The Golden GreekÂ
Harry â€œthe Golden Greekâ€ Agganis, born Aristotle George Agganis in Lynn, Mass near Boston in 1920 grew up in Greek neighbourhood to immigrant parents.Â He was a high school football stand out and all the great Catholic universities were after him with scholarship offers.Â He refused Notre Dame and Boston College and settled for Boston University, a school not known for its football program but close to the Agganis family home.
One influencing factor on why Harry decided to stay in Boston was his father had died when he was 17, leaving his mother and sisters in the lurch.Â This decision paid off for Agganis and with this choice he began to develop his character legacy as he would often show a respect for his roots, community are and where he was most needed and wanted.Â Tom Yawkey, owner of the Red Sox and Fenway Park, made this decision easier by agreeing to help out the Agganis homestead while Harryâ€™s celebrity filled Fenway (where the BU Terriers played at this time).
Throughout high school and college Agganis drew crowds and attention due to his gridiron play.Â He was a 50-minute a game man playing quarterback, defensive back and participating on special teams.Â He made All-American as a senior.Â He helped turn around a laughable Terriers team into a solid contender that could compete with Big East teams.Â All this time Agganis was playing college baseball and semi-pro ball in the off seasons.Â Agganis took a year off from sports while at BU and was forced into the US Marine Corp.Â He never went to Korea but he had to spend time away from his beloved Boston nonetheless.
In the early 1950â€™s American football was a college-boy game and the pro-game was just in its infancy.Â That didnâ€™t stop several NFL teams from pursuing Harry with big contracts upon his graduation from BU in 1953.Â Harry again decided to stay close to his mother and sisters and signed with Tom Yawkey and the Boston Red Sox.Â Harry was already in his mid-twenties and had not played competitive baseball since his high school years but his pure athleticism (he was 6-2 and topped the scales at 210lbs) would allow him to pursue any sport he wished.Â
Agganis began his pro baseball career in Louisville of the American Association in 1953.Â That season he established himself as a power threat with 23 homers and followed it up with 111 RBIs.Â That was the end of the line in the minors and he started the 1954 season with the Red Sox.Â Yawkey and Sox general manager Joe Cronin were hoping that Agganisâ€™ celebrity and his ability to fill Fenway tossing the pigskin would carry over and would fill the seats knocking a white ball around.
He had a decent rookie year and performed well for the Red Sox.Â He apparently had trouble with major league curveballs (this is a rookie who had been in competitive baseball for only one year mind you).Â Nevertheless he was touted as the Red Sox starting first baseman.Â He was extremely strong; being a left-hander he was able to go-the-other way and put homers over the Green Monster or off the wall.Â He was also able to reach the deep right-centre bleachers at Fenway that was usually only found by Ted Williams.Â Williams, being a lefty and a fellow Marine, guided Agganis through his rookie season and into his sophomore year, which would be his last.Â
His 1955 season was off to a stellar start before he was stricken with pneumonia and forced to the sidelines and a stay in hospital.Â He spent 2 weeks in hospital before returning.Â The city of Boston and especially the Greek Community was worried about their beloved native sports hero and he may have forced himself back as a result of this before he was ready.Â Â
He returned to action in the spring of 1955 and played his last game at Comiskey Park, going 2-for-4 on 2 June.Â Agganis was seen coughing and had to pull up running the bases.Â He was not cured of his pneumonia and he was soon to be diagnosed with a case of phlebitis.Â He promptly returned to Boston and went straight to the hospital.
Agganis did not do well in the hospital and he was forced to retire for the year.Â His situation did not improve and he died in hospital from a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in his lungs) on June 27, 1955.Â Mourners were estimated in the tens of thousands.Â He was buried beside his father at a Boston cemetery.Â Harry was 26.
The City, Boston University, the Red Sox and especially the Greek Community in Lynn were aghast and saddened by the sudden death of their healthy, handsome specimen of home grown athleticism.Â His physique was often described as, â€œa Golden Greek Godâ€, thus, his nickname was derived but he was also charitable, loyal and thoughtful.Â His legacy is not left only in sports but his personality will live with Bostonians for decades to come.
Harry was well known for his charity.Â He would routinely donate money that he raised at many events at BU or within the Greek Community to sports programs in the Boston area and even in his parents hometown in Greece.
Agganis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.
A golden effigy with Agganis in a classic football pose with the caption â€œThe Golden Greekâ€ was dedicated at Boston Universityâ€™s new Agganis Arena on Commonwealth Avenue across from the former site of Braves Field.Â While a standout football star and a great baseball prospect BU hockey and basketball players now play in an arena with his namesake.Â
Harry Agganisâ€™ Major League Record
Year Ag TmÂ LgÂ GÂ Â ABÂ Â Â RÂ Â Â HÂ Â 2B 3BÂ HRÂ RBIÂ SB CSÂ BBÂ SOÂ Â BAÂ Â OBPÂ Â SLGÂ Â TBÂ Â
Â 1954 25 BOS AL 132Â 434Â Â 54Â 109Â 13Â 8Â 11Â Â 57Â Â 6Â 3Â 47Â 57Â .251Â .321Â .394Â 171Â Â
Â 1955 26 BOS ALÂ 25Â Â 83Â Â 11Â Â 26Â 10Â 1Â Â 0Â Â 10Â Â 2Â 0Â 10Â 10Â .313Â .383Â .458Â Â 38Â Â
Â 2 SeasonsÂ Â Â Â Â 157Â 517Â Â 65Â 135Â 23Â 9Â 11Â Â 67Â Â 8Â 3Â 57Â 67Â .261Â .331Â .404Â 209Â Â