He played one season in Baltimore for a 1972 team that finished third in the American League East with an 80-74 record.
He was on a roster filled with memorable names:
-Boog, Brooks, Belanger, and Bumbry in the field.
-Palmer, McNally, Cuellar, and Dobson – the incumbent 20-game winning foursome – on the mound.
-Davey Johnson, Johnny Oates, Elrod Hendricks, and Terry Crowley – players then, managers and coaches years later.
But for all the justifiable reasons baseball fans might have for not remembering Roric Harrison, there’s a piece of trivia that makes his name significant.
Harrison was the last American League pitcher to hit a home run in an American League game before the creation of the designated hitter.
Harrison’s sixth-inning leadoff homer on Oct. 3, 1972 – his only hit in three at-bats – helped the Orioles defeat the Cleveland Indians 4-3 to earn a split in a season-ending doubleheader. Harrison picked up the win with six innings of mound work during which he allowed four hits and one earned run. He struck out one against two walks. Losing pitcher Ray Lamb surrendered three runs in six innings and finished 0-for-1 at the plate. (See the game story.)
The win secured third place in the A.L. East for the Orioles ahead of the New York Yankees.
It was Harrison’s lone home run of the 1972 season, his first of five seasons in the major leagues. He won 15 International League games in 1971 but lost out on a late-season promotion to the Orioles that year after hurting his knee. The Birds traded him to the Atlanta Braves in November 1972 along with Pat Dobson, Davey Johnson, and Johnny Oates for Taylor Duncan and Earl Williams. He finished 1973 with a career-best 11 wins.
Overall, Harrison hit six career home runs, the last five for the Atlanta Braves. On June 14, 1974, he defeated Bob Gibson in a head-to-head match-up at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and went deep off of the future Hall of Famer. Harrison finished the ’74 game with a line similar to the one he posted in 1972: 1-for-3 with a sixth-inning home run.
On June 17, 2006, Kris Benson become the first Orioles pitcher since Harrison to hit a home run. Benson went deep off of Pedro Martinez in a 4-2 Birds win. Bobby Witt’s homer for the Rangers on June 30, 1997 was the first for an American League pitcher since Harrison’s shot.
Image source: Here.
Matt Taylor is author of the popular Baltimore Orioles’ sports blog Roar from 34 and is a regular contributor to Baltimore Sports Then and Now.