Greg Harts (Trading Card Database)

Greg Harts

This article was written by Rory Costello

Greg Harts (Trading Card Database)Outfielder Greg Harts got into his only three big-league games with the New York Mets during the 1973 pennant race. The lefty was called up from Double-A and got a hit in two pinch-hit at-bats. His only other appearance came as a pinch-runner; he never played in the field in the majors.

Harts ran well and showed power in the low minors. He also had “the best left-handed throwing arm I’ve ever seen,” according to good friend and fellow outfielder Benny Ayala, who played at three levels with Harts from 1971 through 1974.1 Yet his career never took off. He played Triple-A ball for just 35 games in 1974, and his pro career was finished after a trial as a pitcher in 1975.

Information about Harts following his baseball days is very skimpy. Various questions remain open, as reaching him or any family members has not been possible.

* * *

Gregory Rudolph Harts was born on April 21, 1950, in Atlanta, Georgia, the eldest of the four children of Willie Harts and his wife Jean (née Savage). As of the 1950 census, the couple was still childless – though Jean would have been in advanced pregnancy – and residing as lodgers in an Atlanta home. Willie worked as a loader in a steel plant.

The family grew to include a brother named Douglas and two sisters named Constance and Harriette. Willie Harts died in Atlanta’s Veterans Hospital in March 1960, when young Greg was not quite 10 years old.2 It is not presently known how Jean (who died in 1991) supported her children after that.3 Nor do we have knowledge of Greg’s youth and how he came to baseball.

The Braves franchise in the National League moved from Milwaukee and began play in Atlanta with the 1966 season. It’s likely that the teenaged Harts became a fan of the club and its top star, Hank Aaron, although that is subject to confirmation. Before that, he may have followed Atlanta’s Triple-A club, the Crackers (that franchise moved to Richmond, Virginia, after the 1965 season).

Harts attended David T. Howard High School in Atlanta. This school for African Americans had many famous alumni, including Martin Luther King Jr., Maynard Jackson (Atlanta’s first Black mayor), and NBA star Walt Frazier. Harts played football at Howard but stood out in baseball.4 As a senior in 1968, he played first base, hitting .434. He also pitched, posting a 1.85 ERA.5 In one game he lost a one-hitter to future big-league starter Rick Waits of Atlanta’s Therrell High School.6

Harts went undrafted, however; nor did he attend college. Affordability may have been an issue – as of 1969, his family had no home telephone – though one may conjecture that a young man with his ability could have won a scholarship. Instead, however, he worked as a packer for R.J. Reynolds Foods.7 This could have been to help his family make ends meet.

Meanwhile, Harts played semipro ball with a team called the Atlanta Vikings. He credited two men for helping him to play professionally: Vikings manager Matthew Bell and Howard coach Ted Sparks.8 This was likely the same Ted Sparks who went to Morehouse College, the distinguished historically Black liberal arts school in Atlanta, and later scouted for the Braves.9

Harts, who stood six feet even and weighed 168 pounds, signed as a free agent with the Mets organization in late 1969. The scout was Julian Morgan10, who found a lot of talented players for the Mets over the years. The previous year, the club had drafted John Milner, from the Atlanta suburb of East Point, on Morgan’s recommendation.

Not long before, the “Amazin’ Mets” of 1969 had completed their improbable run to the World Series championship. Along the way, they beat Atlanta in the NL Championship Series. If indeed Harts was a Braves fan, one wonders if he had mixed emotions. Nonetheless, in August 1970 he called signing his greatest thrill in the game.11

Harts – who at some point acquired the nickname “Peanut Man”12 – began his pro career with Marion (Virginia) of the Appalachian League. The lefty swinger hit a mild .238 with two homers and 20 RBIs in 54 games. He also played five games for Pompano Beach in the Class A Florida State League.

For the 1971 season, the Mets assigned Harts to Visalia in another Class A circuit, the California League. He showed good power, with 19 homers in 128 games, and improved his average to .285. In the Florida Instructional League that fall, a sign of promise emerged when he was named to the Northern Division’s Managers’ All-Star squad.13

Harts earned promotion to Double-A Memphis to start 1972 but was sent back to Visalia in May. There he again displayed home-run sock with 18 in 107 games, while maintaining a .286 batting average. Another notable number for Harts from 1972 was his stolen-base total, which rose from 11 to 23. In late October, the Mets added him to their major-league roster.

Harts was in spring training with the big club in 1973, but he was one of the first two players reassigned to minor-league camp.14 He then returned to Memphis for his fourth pro season. His offensive production was down, with just seven homers – including one in a three-hit game against former 30-game winner Denny McLain, then a member of the Shreveport Captains.15 His steals dropped to eight. Nonetheless, Harts still made an impression on Texas League fans, who voted him onto the league’s All-Star squad in mid-August. The TL stars faced the Texas Rangers in a game that featured orange baseballs for a “little spice” (as league president Bobby Bragan put it).16 However, neither the players nor the fans had anything good to say about the alternate balls, which were used for just three innings.17

His average also slumped late in the season, but Harts did end at .263, with a boost from three hits on August 29 – again off Denny McLain, in his last professional pitching appearance.18

As late as August 30, the Mets were in last place in the National League East, but then they surged to an improbable division title and pennant. They recalled five players from the minors in September to take part in the exciting stretch drive.19 Harts was available after Memphis won the Texas League playoffs in mid-September. The transaction received only passing mention in the newspapers.

Harts got his only big-league hit in his debut on September 15. In the nightcap of a doubleheader versus the Chicago Cubs at Shea Stadium, he hit for pitcher Buzz Capra in the bottom of the fifth with the Mets trailing, 5-0. With two outs and nobody on, he singled to center off Rick Reuschel, who then retired Wayne Garrett en route to throwing a 10-hit shutout.

Two days later, at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium, Harts batted for reliever Ray Sadecki. Again it was the fifth inning, and again the Mets were trailing, this time 5-2. Bud Harrelson, who had tripled, was on third. Harts was unable to bring Harrelson in with his grounder to third baseman Richie Hebner. The Pirates went on to win, 10-3; at that point in the race, they were clinging to a razor-thin lead over the Montreal Expos in the “National League Least” – so called because all teams were struggling to get to or stay above the .500 mark.20

Harts made his last appearance in the majors at Shea on September 20. He had a chance to score the winning run when he ran for Duffy Dyer, who had doubled to tie the game with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Pirates reliever Ramón Hernández balked Harts to third. However, Hernández bore down and struck out Garrett to send it into extra innings. This game is best remembered for the remarkable play that took place in the top of the 13th inning, when Pittsburgh’s Dave Augustine hit a drive that looked like it would clear the left-field fence. Instead, it bounced off the top of the wall and right back into the hands of Cleon Jones, and Garrett’s relay throw nailed Richie Zisk at the plate to end the inning. The Mets then won it in their half of the 13th.

It would be quite interesting to know what it was like for Harts to be with the Mets during that pennant race – not to mention his views of teammate and fellow outfielder Willie Mays, as well as manager Yogi Berra and ace pitcher Tom Seaver.

Harts, who was not eligible for the postseason, took part in Florida Instructional League ball again that fall. “Baseball’s version of the Grand Canyon,” the Mets’ Miller Huggins Field in St. Petersburg, provided him with two inside-the-park homers within a week. It was 428 feet down the foul lines at the park.21

Harts climbed to Triple-A Tidewater to start the 1974 season. However, he got off to an icy 4-for-40 start at the plate and hit just .184 with two homers and 15 RBIs in 35 games. After the Tides brought up second baseman Rich Puig, Harts was sent back down to Class AA with Victoria in the Texas League. He said, “I’m not bitter about being sent down. I just want to start playing.”22

Upon arriving in Victoria, though, reportedly the first thing Harts asked was where he could buy some new record albums.23 On the field, he hit pretty well for the Toros (.278 with eight homers and 47 RBIs in 84 games). The Victoria Advocate also called him “shotgun-armed” after he threw out three runners at the plate in a stretch of four games in August, each at critical times.24

According to his Sporting News contract card, the Mets recalled Harts in mid-September. However, it’s not clear whether he actually joined the big club. Shortly after the big-league season ended in early October, New York assigned Harts outright to Tidewater.25

Despite his good hitting and outfield play, the Mets decided to put the southpaw on the mound in 1975. This came after starting the season on the disabled list. It appears that he was in extended spring training, because a report out of Victoria noted that he was in Florida as the conversion experiment proceeded.26

In early June, soon after the Victoria story appeared, Harts stepped down another level, back to Visalia. In 19 games, all in relief, he posted a 5.90 ERA in 29 innings. He lost both his decisions, but  he did pick up four saves. Although he struck out 32 men, he also walked 31 and threw four wild pitches. Perhaps because he was trying too hard to stay around the plate, he gave up four homers.

Harts was assigned to Double-A Jackson at the end of the ’75 season but was released in April 1976. His pro career then ended.

In the subsequent decades, as revealed by online searches, Harts has remained in the Atlanta area. His occupations are unknown. He married a woman named Joyce and had at least two children: a son named Jeremy and a daughter named Tanecia. Both played ball for Columbia High School in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur. Tanecia took part in softball (at first base).27 Jeremy was a third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the June 1998 draft.28 He played in the Pirates system through 2005, getting as high as Class AA. Like his father, he was an outfielder with a powerful lefty arm who was turned into a pitcher. Jeremy first took the mound as a pro in 2003, and the experiment to convert him began in earnest the next year. He could throw hard but was extremely wild, striking out 85 and walking 107 in 86 1/3 innings.

If Harts should ever grant an interview, these would be among the additional questions to pose:

  • Has he stayed involved with baseball in any way?
  • What is his comment on African Americans in baseball today?
  • What are his favorite memories?



This biography was reviewed by Gregory H. Wolf and Jan Finkel and fact-checked by Larry DeFillipo.

Continued thanks to Eric Costello for additional research.

Photo credit: Trading Card Database.



The Sporting News Baseball Players Contract Cards Collection, available at

William J. Weiss questionnaires were obtained via



1 E-mail from Benny Ayala to Rory Costello, November 17, 2018.

2 Willie Harts obituaries, Atlanta Constitution, March 30: 23 and April 1, 1960: 33 (the latter story spells the name of the brother as Douglass). Jean Harts obituary, Atlanta Constitution, July 19, 1991: 10.

3 Jean Harts obituary.

4 Greg Harts, New York Mets questionnaire, November 28, 1969.

5 Charlie Roberts, “Dugout’s to Cite 6 Tonight, Atlanta Constitution, May 31, 1968: 59.

6 “Hurlers Strikeouts in Prep,” Atlanta Constitution, May 8, 1968: 56. This story gave Harts’ name as “Gene.”

7 New York Mets questionnaire.

8 New York Mets questionnaire.

9 Sam Crenshaw, “Atlanta Braves to honor a black man — not Hank Aaron — who also helped lead the team to greatness,”, February 9, 2017 ( The subject of the article was Braves executive Bill Lucas.

10 Greg Harts, William J. Weiss questionnaire, August 15, 1970.

11 William J. Weiss questionnaire.

12 As noted on his Sporting News contract card. The reason for the nickname and who gave it to him are not clear.

13 Jack Ellison, “[Mac] Scarce, Womble: FIL’s Best,” The Sporting News, December 4, 1971: 53.

14 “Diamond Dust,” New York Daily News, March 23, 1973: 94.

15 Bill E. Burk, “Blues Open Lead Over Travelers,” Memphis Press-Scimitar, July 27, 1973: 16.

16 Harry King, “Texas League All-Star Tilt Has New Look,” Del Rio (Texas) News Herald, August 16, 1973: 7.

17 “Rangers Win, But Orange Ball Loses,” The Sporting News, September 1, 1973: 33.

18 Bill McIntyre, “Denny Can’t Do It; Blues Win Pennant,” Shreveport Times, August 30, 1973: D-1.McLain “was expected to go home” before Shreveport’s final series on the road. “Aces Open Final Series Tonight,” The Town Talk (Alexandria, Louisiana), September 1, 1973: 7.

19 Pitchers Craig Swan and Bob Apodaca, outfielder Dave Schneck, and second baseman Lute Barnes were also summoned. All of them had been playing for Triple-A Tidewater.

20 For more detail, see Rory Costello, September 17, 1973: Montreal Expos ‘stumble onto a pennant race’, SABR Games Project.

21 Jack Ellison, “Would You Believe Baltimore Yanks?” The Sporting News, November 3, 1973: 27.

22 “Int. Items,” The Sporting News, June 29, 1974: 36.

23 Dwight Rowin, “More Toro Tales,” Victoria (Texas) Advocate, June 16, 1974: 9.

24 Dwight Rowin, “Scoring Position?” Victoria Advocate, August 18, 1974: 9.

25 “Mets Appoint Farm Director,” New York Times, October 5, 1974: 24.

26 Cecil Parker, “‘We Know Those Guys!’”, Victoria Advocate, June 1, 1975: 9.

27 “Softball,” Atlanta Constitution, October 5, 2000: JA11.

28 Derrick Mahone, “Columbia’s Harts taken by Pirates,” Atlanta Journal, June 11, 1998: JA14.

Full Name

Gregory Rudolph Harts


April 21, 1950 at Atlanta, GA (USA)

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