Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride

A funny thing happened to Lenny Harris on the way to the major league record books. Like every young player who makes the major leagues, he knew he would be a regular but when fate, in the form of Tommy Lasorda, interceded, he parlayed solid talent and great concentration into a 19-year major league record and a pinch-hitting record that will stand for a good long time.

Harris was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds and made The Show in 1988 but it was with the Dodgers at age 25 his path started to take a different path.

Starting at third base for the Dodgers, Harris had a day off and Mike Sharperson took his place. Late in the game, Lasorda called on Harris to pinch-hit and his single knocked in the winning run.

"The next thing you know," Harris said, "Lasorda started making a habit of it. I'm like 'Hell, no" but here it was. All of a sudden Lasorda was saying 'play short' and play second' and the next thing you know, I'm not a regular any more and I came to play baseball."

Play baseball he did, quite regularly, but not as a 'regular' in one position. In face, he would never play over 100 games at a single position, save 1991 when he was at third base 113 times, but he would, during his career, play over 100 games at second, third, right and left field.

And during his soon-to-become 19th season, he would play first base, second base, shortstop, third base, right field, left field, center field, pitch (one scoreless inning for Cincinnati in 1998) and DH.

He probably never caught because no one asked him.

Dodger coach Manny Mota, who helped Harris during his time in Los Angeles, said, "I know it is more mental than physical. You need to be mentally prepared knowing you are not going to be playing every day. You need to go up to the plate when you're pinch-hitting and make contact -- then you've got a chance."

And go up to the plate and make contact Harris did, over and over again.

Collecting 200 hits is a bench-mark in major league baseball and Harris did just that, although they were pinch-hits, and it has earned him a major league record -- 212 and counting -- passing his mentor Manny Mota who is second on the list with 150.

The Dodgers swapped Harris to Cincinnati on July 18, 1989 along with RHP Tim Leary and 2B-SS Mariano Duncan for slugging outfielder Kal Daniels.

The Harris express just kept rolling along, making stops in Colorado, Arizona, New York, Milwaukee, Chicago and finally Florida, playing a little here and a little there and always taking a tough bat to the plate in a pinch.

The thought a little about retiring in 2003 but changed his mind and will open his 19th major league spring training with the Marlins soon.

"When I feel that I can no longer get it done, then I won't even call around ask for a job anymore. I'll go out the same way I came in -- quiet. I don't need a big parade when I go away from baseball."

But until then he will keep doing what he has been doing so well for so many years. And while he has never been a regular regular, he must think some times about the other real regulars who played with and against him but are now in some other profession.

And I'll bet he isn't even mad at Lasorda anymore.