Thursday, May 15, 2014

May 15, 1928: George Harper Hits His First Redbird Blast

     On May 15, 1928, George Harper led the Cardinals to a 3-1 victory with a two run blast in the sixth inning of a rain-shortened contest at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis. It was Harper's first home run with the Birds on the Bat across his chest.

     Just 5 days earlier Harper was a member of the New York Giants, until Sam Breadon made a trade that shocked many by sending catcher Bob O'Farrell to New York for the well traveled  36-year-old outfielder. O'Farrell, in a player/manager role, had managed the club to a second place finish in '27, and was considered popular among players and fans alike. However, he was limited to just 61 games behind the dish, and the Cardinals needed an outfielder with some pop.

     Harper might have been just 5' 8" and a 170 pounds, but he could swing the stick, and he fit the bill, as a player who had ranked amongst the Top 10 home run hitters in 1924, '25, and '27. The day after the deal was made for Harper the newspapers were questioning who would take over as the full time catcher. Before the question could seriously be asked, Breadon had answer: Jimmie Wilson who he sent Spud Davis and Homer Peel to Philadelphia in exchange for. Wilson was much more durable, and the Cards got the outfielder they were needing as well.

     While the shakeup might have seemed drastic it proved to be fruitful. Harper hit .305 with 17 bombs that season, which was good for sixth in the National League, and Wilson spent the next six years with the Cardinals, which included the Championship season of 1931. The '28 team that featured the likes of George Harper, Jimmie Wilson, Chick Hafey, Frankie Frisch, and Jim Bottomley won 95 games and the National League Flag by holding off those same Giants that Harper had played for on Opening Day.

     George Harper's time with the Cardinals was short lived. Following the '28 season Breadon kept shifting pieces, and he was shifted to the Boston Braves organization in a deal for cash. However, his time in a Cardinals uniform was memorable one, as he became the first Cardinals during the modern era to blast three home runs in one game. He accomplished the feat in the first game of a doubleheader against the Giants on September 20th of that season, leading the Cardinals to an 8-5 victory. Considering that the club finished just two games ahead of the Giants that 3 home run day was more than just a feat, it helped keep the team in a race that would see them finish in first by a nose.

     Unfortunately, there was no World Series celebration in St. Louis following the heated pennant battle. The Birds ran into the powerhouse New York Yankees who swept them right out of the Fall Classic. With that said, the '28 season was a special season in the Gateway City, as the Cardinals wore the National League Crown with pride.

Check out the box score:

If you would like to read more about the life and times of George Harper check this out:

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