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Chicago Cubs history: Harry Bright and the 1965 Cubs

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A career minor leaguer took his last major league swings with the Cubs.

Harry Bright (with Yogi Berra) as a Yankee in 1963
Photo by Herb Scharfman/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

1965 was another down year for the Cubs, who were saved from the worst record by struggling expansion teams. But a change in management midseason once again meant they were without the only leader who had given them a winning record in almost two decades.

It wasn’t an easy time to be a Cubs fan.

1965 Cubs

Record: 72-90
Standing: 8th in the National League
Managers: Bob Kennedy and Lou Klein

In what would be Bob Kennedy’s last season managing the Cubs, the team had yet another dismal year. Kennedy, it’s worth noting, would go on to become the first manager of the newly moved Oakland Athletics in 1968.

The only real glory of the Cubs season was the fact they managed to turn an amazing three triple plays over the course of the year. Billy Williams and Ron Santo had incredible seasons, but the team as a whole wasn’t able to make it over the .500 mark.

And for one 35-year-old utility player, it would mark the final season of his major league career.

Harry Bright

Harry Bright is one of those baseball names you would most certainly be forgiven for not immediately knowing. He got a late start in the majors, at age 28 after almost 12 years in the minors, and managed to play for six different teams over his eight year career. He played only a single season with the Cubs, and it was he last at the major league level. He appeared in 27 games as a pinch hitter for the Cubs in 1965, hitting .280/.269/.320.

Prior to his time with the Cubs he started his career with the Pirates, then the Washington Senators, the Reds, and then the Yankees, before finding his way to Chicago. What wasn’t apparent from his brief time in the minors was how hard he had worked to get there, taking the true minor league lifer path.

Bright started his professional baseball career at the age of 16, and ultimately spent over 20 seasons playing in the minors, appearing with at least 14 different teams. At age 22 he was player-manager of the Janesville (Wisconsin) Cubs, so he was no stranger to the Cubs organization even before playing for their major league club. After sending him away in 1953, they got him back in 1959 in the Rule 5 draft, only to send him back to the Pirates after spring training. Then after his playing days were over — he spent 1966 in the Cubs minor league system — he took over managing the Quincy (Illinois) Cubs in 1967.

As a man who was raised through adulthood in baseball, it was where he remained for the rest of his life, managing at various levels for multiple farm teams, and scouting for the Montreal Expos.

Bright also has the unusual distinction of being part of baseball history, when he was the victim of Sandy Koufax’s record 15th strikeout during the opening game of the 1963 World Series.

Harry Bright was most known in his managerial career for his love of the game, but the only thing that equalled his passion for baseball was his apparent loathing for umpires. While managing the Sacramento Solons, it was recounted that “once during a minor-league game he dropped his trousers and climbed a backstop to show his displeasure with a call.”

Bright lived and breathed baseball, ultimately passing away at the age of 70 after a long career doing just about every job in the sport from playing to managing to scouting.

While his time with the Cubs major league club was barely a blip, he was an integral part of their farm system for many years.