GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds on Wednesday announced the passing of Chuck Harmon, who was the first African American to play for the team. Harmon died Tuesday at 94 years old.
Then a 29-year-old utility player, Harmon appeared in the big leagues for the first time as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning for Cincinnati against the Milwaukee Braves on April 17, 1954, seven years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Dodgers.
"The entire Reds family is saddened to lose one of its great ambassadors. The first African American to play for the Reds, Chuck Harmon was much more than a ballplayer," Reds CEO Bob Castellini said in a statement released by the club. "He represents a pivot point in Reds history. Chuck’s positive attitude and disposition helped diffuse the adversity he faced, and set the tone for those following in his footsteps. He was beloved by his teammates during his career and remained a treasure to this franchise and its fans throughout his life. He will be missed.”
Harmon spent a total of four seasons in the Major Leagues. He was traded from the Reds to the Cardinals in May 1956 and was dealt again in ‘57 to the Phillies. In his 289 career games in the big leagues, he batted .238 with seven home runs and 59 RBIs.
A native of Washington, Indiana, Harmon became a resident of Cincinnati after he retired as a player. He scouted for the Braves, Indians and as a former college basketball player, the NBA's Indiana Pacers. He later worked in sales for the MacGregor Sporting Goods Company. For 24 years he worked as an administrative assistant at Ohio's First District Court of Appeals, and he was married for 62 years to his wife, Daurel, who passed away in 2009. The couple had three children.
Late in his life, Harmon became a community ambassador for the Reds and was often watching games at Great American Ball Park. In 2014, he received the Powell Crosley Jr. Award from the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum for his dedication and devotion to the team.
In 2015, during the week of the All-Star Game in Cincinnati, the Reds honored Harmon with a statue outside of the P&G Cincinnati MLB Youth Academy.