Thursday, May 31, 2012

'56 of the month: Harry Chiti

OK, let's start with the name.

Many people want to pronounce this poor, poor man's name "Harry Shytie."

It's not pronounced "Shytie."

Others want to pronounce it "Sh*tty."

(What a sh*tty thing to do).

It's definitely not pronounced "sh*tty."

Harry Chiti's name is pronounced "chee-tee."

Pretend that you are a flunkie in class and the only way you are possibly going to pass a test is by looking over the shoulder of the egghead in front of you.

You are the "cheater."

Egghead is the "chee-tee."

Harry Chee-tee.

Chiti played for poor teams his entire career. Signed by the Cubs as a free agent in 1950, he played for Chicago from 1950-52, left the Cubs for two years to serve in the Army (no truth to the rumor that he left willingly), and returned to the Cubs for 1955 and 1956. The Cubs finished no better than fifth during his stay in Chicago.

He then went to the Kansas City A's, and played on teams that finished seventh, seventh and eighth. After that it was Detroit, where the Tigers finished 6th in 1960. The Tigers were second in '61, but Chiti spent all but five games in the minors that year.

Then, the final indignity. He played for the 1962 expansion Mets.

The Mets acquired Chiti from the Indians in a swap for cash on April 26, 1962. Chiti played 15 games for the Mets, hit .195, the Mets said "never mind" and returned Chiti back to the Indians.

He is famously considered the first player ever traded for himself, although I don't know if that's totally true.

But baseball stories are more fun if players get traded for themselves and when their names are pronounced "Sh*tty," aren't they?

There's a famous saying in journalism, "never let the facts get in the way of a good story."

It's used as a way for editors to criticize overzealous writers who are so eager for a scoop that sometimes the facts don't add up.

I think we're all guilty of doing that, especially when telling tall stories about baseball players who have been dead for 10 years.

Babe Ruth did not call his shot in the 1932 World Series.
Jackie Robinson was not the first black player to compete in the major leagues.
Bill Buckner's error did not blow the Red Sox's lead in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

But before I totally kill romance in baseball history, let me underline the fact that Chiti WAS rejected by the 1962 New York Mets, one of the worst teams of all-time. After 15 games, the Mets said, "please take him back." Chiti would never play in the major leagues after that.

And Chiti DID play for all those horrible teams. He was actually dealt to the Yankees from the Cubs, but the A's made sure he didn't play for anyone THAT good and acquired him in the Rule 5 draft.

So, there you go. Wacky things really did happen to Chiti during his baseball career.

You might even say "sh*tty" things.

Just don't call Harry that.

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