Grave Story: Charlie Harding (1891-1971)

Here lies Charlie Harding, whose sole appearance in the major leagues came as a relief pitcher for the Detroit Tigers on September 18, 1913. He was the second Tigers pitcher to make his first—and last— appearance in the majors that day.

Charles Harding was born on January 3, 1891 in Nashville, Tenn. His first year of professional ball came in 1913, when he started his career for the Winston-Salem Twins of the North Carolina State League. He achieved a 12-6 record with the Twins and was picked up by the Tigers to finish out the season. The Tigers were en route to a disappointing 6th-place finish, even with future Hall of Famers like Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford in the lineup. The Tigers went through 19 pitchers that season, including three others like Harding who appeared in their one and only MLB game for Detroit.

Erwin Renfer got the starting assignment for the Tigers on September 18 against the Washington Senators. He lasted 6 innings in his MLB debut, allowing 4 earned runs. He left the mound, never to return to the majors, and gave way to Harding. The Senators hit him hard in his 2 innings of work, but most of the line drives were right at Tigers fielders. The Detroit Free Press said he had little stuff and gave up a single, double and triple. He also walked a batter. He allowed just 1 run, thanks to some good defense behind him, leaving him with a 4.50 ERA.

Harding returned to the minor leagues in 1914 and won 16 games for the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association. He never quite reached the heights of his first two minor-league campaigns, though he was chosen as the pitcher of a Nashville All-Stars team in 1915. Durability seemed to be a problem. Harding stood 6’2” and weighed about 172 pounds. Reports were that he tired out in the later innings of the game and gave up sins due to tiring out. Harding bulked up to about 200 pounds for the 1915 season, but he was never much more than an average minor-leaguer again. Harding retired from baseball after 5 seasons, picking up a 57-52 record in the minors and a 2.82 ERA in 143 appearances. His last season was in 1917.

Harding returned to Nashville after his baseball career. He married Emma Hemmer on November 13, 1913, and they had a son, Charles Jr., one year and one day later. Thanks to the U.S. Census, we know he was employed as a bag cutter in a cotton mill in 1920, a plant foreman in 1930 and a porter at a rayon plant in 1940. Charlie Harding died on October 30, 1971 at the age of 80. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Nashville.

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