The Golden Greek — Harry Agganis

The Golden Greek 

 

Harry “the Golden Greek” Agganis, born Aristotle George Agganis in Lynn, Mass near Boston in 1920 grew up in Greek neighbourhood to immigrant parents.  He was a high school football stand out and all the great Catholic universities were after him with scholarship offers.  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.  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.  Tom Yawkey, owner of the Red Sox and Fenway Park, made this decision easier by agreeing to help out the Agganis homestead while Harry’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.  He was a 50-minute a game man playing quarterback, defensive back and participating on special teams.  He made All-American as a senior.  He helped turn around a laughable Terriers team into a solid contender that could compete with Big East teams.  All this time Agganis was playing college baseball and semi-pro ball in the off seasons.  Agganis took a year off from sports while at BU and was forced into the US Marine Corp.  He never went to Korea but he had to spend time away from his beloved Boston nonetheless.

In the early 1950’s American football was a college-boy game and the pro-game was just in its infancy.  That didn’t stop several NFL teams from pursuing Harry with big contracts upon his graduation from BU in 1953.  Harry again decided to stay close to his mother and sisters and signed with Tom Yawkey and the Boston Red Sox.  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. 

Agganis began his pro baseball career in Louisville of the American Association in 1953.  That season he established himself as a power threat with 23 homers and followed it up with 111 RBIs.  That was the end of the line in the minors and he started the 1954 season with the Red Sox.  Yawkey and Sox general manager Joe Cronin were hoping that Agganis’ 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.  He apparently had trouble with major league curveballs (this is a rookie who had been in competitive baseball for only one year mind you).  Nevertheless he was touted as the Red Sox starting first baseman.  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.  He was also able to reach the deep right-centre bleachers at Fenway that was usually only found by Ted Williams.  Williams, being a lefty and a fellow Marine, guided Agganis through his rookie season and into his sophomore year, which would be his last. 

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.  He spent 2 weeks in hospital before returning.  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.  

He returned to action in the spring of 1955 and played his last game at Comiskey Park, going 2-for-4 on 2 June.  Agganis was seen coughing and had to pull up running the bases.  He was not cured of his pneumonia and he was soon to be diagnosed with a case of phlebitis.  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.  His situation did not improve and he died in hospital from a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in his lungs) on June 27, 1955.  Mourners were estimated in the tens of thousands.  He was buried beside his father at a Boston cemetery.  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.  His physique was often described as, “a Golden Greek God”, thus, his nickname was derived but he was also charitable, loyal and thoughtful.  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.  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 “The Golden Greek” was dedicated at Boston University’s new Agganis Arena on Commonwealth Avenue across from the former site of Braves Field.  While a standout football star and a great baseball prospect BU hockey and basketball players now play in an arena with his namesake. 

Harry Agganis’ Major League Record
Year Ag Tm  Lg  G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG   TB  
+————–+—+—-+—-+—-+—+–+—+—-+—+–+—+—+—–+—–+—–+—-+—+—+—+—+—+
 1954 25 BOS AL 132  434   54  109  13  8  11   57   6  3  47  57  .251  .321  .394  171  
 1955 26 BOS AL  25   83   11   26  10  1   0   10   2  0  10  10  .313  .383  .458   38  
+————–+—+—-+—-+—-+—+–+—+—-+—+–+—+—+—–+—–+—–+—-+—+—+—+—+—+
 2 Seasons      157  517   65  135  23  9  11   67   8  3  57  67  .261  .331  .404  209  

 

Written By

  • He didn’t do much with the bat but he had a terrific eye for basically a young player with little baseball experience, drawing 47 walks to 57 strikeouts in 1953. Of course he slugged like a small girl, but his stats are still impressive when you consider he was basically a gate attraction.

  • Fine description of Harry Agganis the Golden Greek. But, her was not buried in a Boston Cemetary. He is buried in Pine Grove Cemetary in Lynn, Massachusetts. He was born in Lynn.

  • Harry Agganis was one of America’s greatest all around athlete’s. Here is a song about him.

    THE GOLDEN GREEK

    TIME WASHES AWAY PEOPLE WHO DEPART

    YOU WHO REMAIN CHERISH HEROES OF THE HEART

    THEY SELDOM GRACE EARTH BUT, NOT FOR LONG

    THE GOLDEN GREEK LIVES IN THIS SONG

    TOO MANY ATHLETES SPELL TEAM AS M-E

    THE GOLDEN GREEK KNEW TEAM MEANT ONLY WE

    THIS ALL AMERICAN TRULY STOOD APART

    THE GOLDEN GREEK WAS SIMPLY PURE OF HEART

    FOUR HUNDRED CHURCHES HONORED FOR FORTY DAYS

    THE MAN WHO TOUCHED MANY HEARTS IN SO MANY WAYS

    FIFTY THOUSAND SAID GOODBYE AS HIS CHURCH CHOIR

    SANG LOVE FOR THE MAN WHO SET THE SPORTS WORLD AFIRE

    CHORUS

    HARRY AGGANIS STIRRED HEART AND SOUL

    DID GOD TAKE HIM SO HE WOULD NEVER GROW OLD?

    HEROES LIVE FOREVER THOUGH HARRY DIED YOUNG

    THE SONG OF THE GOLDEN GREEK WILL ALWAYS BE SUNG

    THOUSANDS OF MARINES IN THE CAROLINA SUN

    NAMED A FIELD FOR THE MARINE WHO LEFT NO DEED UNDONE

    THE FIRST OLYMPIC HEROES WON OLIVE WREATHS

    HIS SILVER WREATH FROM THE KING AND QUEEN OF GREECE

    THE SEVENTH CHILD OF IMMIGRANTS BORN IN LYNN

    LEARNED PLAYING THE GAME RIGHT WAS THE WAY TO WIN

    HE HIT MAJOR LEAGUE PITCHING AT FOURTEEN YEARS OF AGE

    THEN WENT ON TO GLORY ON THE SPORTS PAGE

    THIS HALL OF FAMER SCRAMBLED FORTY YARDS FROM THE POCKET

    HE THREW FEATHER PASSES OR SHOTS LIKE A ROCKET

    THOUGH HE LOOKED AND PLAYED LIKE A GREEK GOD

    THIS FLESH AND BLOOD HERO WAS ONE WITH THE LORD

    REPEAT CHORUS

    HE GAVE TO THE POOR AND CHURCH, GIFTS HE RECEIVED

    HARRY LIVED THE GOLDEN RULE, AS HE BELIEVED

    HIS SMILE WARM AND BRIGHT LIKE SUNSHINE IN JULY

    WHY AT TWENTY-SIX DID THIS RED SOX STAR DIE?

    THE NFL PLAYED GAMES IN HONOR OF HIS NAME

    ALL FOR A MAN WHO NEVER PLAYED A PRO GAME

    HE PLANNED TO PLAY FOR THE SOX AND THE N-F-L

    WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN ONLY GOD CAN TELL

    THIS HERO OF THE HEART WAS LIKE NO OTHER

    HIS LAST WORDS: WERE “TAKE CARE OF MY MOTHER”

    IN THE PANTHEON OF SPORTS, THE GOLDEN GREEK REIGNS

    HIS MEM’RY GLOWING LIKE THE OLYMPIC FLAME

    Repeat last line and fade

    Written by Joe Pickering, Jr.

    C 2000

    Joe Pickering, Jr., President

    King of the Road Music

    13 Pond Street

    Bangor, ME 04401

    1-207-947-3525

  • Michael Casey

    As I do yearly, today I visited and laid flowers on my Grandparents gravestone at Pine Grove Cemetary in Lynn, MA. I always get so inspired when I glance across the way at the Harry Agganis Memorial Stone. I then walk over and mavel at all the beautiful flowers perfectly placed. The said time sets in after reading the stone writings and how young Harry really was when he died, but I leave with a smile on my face. My entire family was born and brought up in Lynn, and always told stories about Harry. My Dad new him personally and my oldest brother was a well known football player at Lynn English (Lynn Classical’s Rival). I am 53 and was only a year old when Harry died. But I get a chance each year to see him at Pine Grove in Lynn. God bless you Harry…….

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