January 3, 1891: Charlie Harding
Born on this day 129 years ago today, Charlie Harding didn't have to wait long to reach the major leagues. At just 22 years old, he was given his shot with the 1913 Detroit Tigers. "Slim", as his teammates called him, earned that shot with Detroit after putting on a showcase in Class-D Ball with the North Carolina State League Winston-Salem Twins. In 131 innings on the mound there, he went 12-6 with a 2.89 ERA.
By late in the 1913 season, the 62-78 Tigers were well out of the pennant race and needed some September call ups to eat up innings for them over the remainder of the year. When the team took on the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium on September 18, Harding was waiting in the bullpen for his shot. Erwin Renfer started the game for Detroit and he figured to get some run support with legends Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford in the lineup. He got no such luck.
Renfer exited the game prior to the seventh inning after allowing five runs (four earned) and his Tigers trailed 5-1. It was under those circumstances that Slim was called into action. Facing the likes of Eddie Foster and Chick Gandil, Harding tossed an easy seventh inning, which kept the deficit at four. In the bottom of the eighth, the Senators did manage to scratch a run across and after the Tigers went quietly in the top of the ninth, that was all she wrote.
Harding finished with a stat line of 2 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K. As he walked off the mound that day, he had no way of knowing it would be the last time he would ever toe a big-league rubber. He spent the following season pitching for the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association and 16-16 with a 4.04 ERA. As his 20s wore on, he continued finding himself toiling in the minors.
His professional career sputtered to an end pitching in the Class-B Texas League Fort Worth Panthers. It was there he went just 1-1 in three appearances before he called it quits. He walked away at the age of 26, an entire life ahead of him, but without a full identity with the game he had played since boyhood now taken from him. Harding spent the next 54 years of his life fulfilling himself in ways outside of baseball and passed away in 1971 in Bold Spring, Tennessee not far from his hometown of Nashville.