At this point in his life, St. Joseph resident Terry Harrington can only sit back and watch the game he loves.
“My dad loved the Cardinals and he was always watching the Cardinals,” Harrington said. “In the Khoury League, they paid for us to go down to what used to be called Sportsman Park, the first ballpark they had in St. Louis.”
From a young age, Harrington was obsessed with baseball and growing up, he had two family members to look up to.
“My dad and uncle played on Negro teams,” Harrington said. “Dad played on a team in Missouri around home near Mexico, Missouri and my uncle played on a team over in Springfield, Illinois. They were both pitchers, so my dad taught me how to pitch.”
Being a Cardinals fan, Harrington’s dream was to be a big leaguer one day and at 8-years old, he was ahead of the curve. In his pitching repertoire, he had a fastball, knuckleball, curveball, screwball, and drop ball. By his senior year of high school at Wellsville-Middletown R-1, his dream of playing professional baseball was within reach.
“I went to a Cardinals tryout and they wanted me to go to Smith-Cotton College to pitch for one year and then they were going to put me in the draft,” Harrington said. “My sister-in-law took me to Chesterville, Missouri for a Minnesota Twins tryout and I had just pitched the Sunday before and they asked how I did. I told them I had 17 strikeouts, so that Monday morning, they called my mom and dad asking if I would be interested in signing a contract.”
Harrington moved to Sarasota, Florida to begin his career, but his career ended before it could ever take off.
“I was down there for about two and a half months and my arm was really hurt because throwing curveballs and those were my main pitches,” Harrington said. “My elbow was swelling up all the time, so I was released by the Twins.”
Harrington’s professional career ended prematurely, but he moved back to Missouri and found his next calling. He moved to Columbia, Missouri and joined the United States Air Force.
“I went through basic training,” Harrington said. “I went into law enforcement in the Air Force and got stationed in Illinois and then ended up going to Turkey.”
He’s spent time all across the world, including time in Germany and Turkey. He event got to continue his baseball career while stationed in Germany.
He spent 12 years in the United Air Force from 1971 until 1983, before becoming a deputy sheriff in Montgomery County, Missouri until 1984.
Harrington’s life changed when he had back surgery, which left him disabled on his right side with nerve damage.
In 2004, Harrington made another life-altering decision. He moved to St. Joseph, but his first few years in town were a challenge.
“When I came to St. Joe, I was homeless and had no where to stay,” Harrington said. “I stayed at the Red Cross, but I stayed at the Salvation Army, and the Juda House for six months and got myself together. I felt like I was to get out on my own and I did.”
Before Monday night’s Mustangs game, the organization honored Harrington as one their neighborhood heroes.
“He is the definition of a hero with all the different things he has done to help other people,” Mustangs General Manager Ky Turner said. “He’s always putting others first, very selfless individual, and we’re happy to the have the opportunity to honor him before our game on July 4th.”
Despite his career ending almost 40 years ago, Harrington will always have the memories of meeting Satchel Paige, Buck O’Neal, and many more Hall of Fame players.