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Melvin Leroy Harder (October 15 1909October 20 2002), nicknamed "Chief", was an Americanmarker right-handed starting pitcher and coach in Major League Baseball who played his entire career with the Cleveland Indians. He spent 36 seasons overall with the Indians, as a player from 1928 to 1947 and as one of the game's most highly regarded pitching coaches from 1949-63. He set franchise records for wins (223), games started (433) and innings pitched (3426-1/3) which were later broken by Bob Feller, and still holds the club record of 582 career games pitched; he was among the American League's career leaders in wins (9th), games (8th) and starts (10th) when he retired. He was also an excellent fielder, leading the AL in putouts four times, then a record.


Harder was born in Beemer, Nebraskamarker and graduated from Tech High Schoolmarker in North Omaha, Nebraska. He broke in with the Indians as a relief pitcher in . His pitching style revolved around his fine curveball, a hard fastball and excellent control. He joined the starting rotation in 1930, and posted a record of 39-37 from 1930 to 1932; on July 31, , he pitched the first game ever at Cleveland Municipal Stadiummarker. In he finished second in the AL with an earned run average of 2.95, trailing teammate Monte Pearson (2.33); under modern rules (one inning pitched per games played by team), enacted in 1951, Harder would have been credited with the league lead, as Pearson only pitched 135 innings. In he finished with 20 wins, led the league with six shutouts, and was again second in ERA (2.61) to Lefty Gómez. In he was second to Wes Ferrell in wins (22) and innings (287-1/3), and was fifth in the AL with a 3.29 ERA. After developing a sore elbow and bursitis in his shoulder, he won at least fifteen games each season from 1936 to 1939; he led the AL in putouts in 1932, 1933, 1935 and .

Harder was one of the most successful All-Stars of the 1930s, appearing in all four games from 1934 to 1937 and setting a record with 13 consecutive innings without an earned run. He won the 1934 All-Star game after relieving Red Ruffing with none out and two men on in the fifth inning, with an 8-6 lead; one run scored on a double steal, but Harder allowed only one hit in his five innings as the AL won 9-7. He earned a save in the 1935 game, pitching three scoreless innings to finish a 4-1 victory, and another in with three shutout innings in the 8-3 win; he also finished the 4-3 loss played at Cleveland in with two innings.

In 1940 he posted a 12-11 record as the Indians finished one game behind the pennant-winning Detroit Tigers, wasting an early September lead amid clubhouse rancor; it would be the only season in his career in which the Indians came within ten games of the AL flag. After several more years in which his record hovered near .500, earning his 200th victory in , Harder ended his career in with 1160 strikeouts and a 3.80 ERA. In addition to his 223 victories, his 186 losses remain a club record. Ironically, the Indians won the World Series the year after he retired, and the year before he returned as pitching coach.

From 1949 into the 1950s he guided what became known as the Indians' "Big Four" pitching rotation, featuring Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia; Harder had successfully transformed Lemon from an infielder into a top pitcher while working with him in the mid-1940s, and he taught Wynn the breaking ball and changeup. In 1953 Lemon tied Harder's record by leading the AL in putouts for the fourth time, and he broke the record the following year as the Indians won another pennant but lost to the underdog New York Giants in the World Series. Herb Score was named the AL's Rookie of the Year in after Harder helped to develop his curveball. During his coaching career, Harder served as interim manager of the Indians for the last game of the season and the last two games of , winning all three contests. Before leaving the team after the 1963 campaign, such prominent young pitchers as Sam McDowell, Tommy John and Luis Tiant would come under his guidance. He later coached with the New York Mets (1964), Chicago Cubs (1965), Cincinnati Reds (1966-68) and Kansas City Royals (1969).

Cleveland retired his pitching uniform number 18 in (he wore 43 and 2 as a coach), and he was named one of the Indians' top 100 players. in 2001. Harder died in Chardon, Ohiomarker at age 93; at the time of his death he had been one of only five living players who had played in the 1920s.


  • Only pitcher to work ten or more All-Star innings without allowing an earned run
  • Only man in major league history to have both twenty-year playing and coaching careers
  • Only Walter Johnson and Ted Lyons pitched more seasons with one club


  • Joe DiMaggio recalled that he had more difficulty batting against Harder than against just about any other pitcher. DiMaggio batted only .180 lifetime against him, striking out three times in one game in 1940.
  • He was the only man to play twenty seasons for one franchise who is not an active player, in the Hall of Famemarker, or on the Hall of Fame ballot.
  • He threw the first pitch ever thrown at Cleveland Municipal Stadiummarker in a 1932 game, and the last pitch there as well in ceremonies after the final game of the 1993 season before the Indians moved to Jacobs Fieldmarker.

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