Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Mel Harder, June 1, 1988

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:18 - Working and playing baseball during World War II

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Partial Transcript: Well, during the war years, the, uh, the draft boards were taking athletes, especially a lot of the professional players, and, uh...

Segment Synopsis: Harder states that he worked for the Ohio Rubber Company while playing baseball sporadically between 1943-45. Specifically, he discusses playing in the American League during World War II.

Keywords: American League pennant; Baseball during World War II; Employment; Military service; Ohio Rubber Company; Pennant; Steel workers

Subjects: American League (Major League Baseball); Baseball players; Pitchers (Baseball); St. Louis Browns (baseball team); World War, 1939-1945; employment--Ohio

00:04:09 - Injuries from playing baseball / spring training

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Partial Transcript: Course, I started in 20-- 1928 and, uh, I hurt my arm in 1936, and that's what started my problems all-- the next 10 years.

Segment Synopsis: Harder discusses elbow and shoulder injuries he received during his mid- and late-career. He briefly mentions his initial season as a baseball coach. He also discusses spring training at Purdue University, with players returning from military service at that time.

Keywords: Coaching; Elbows; Injuries; Lou Boudreau; Military service; Purdue University; Shoulders; Spring training; Surgery; Teaching

Subjects: Baseball coaches; Cleveland Indians (baseball team); Coaching (athletics); Feller, Bob, 1918-2010; Pitchers (baseball); Surgery; Veeck, Bill

00:10:23 - Team owners and general managers / player salaries in the 1930s

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Partial Transcript: Well, I, I was purchased by the previous owners, the, uh, E.S. Bernard was our president when I, they, they purchased me from Omaha...

Segment Synopsis: Alva Bradley, owner of the Cleveland Indians from 1927-1946, is discussed. Harder also talks about his salary during his tenure as a player with the Indians.

Keywords: Alva Bradley; Cy Slapnicka; General managers; Managers; Marriage; Money; Pay; Role of owners in baseball

Subjects: Baseball players--Salaries, etc.--United States; Baseball team owners; Cleveland (Ohio); baseball managers

00:18:11 - Increase in player competition in the post-war era

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Partial Transcript: Uh, we went to train in, uh, uh Tucson in '47. that was our first year after Veeck...

Segment Synopsis: Harder tells how, after the end of World War II, many players returned to professional baseball after completing their military service.

Keywords: Baseball players; Competition; Pasquel brothers; Player relationships; Post-war era; Tension; Training

Subjects: Mexican league; Mexico; New Orleans (La.); Tucson (Ariz.); baseball players

00:23:07 - Player representation and the player pension fund

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Partial Transcript: Um, Murphy was the first one to, to get in that, to try to organize the, um, players. In fact, I was the first player representative...

Segment Synopsis: Harder discusses the first baseball players' guild and the development of the player pension plan.

Keywords: Baseball contracts; Baseball player organizations; Contracts; Extra pay; Money; Pension programs; Player guilds; Robert Murphy; Salaries; Spring training

Subjects: Baseball players; Baseball team owners; Pensions.; Retirement.

00:27:41 - Discrepancies in the pension plan

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Partial Transcript: But the players just didn't vote us in. And the only thing they vote now is the, is the stocks and bonds...

Segment Synopsis: Harder discusses baseball player pensions before and after 1960.

Keywords: Older players; Pay raises; Pension plans; Pension programs; Player pension plans; Salaries

Subjects: Baseball players; Baseball players--Salaries, etc.--United States; Pensions.; Retirement.

00:31:19 - Pitching and playing techniques of Harder's contemporaries

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Partial Transcript: Er, you have to be a, a pitcher, instead of a, you know, uh, relying on a good, hard fastball...

Segment Synopsis: Harder describes the pitching and playing techniques used by many of his fellow baseball players in the 1920s through 1940s.

Keywords: Curve balls; Fastball; Left field; Sinker ball; Theodore Samuel Williams

Subjects: Baseball players; Boston Red Sox (baseball team); Cleveland Indians (baseball team); Minor league baseball.; Pitchers (baseball); Williams, Ted, 1918-2002

00:35:58 - The psychology of playing baseball / training for pitchers

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Partial Transcript: If um, you're thinking negative out there, you're having trouble. And, uh, you've got to go out there and start a ball game with that good feeling...

Segment Synopsis: Harder discusses the psychology behind playing baseball, along with training and preparation pitchers undergo.

Keywords: Baseball coaches; Baseball game play; Batters; Changes in pitching; Coaching; Curve balls; Fastballs; Game day; Hitters; Pitching; Preparation; Psychology; Speed; Training; pitchers

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball coaches; Pitchers (baseball)

00:40:17 - Pitcher arm injuries / pitching against Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg

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Partial Transcript: Well, uh, there's pitchers that did it, did it regularly for years and never had any arm trouble...

Segment Synopsis: Harder discusses common arm injuries sustained by pitchers. He also describes pitching against Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg.

Keywords: Arms; Conditioning; Hitters; Injuries; Ninth innings; Physical training; Pitchers; Pitching; Seventh innings; Shoulders; Theodore Samuel Williams; Weaknesses

Subjects: Designated hitters (baseball); DiMaggio, Joe, 1914-1999; Greenberg, Hank; Pitchers (baseball); Williams, Ted, 1918-2002

00:44:35 - Bill Veeck's purchase of the Cleveland Indians

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Partial Transcript: Well, Bill was a, he was, uh, some person, I'll tell you that. Quite a guy. He was a showman, too, you know. And, uh, when he first bought the ball club we still played at League Park...

Segment Synopsis: In 1947 Bill Veeck became the team owner of the Cleveland Indians. Harder describes Veeck's personality. He also recollects Lou Boudreau's work as a player-manager.

Keywords: League Park (Cleveland, Ohio); Lou Boudreau

Subjects: Baseball managers; Baseball player-managers; Baseball team owners; Cleveland Indians (baseball team); Veeck, Bill

00:50:11 - Helping Bob Lemon learn to become a pitcher

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Partial Transcript: But Bob was strictly an outfielder and a, and an infielder when he, when he started pitching, and there was a lot he had to learn about pitching. It wasn't as easy as it, they tell you.

Segment Synopsis: Harder discusses Bob Lemon's pitching technique and the influence that he had on Lemon's career.

Keywords: Curve balls; Fastballs; Outfielders; Sinkers; Sliders; Technique; Third basemen

Subjects: Lemon, Robert; Pitchers (Baseball)

00:54:21 - Larry Doby's signing with the Cleveland Indians

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Partial Transcript: Well I remember when he joined the Indians in Chicago and, uh, it was mixed feelings, you know...

Segment Synopsis: Harder describes Larry Doby, who was the first African American baseball player to play with the Cleveland Indians, and the second to play Major League baseball.

Keywords: Desegregation; Integration

Subjects: African American baseball players; American League (major league baseball); Baseball players; Designated hitters (baseball); Doby, Larry; Major League Baseball (Organization); Segregation

00:59:16 - The Lou Boudreau shift / Babe Ruth

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, it happened in Boston. Uh what did we... we played a double header up there. We didn't get Ted out the first game.

Segment Synopsis: Harder describes the "Boudreau shift", a type of infield shift. He also mentions Babe Ruth's use of a similar playing style, and recollects playing against Babe Ruth.

Keywords: "Boudreau shift"; Infield shift; Left field; Short stops

Subjects: Boudreau, Lou, 1917-2001; Infielders (baseball); New York Yankees (Baseball Team); Pitchers (baseball); Ruth, Babe, 1895-1948.; Williams, Ted, 1918-2002

01:05:57 - The 1948 season for the Cleveland Indians

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Partial Transcript: Uh, it brought Cleveland together, I guess, the town and everything else because they just all went all wild for the Indians.

Segment Synopsis: Harder states that attendance at the Indians games in 1948 were up, and the city also enjoyed the team's successful season. He mentions that that year, the team lost a playoff game against the Boston Red Sox.

Keywords: Baseball fans; Baseball playoffs; Denny Galehouse; Fans; Playoffs; World Series; World Series (1948)

Subjects: Boston Red Sox (baseball team); Cleveland (Ohio); Cleveland Indians (baseball team)

01:11:00 - The 1948 World Series / Phil Masi's famous pick-off play

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Partial Transcript: Good pitching, yeah, that's right. Feller, Lemon, Gromeck pitched good.

Segment Synopsis: Harder discusses the 1948 World Series, and briefly discusses many of the players on the Indians' roster for that season. He also talks about Phil Masi's pick-off play.

Keywords: Bill Stewart; Bob Lemon; Eddie Robinson; First base; Joe Gordon; Mike Hegan; Phil Masi; Pick-off plays; Short stop; World Series; World Series (1948)

Subjects: Baseball players; Baseball players--1940-1950; Boston Braves (baseball team); Boudreau, Lou, 1917-2001; Cleveland Indians (baseball team); Lemon, Robert; Pitchers (baseball)

01:16:31 - Pitchers for the 1948 Cleveland Indians team

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Partial Transcript: Bearden, uh, relied on a knuckle ball. He threw, he threw a hard knuckle ball, he didn't throw one of these real floaters like some of them throw.

Segment Synopsis: Harder describes the pitching styles of various other pitchers on the Indians roster of 1948.

Keywords: Fastballs; Knuckle balls; Pitching

Subjects: Bearden, Gene, 1920-2004; Cleveland Indians (baseball team); Pitchers (baseball)

01:21:08 - Coaching other pitchers / playing against the Yankees

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Partial Transcript: Well, the manager generally delegate-- delegates what he wants, you know, and there's times that I would notice something...

Segment Synopsis: Harder briefly describes his career as a pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians. He also recalls playing against the New York Yankees in 1949 and 1950.

Keywords: Baseball managers; Pitching; Pitching coaches

Subjects: Baseball coaches; Baseball players; Cleveland Indians (baseball team); New York Yankees (baseball team); Pitchers (baseball)

01:24:37 - Bill Veeck's sale of the Cleveland Indians / Satchel Paige's pitching style

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Partial Transcript: ...There was only one Bill Veeck I'll tell you, and he did so much here in Cleveland...

Segment Synopsis: Harder discusses Bill Veeck's selling of the Cleveland Indians. He also recalls Satchel Paige's pitching style.

Keywords: Ellis Ryan; Hesitation pitches; Pitches; Trick pitches

Subjects: Baseball coaches; Baseball team owners; Cleveland Indians (baseball team); Lopez, Al, 1908-; Paige, Satchel, 1906-1982; Pitchers (baseball); Veeck, Bill

01:28:28 - Off season jobs / family life / changes in baseball

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Partial Transcript: Did you have off-season jobs?

Segment Synopsis: Harder discusses his winter job of selling tickets for the Cleveland Indians. He also talks about his wife and family, his friends on the team, and changes in baseball from the beginning of his career to his retirement. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Baseball player wives; Changes; Employment; Families; Family life; Jobs; Latin American baseball players; Off-season jobs; Salaries; Tickets

Subjects: African American baseball players; Baseball players; Baseball players--Salaries, etc.--United States; Cleveland Indians (baseball team); Integration