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Agganis, Harry (The Golden Greek)

Born: 1930

Baseball Player,
Born in Lynn, MA, US

Harry AgganisBorn Aristotle George Agganis in Lynn, Massachusetts, on April 30, 1930, Harry Agganis was the seventh and last child of George and Georgia Agganis, immigrants from the village of Loggonike in Sparta, Greece. Harry's mother called him "Ari" and over the years this nickname became Americanized to "Harry" by his friends. Later on, Harry was affectionately known as "The Golden Greek" in recognition of both his proud heritage and outstanding athletic achievements.

By 1948, Harry was a football, basketball, and baseball phenomenon at Lynn Classical High School; seventy-five colleges including Notre Dame tried to recruit the young sensation. Harry's mother-with whom Harry was close-had been widowed in 1946, and Harry wanted to attend a college that allowed him to stay near her while he pursued his academic and athletic goals. Boston University was a perfect fit.

Agganis more than fulfilled his athletic promise while attending Boston University, winning awards for his exploits on both the gridiron and the diamond. After his sophomore year, Harry's collegiate career was put on hold when he was activated for the Korean War; he ultimately served 15 months in the Marine Corps in 1950-51. Never called to Korea, Harry spent his service time at Camp LeJuene in North Carolina, where he played football and baseball and was named Most Valuable Player of the National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita, Kansas.

Harry Agganis with a Red Sox fanHarry resumed his collegiate career in 1952 without missing a beat-on the diamond, his batting average soared to .322 for the season; on the gridiron, he played both offense and defense and also handled kicking duties. An All-American quarterback, he left BU holding school records for passing yardage, touchdown passes, punting average, and interceptions.

Harry had long dreamed of becoming a professional athlete; it was simply a matter of choosing which sport to play. As a junior, he turned down a lucrative offer to play football as the number one draft choice of the Cleveland Browns, opting instead to play baseball for the Boston Red Sox as the team's starting first baseman. A left-handed batter, Harry quickly became Boston's best hitter, achieving an impressive .313 batting average. One memorable Sunday in June 1954, he hit a home run at Fenway Park, and then raced up Commonwealth Avenue to receive his Boston University degree.

Sadly, a vibrant young life and a promising future were cut tragically short on June 27, 1955, when Harry Agganis died of a massive pulmonary embolism at the age of twenty-five. His legend endures nearly fifty years later, particularly at Boston University and in Boston's thriving Greek-American community. The athletic stadium at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, a public square in his hometown of Lynn, a street on BU's Charles River Campus, and a BU scholarship are all named in his honor. "The Golden Greek" is also memorialized at the Sports Museum of New England at Boston's Fleet Center. Boston University is proud of the new Agganis Arena in the Student Village, the most recent tribute to this extraordinary individual who left us far too soon.

Mr. Joe Pickering Jr. wrote a CD called Baseball Songs Sports Heroes which has been accepted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The very first song on the CD is written for his sports hero Harry Agganis, The Golden Greek.

The Golden Greek

Time washes away people who depart
You who remain cherish heroes of the heart
They seldom grace earth but, not for long
The Golden Greek lives in this song

Too many athletes spell team as m-e
The Golden Greek knew team meant only we
This All American truly stood apart
The Golden greek was simply pure of heart

Four hundred churches honored for forty days
The man who touched many hearts in so many ways
Fifty thousand said goodbye as his church choir
sang love for the man who set the sports world afire

Chorus

Harry Agganis stirred heart and soul
Did God take him so he would never grow old?
Heroes live forever though Harry died young
the song of the Golden Greek will always be sung

Thousands of Marines in the Carolina sun
named a field for the Marine who left no deed undone
The first Olympic heros won olive wreaths
His Silver Wreath from the King and Queen of Greece

The seventh child of immigrants born in Lynn
learned playing the game right was the way to win
He hit major league pitching at fourteen years of age
then went on to glory on the sports page

This Hall of Famer scrambled forty yards from the pocket
He threw feather passes or shots like a rocket
Though he looked and played like a greek god,
this flesh and blood hero was one with the Lord

Repeat Chorus


He gave to the poor and church, gifts he received
Harry lived the Golden Rule, as he believed
His smile warm and bright like sunshine in July
Why at twenty-six did this Red Sox star die?

The NFL played games in honor of his name
All for a man who never played a pro game
He planned to play for the Sox and the N-F-L
What might have been only God can tell

This Hero of the Heart was like no other
His last words were "take care of my mother."
In the pantheon of sports the Golden Greek reigns
His mem'ry glowing like the Olympic Flame

Repeat last line and fade

Sound clip

Songwriter Joe Pickering Jr. - http://www.kingoftheroadmusic.com/
King of the Road Music BMI C 2000

 




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