Atlanta Braves Top 10 Managers in History: #10 – Lum Harris
Close, but no cigar.
The chase for the division title took a toll on the Braves and running into Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, and the miracle Mets proved too much. If the manager of the year award existed in 1969, Harris might well have finished near the top just as Brian Snitker did in 2022.
The Atlanta Braves lineup got old fast in 1970, and the team sank to a ninth-place finish. New blood revitalized the lineup a bit in 1971, and they climbed above .500 to finish third.
The Braves never got going in 1972; they were 10 games back on July 1, 12.5 games back on August 1, and 16 Games back when they replaced Lum Harris with Eddie Mathews.
Earlier in the season, writers ask Harris about the potential of getting fired.
"The way I look at it, there’s only one letter difference between hire and fire. I’ll tell you this. I don’t know what I or anyone else could do differently. When people who have proved they are good pitchers lose their stuff, when people make mistakes out on the field, or when fellows you know can hit don’t, there isn’t much anyone can do but sit on the bench and squirm."
Harris managed the Braves for parts of six seasons and led them to their first postseason-type series since 1959. He finished with a 379-373-2 record and a .504 W/L%.
Atlanta was Harris’ last job in baseball.
"Atlanta Constitution writer Wayne Minshew recalled, “The last thing Luman said to me was, ‘I’m going to my farm in Birmingham and I’m never leaving.’ And he was true to his word right up until the day he died.”"
It was a sad parting for Harris, Old friend Eddie Robinson replaced Paul Richards as GM and had the job of telling Harris he was fired. Harris never spoke to him again; Richards and Harris didn’t speak for years but eventually reconciled. Harris died on November 11, 1996, at the age of 81.
That’s a wrap
Sometimes fans forget what a manager did for the team after a couple of years when the club doesn’t reach the same peak. Harris took over an aging, injury-prone team, and with a roster that included only four players with an OPS over .700, led them to a divisional title and a chance at a trip to the World Series.
He didn’t sign the players or make the trades; Like all modern managers, he did the best he could with the players available. He wasn’t a perfect manager, but no one is, and tenth place on the list of a 152-year-old franchise is pretty good work.