Wilmer Harris, Negro League star
By JULIE KNIPE
on Tue, Dec. 28, 2004
As one of only five surviving members of the old Negro Baseball League, Harris felt proud that he lived to see his forgotten teamates remembered as the baseball pioneers they were.
He said he hoped that the park, and a statue to be erected next spring, would help educate generations about a time before baseball integrated in 1947, a time when black stars played for the love of the game.
"I would love them to know the history of it," Harris said at the Oct. 18 ground-breaking for the park at Belmont and Parkside avenues.
Harris, the ace pitcher known as having a fearsome curve ball, died Thursday at Holy Redeemer Hospital. He was 80.
Born in Philadelphia, he attended Central High School for Boys, graduating in 1941. He was captain of the school's baseball and basketball teams, and also played for the Passon Stars in the Fairmount Park League, which won four straight championships.
He joined the Philadelphia Stars in 1945 and played his first game against Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Monarchs before 40,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. Later that year, he struck out a rookie named Jackie Robinson, who was pinch-hitting for the Monarchs.
In 1946, pitching against the Newark (N.J.) Eagles, Harris struck out in order, with the bases loaded, three of the Negro League's greatest hitters - Larry Doby, Monte Pearson and Monte Irvin - at Connie Mack Stadium.
In 1947, after the Major League season was over, he played for the Jackie Robinson All-Stars, composed of Robinson and other stars of the Negro League. He ended his career with the Stars in 1952, with a career total of 120 wins and 45 losses. He also played winter baseball in the late '40s and early '50s in Panama, Venezuela and Santo Domingo.
After retiring from baseball, he worked for SPS Technologies, in Jenkintown, for 37 years, retiring as a supervisor in 1989. He then worked for Allied Securities for 12 years.
Harris, who lived in Northeast Philadelphia, was a member of the Negro League's Baseball Players Association and the Seven Philadelphia Stars, considered the "Living Legends of Negro Baseball."
He is survived by his partner, Mary Ann Kennedy; a sister, Alberta Harris; daughters Michaila, Scherri, Denise Owens and Carolyn Carter; a son, Nicholas and a godson, Warren Parker, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Services: A memorial service will be held on a date to be announced.