The neverending curse of Greg Harris

Gregory Allen Harris saved 20 games for the Rangers in 1986. But it still wasn't enough for me to want two dozen of his baseball cards.

HARLEM — The photograph you see to the right is of a baseball card  taped to the back of my laptop. Let me explain:

The Yankees were playing in Toronto last season, and a bunch of us beat writers were standing around in an empty clubhouse, waiting for a couple of players to arrive. This is when I first heard of the machine.

On the main concourse of the Rogers Centre, between home plate and first base, there’s a vending machine that sells baseball cards from the late 80s and early 90s. Each pack costs only two bucks Canadian — a Toonie.

One of the guys suggested that we make a quick run to the machine before going up to the press box to write. Great idea, I thought. Once we finished in the clubhouse we made our way upstairs. We swapped old stories about collecting cards, and in the process, my mind drifted back to memories of a relief pitcher that played in the majors when I was a kid. His name was Greg Harris.

Harris’ claim to fame was the same as current Yankees prospect Pat Venditte — the ability to switch pitch. Otherwise, Harris* was just another middle reliever, who under typical circumstances, I would have forgotten long ago.

We arrived at the machine, which gave us several choices of brand: Fleer, O-Pee-Chee, Donruss. No Upper Deck. Damn.

I was an Upper Deck guy growing up. I loved the holograms, the team logos, and the pictures on the backs of the cards. Nobody else did that. But because they were the coolest cards, Upper Decks were also the most expensive. On the days that I wanted to both eat and buy cards, I needed a cheaper backup brand. For me, that was Donruss.

Which is why at the machine, my choice was easy. I selected Donrusses from 1990, a year I remember well because I swear that every pack I bought that season contained a Greg Harris card. If it wasn’t every pack, then it was every other one for sure. Once, I even got two in the same pack, which was especially infuriating. Even now, it annoys me to think about how much lunch money I blew to fill a shoebox with Greg Harris baseball cards.

Now, with our pack of cards in hand, we began our walk back to the press box elevator. My buddy rips open his pack of Fleers and I rip open my pack of Donrusses. We’re like kids again,  precisely the point of this mission. Good times.

But my moment of joy is exactly that, only a moment. Because the first card I pulled out of my pack is the one I now have taped to the back of my laptop, Donruss 1990, No. 582: Red Sox pitcher Greg Harris.

* Greg Harris is not to be confused with another relief pitcher that played in the same era, the conveniently-named Greg Harris**. The second Harris, as far as I could tell, threw exclusively right-handed. And come to think of it, I also had way more of his cards than I ever wanted.

** Full disclosure: I had to change this link, because I confused myself and originally included the link to the wrong Greg Harris.

— 30 —



Filed under Baseball

16 responses to “The neverending curse of Greg Harris

  1. The nostalgia cosmos were perfectly aligned. So, did you say “Got’em”?

  2. I should have. It’s a great term, “got ’em.”

  3. Gelb

    This is good…because every time I’ve seen Ruben Amaro Jr. of late, I can only think about his 1993 Topps card, No. 43. He’s wearing a (cursed) blue helmet in the photo.

    Does this mean a.) I have a problem? or b.) I’m too young?

  4. Art of 51

    I still collect baseball cards. I guess I can’t give up my youth. But I do know what you’re taking about, getting the same players every other pack. Packs don’t come cheap these days and to get the same player when you only get 4 cards at $5 per pack 😦

  5. Bryan Hoch

    I still have the first baseball card I ever pulled out of a pack. Somewhere in a box here is an ’87 Topps Danny Tartabull, creased badly at the lower right corner and spotted by watercolor paint.

  6. Inspired by your post, I payed a visit to my Old Man’s shop. Bob has a plastic bin of unopened packs—all sports, mostly baseball—he sells at memorabilia shows. After digging for a while, I snagged a pack of ’89 Score ( I was hoping to land an Edgar Martinez RC.

    It was that or the ’90 Donruss. And I really didn’t need another Gregory Allen Harris.

    Like most packs from that era, No Edgar, no Junior, no nothing.

    The highlights of the haul: A Mark Grant (RP, San Deigo) card. His back-of-card bio describes him as, “…a free spirited righthander with speed to burn.” A Steve Trout (SP, Seattle). His dad was two-time 20-game winner “Dizzy” Trout. And finally, this one’s for you “Kid,” Walt Weiss (SS, Oakland). In ’87, his first stint in the bigs, he hit .462 in 16 games, 26 at bats.

  7. Srayze

    Next time you’re at the Rogers Centre, head to the card vending machine out towards the right field corner. That one has Upper Deck….$1.5o/pack.

  8. Upper Deck! Thanks for the info. Hitting that machine up on the first Yankees trip to Toronto.

  9. Drama Boy

    Commons suck.

  10. Ian Chase

    My favorite baseball card flavor has always been Donruss (Tops is a close second). My Griffey, Jr. Rated Rookie was definitely the most prized possession of my childhood.

    However, those glossy Upper Deck cards have worn the test of time much better than the matte finished Donruss cards.

  11. Pingback: State of the OTR Blog: Looking back, looking ahead | Marc Carig | Off The Record

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