I figure from time to time, when the desire strikes, I'll put up a little post featuring an old-tyme Dodger player you may not know. It'll usually be a fellow who played over 100 years ago, and I'll be sure to share a pic of a vintage card or collectible of him, as well. Over the years I've done this numerous times, but I plan on making it a regular occurrence.
Today's flashback is former Brooklyn Grays, the Dodger first incarnation as a part of the American Association, pitcher John Harkins. I ran into an BST Auction of a 1887 Old Judge tobacco card of his and decided to find out more about him. You can see a photo of the card above. BTW, the card sold at auction a couple of weeks ago for just under $300.
Harkins was known by the nickname of "Pa" for reasons I do not know - although I'm sure it has to do with an paternal instinct. After all, he moonlighted as a college coach at Yale, Princeton and Lehigh during his playing days.
John Harkins began playing the game in the sandlots of New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was learned in every position on the field, but it was as a pitcher that he made his name. In fact, his prowess at the position was something he stumbled upon. According to a story told in an obituary reprinted on Ancestry.com, Harkins was asked to to pitch after the days hurler failed to appear. He eventually threw a tie and became a regular pitcher from then on.
As an older lad, he attended Rutgers University as a chemistry major, but soon left to pursue a career on the diamond. Harkins played for Trenton of the Inter-State League, was eventually sold to the Cleveland Blues of the National League and then was quickly snatched up by the Brooklyn club when Cleveland folded - going along with follow Blues players Duc Bushong and Germany Smith.
With Brooklyn he joined the starting rotation and won a total of 39 games over three seasons. He threw just under 800 innings during that span while completing 88 games and recording one shutout. In 1888 he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles and soon retired. As is relayed in the obituary, he decided he could make a better living opening up a tavern and pitching intermittently for local town-ball teams.
John Harkins died of a heart attack in 1940 at the age of 81. He was a retired professional ballplayer, a former Dodger, a longtime sergeant-a-arms of the New Brunswick District Court and an entrepreneurial restaurant owner in the New Brunswick area.
When asked about his thoughts of the big leagues when he visited his last game in 1936 he said thusly:
"Yes, there's been a big change since my day. And one of those boys down there (pointing to the members of the two teams) probably is paid more than was our entire team. And the crowds nowadays are different. Here there are 50,000. When we played before 5,000 we were performing for an 'enormous throng'."Below are a few more cards featuring John Harkins. You will also see the photo of Harkins as an Oriole that was taken from the original 1888 Glass Plate Negative used for one of the cards below. That negative sold in 2014 for $1,554 at Legendary Auctions.
Here are Harkins' career stats, via Baseball Reference:
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