder for the Phillies, retiring after the 1977 season. Last year, he and his wife, Kay, decided to do something they'd never done before: visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

One thing leads to another, just like a grounder to the shortstop is followed by a flip to the second baseman and a relay to first to complete the double play.

Terry Harmon played 10 seasons in the big leagues as a utility infielder for the Phillies, retiring after the 1977 season. Last year, he and his wife, Kay, decided to do something they'd never done before: visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

As a result of that pilgrimage, Harmon is now in the Hall of Fame. Or, at least, his glove is.

"I noticed all the gloves and bats and special-interest stuff that were there, and I thought maybe they'd like to have [my] glove," Harmon said.

Not just any glove, of course. The one Harmon wore on June 12, 1971, when he set a Major League record by flawlessly accepting 18 chances at second base in a nine-inning game.

After the game: Catching up with Phillies Alumni

One thing leads to another. Harmon called Phillies vice president, alumni relations Larry Shenk, who in turn contacted Brad Horn, the Hall's vice president, communications and education. Horn responded that it would be a welcome addition to the museum's collection. Shenk relayed the message back to Harmon, who happily forwarded the glove to Cooperstown.

"For me, it's just an honor to think about having anything in the Hall of Fame. It's become a really nice thing in my life," the 70-year-old said. "The Hall of Fame is so awesome. It's just overwhelming. You could spend a month in there if you wanted to."

At the time of Harmon's achievement, though, he had no idea what he'd done. He started against the Padres and led off the bottom of the first by striking out. But Harmon reached on a wild pitch and scored the first of the three runs the Phils would get that inning. That was all the scoring. Jim Bunning got the win and Bucky Brandon the save in the 3-0 win.

The Padres went down in order in the ninth, when Ollie Brown, Leron Lee and Don Mason all grounded out to second.

"You know what was really strange? I had no idea," Harmon said. "After I made the last three outs in the ninth inning, the guys were kind of busting my chops after the game. 'Hey, you set a record.' You know, that's a normal thing they'd [kiddingly] say. So I didn't think anything about it. And I got to my locker, and all the writers were there -- which was the first time that ever happened in my life. And I'm thinking, 'What the hell is going on here?' And then it all came out -- that it was 18 chances, and on and on and on.

"But I had no idea. I went 0-for-4, and I think I said something stupid that day like, 'I'd trade it right now for two hits.' Then, over the years, it was maybe my only accomplishment in baseball. I don't know why, but it seemed to gain a little more [attention]."

A fifth-round Draft choice out of Ohio University in 1965, Harmon made his Major League debut two years later, appearing in a pair of games without coming to the plate and making a play in the field. He arrived for good at the start of the 1969 season after being told he'd start the season at Triple-A Eugene.

One thing leads to another. The day before the opener, it was decided that Larry Bowa could use a little more seasoning, and Bobby Wine went to the Expos.

"They called me and said, 'Hey, you're going to join the team tomorrow,'" Harmon said. "I packed my bags and went from Clearwater, [Fla.] to Chicago. I got there at like 4 o'clock in the morning and went to Wrigley Field and waited for it to open up."

Fortunately, the game started at 1 p.m. In the fifth inning -- "half asleep, probably" -- Harmon pinch-hit for starter Chris Short and singled to center against future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins.

The Phillies weren't very good back then, but Harmon stuck around long enough to see the franchise develop into one of the best teams of that era.

"We had a couple lean years in the beginning and then had teams in '76 and '77 that got into the playoffs. So it had kind of turned the corner by the end of my career," he said. "I played with a lot of great guys, Bowa and [Dave] Cash and Schmitty [Mike Schmidt] and [Greg] Luzinski and [Garry] Maddox and that whole crew. There were a lot of good ballplayers that I was lucky enough to be around quite a bit of the time."

Harmon filled in at second, third and short. He never had more than 221 at-bats in a season and he started just once in 1974 and had only 15 at-bats despite spending the entire season on the Major League roster.

"That was one of the years where you kind of had to back up for your check," he said. "Danny Ozark was the manager, and we had a lot of durable guys. He was the kind of manager who if the eight [regular] guys could go out there, they'd go out there for 162 games. So that left little room for the utility guys to get their time in.

"Other than that, it was a wonderful time in my life. You grow up wanting to be a big league ballplayer. You get the opportunity. I guess if I had one regret, the only one would be that I wish that somewhere along the line I would have said, 'Hey, I need more playing time. See if you can find someplace else for me to play.' Just to see if I could do it or not.

"But then after six or seven years, I was saying to myself, 'Well, you might go somewhere else and find out you can't play and be out the door.' I maybe became too comfortable in the utility role, but it was all good."

Harmon retired when he was just 33. He had badly sprained his ankle two years earlier, and it had to be heavily taped before every game, which limited him a little bit. Near the end of Spring Training in 1978, the Phils acquired Bud Harrelson and asked Harmon to go back to Triple-A.

"I had just decided it was time for me to do something else," he said. "I had missed a lot of time with my kids. So I wanted to do that whole thing. I was lucky enough when I got out of baseball I got into the cable business and spent 25, 30 years there. So that worked out really well."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies, Terry Harmon