Isiah Harris was a star lefthanded pitcher during the Negro Leagues' declining years in the 1950s. He was born and raised near Birdeye, AR, the oldest son of cotton farmer Robert Harris and Mabel (nee McDaniel) Harris.2 His baseball career may have begun in nearby Parkin, AR with the Parkin Blues during the 1940s.3 In 1949, he joined the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League, posting an impressive 8-3 record with a 2.93 ERA during his rookie season.4 As the league shrunk in the following years to six teams in 1952 and four teams in 1953 due to the integration of many black players into the white professional leagues, Harris became an increasingly valuable pitcher for the Red Sox. On August 12th, 1950, Harris pitched a no-hitter against the Kansas City Monarchs in Louisville, KY, striking out fourteen batters.5 Harris' best season came in 1954 when he went 13-5 with a 3.28 ERA and led the league in strikeouts with 130.6 He continued to play with Memphis through at least 1959.
In 1952, Harris was selected to his first East-West all-star classic, though he did not play in the game.7 He was subsequently selected to each of the following three East-West games, pitching for the West team in the 1953, 1954 and 1955 classics. Harris also barnstormed with the Negro American League All-Stars during the 1953-1954 and 1954-1955 offseasons.
Harris died on September 18th, 2001 in Memphis, TN, and was buried in Memorial Park in Memphis.8
"Curry, who is ranked as one of the best handlers of pitchers is credited with grooming Isaiah Harris as the "pitching find" of the 1949 campaign. The young Parkin, Ark., lefthander under the tutelage of Curry racked up 17 triumphs in 21 starts as a freshman hurler in the circuit. Harris, who is being scouted by the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs, also proved to be the strike out king of the league last season by averaging 12 per game and whiffing 18 batsmen on two different occasions."9
"Winding up the series was that sensational speed ball artist from Parkin, Arkansas Isiah Harris with a 3-1 victory. By the way, Harris gave up only one hit on Sunday and three hits on Thursday night with a total of four hits in 18 innings."10
"On the mound for the Sox is Lefty Harris, the Arkansas flash and for the Monarchs is Lefty Lamont, one of the toughest pictures to beat in the league. Hats off to Harris – all he did was pitched a no hit, no run game and struck out fourteen men and came out on top with a 1-0 victory. Yes Harris had to be on because the Kansas City lefty was tough enough. The fans almost mobbed Harris after the game but his team mates were on him first and I am sure he is yet sore from back slaps."11
"Another record was set by the Parkin lefty, Isiah Harris. His no-hit, no run victories over the Kansas City Monarchs and his four straight victories were tops in the pitching department."12
"Isiah Harris, 76, of Memphis, retired laborer from ADM Feed & Grain and former baseball player for the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro League, died Wednesday at Methodist Healthcare-Central of complications of diabetes. Services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday at Southern Funeral Home with burial in Memorial Park. Mr. Harris, the husband of Lula M. Harris, also leaves two daughters, Jerry Ann Jordan of Lancaster, Calif., and Georgia Mae Harris of Chicago; four brothers, James Harris, Letroy Harris, Robert Harris Jr., and Romy Lee Harris, all of Lorain, Ohio, and three grandchildren."13
The following are incomplete statistics compiled from official league totals.
1 Harris' WWII Draft Card.. Social Security Death Index gives Harris' birthdate at July 2nd.
4 1949 Negro American League statistics at Center for American League Baseball Research.
8 Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), 9/23/2001
13 Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), 9/23/2001