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Aristotle George Agganis (The Golden Greek)
Born on April 29th, 1929 in Lynn, Massachusetts
Died on June 27, 1955 in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Major League Debut: April 13, 1954
Final Game: June 2, 1955
Harry Agganis was the seventh child of Greek immigrants and his mother called him Ari, which eventually became Harry, the name he was known by.
At Lynn Classical High in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1967, there were 160,000 fans that attended the home games in the senior year of Agganis. The team even traveled to Miami to defeat Granby High of Norfolk, Virginia. General Bob Neyland of Tennessee who witnessed that game said of Agganis "That young man could step into any college backfield right now. While at Classical High he threw 48 touchdown passes and scored 24 touchdowns himself and kicked extra points.
Because he wanted to stay close to his mom, he attended Boston University despite being courted by 75 colleges. Frank Leahy, the famous Notre Dame coach, called Agganis "the finest prospect he had ever seen". He was so well known that when he played his first freshman game against Holy Cross that 18,000 fans showed up to see him play. He missed the 1950 season serving the country during the Korean War, but never went to Korea.
Agganis was a classic two way player in college, playing both baseball and football; he played quarterback, defensive back and punter. He had a 46.5 average as a punter and intercepted 15 passes one season. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.
After finishing at Boston University, he was drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns, who offered him a $20,000 to sign with them. However, Tom Yawkey, the Red Sox owner at that time, offered him $35,000 to sign; therefore, Agganis signed with the Red Sox.
In 1954, he made his Major League debut with the Boston Red Sox. He hit 11 home runs and drove in 57 runs while hitting .251. It wasn't a great year, but for a first year in the majors it was a good season.
Next year, he started hitting and was hitting .313 when he died. On June 2, 1955, he could only make it to second on what should have been a triple since he was exhausted. He was sick on the train that night and he was rushed back to Boston where he found out he was diagnosed with pneumonia and phlebitis.
On June 27th, he died of a massive pulmonary embolism. Agganis was dead at the age of 26. 30,000 mourners attended his wake and 20,000 lined the streets as his funeral procession passed.
A portrait of Agganis is in the Hall of Fame. If he had lived, he may have had a plaque hanging on the wall since his work ethic would have probably landed him in the Hall of Fame.
He batted 517 times total in his two seasons, which is about how many times a player bats in one season. He had 11 home runs and 67 RBI's. His second year's average of .313 was a 62 point improvement from his 1954 season.
In 2005, Boston University opened their new basketball and hockey arena in honor of Agganis, which is called Agganis Arena.
Although most of the accomplishments Agganis made were on the gridiron he was ready to make his mark on the baseball diamond as his life ended prematurely 53 years ago.
For those interested in reading even more about Agganis:
The following article is about baseball players who died premature deaths: