#Shortstops: Football careers for baseball fans
Today, thanks to the generosity of its donor, it’s a part of forever at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Upon its green canvas-bound cover, measuring 5 ¼ by 8 inches, is handwritten in block letters “Baseball 1948,” while inside there are approximately 100 lined pages. “Manufactured by U.S. Government Printing Office” in small type on the first page suggests it was to be used for recording information for the armed forces. But as any fan of the National Pastime who might thumb through its marked up pages would quickly realize, this was not used for military purposes.
The 79-year-old Accorsi, born and raised in Hershey, Pa., served as the general manager of the NFL’s New York Giants from 1998 until he retired after the 2006 season. The 1963 graduate of Wake Forest University had previously been GM for both the Baltimore Colts (1982-83) and Cleveland Browns (1985-92).
After college, Accorsi wrote to every baseball club but received no job offers. Eventually he landed a position in the sports department of the Charlotte News, where one of his first assignments was interviewing Archibald “Moonlight” Graham.
Graham, a former Charlotte minor leaguer in town for a reunion, would later be portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the beloved 1989 film Field of Dreams.
Accorsi would land his first NFL job in 1970 as the Colts’ public relations director. In 1994, after working in almost every phase of football operations, he took a job with the Baltimore Orioles as the team’s executive director of business affairs. A few months later he was back in football as assistant GM of the New York Giants.
“When I came to work under Giants general manager George Young, Harry was the assistant general manager. And I remember telling George, ‘I’m not coming here if you fire Harry Hulmes.’ So he kept Harry Hulmes,” Accorsi said. “And Harry stayed after I retired.
“When I took over from George Young as Giants general manager, Harry walks into the office and he sort of mumbled, he kind of talked into his tie knot. Finally I said, ‘Harry, what are you trying to say?’” Accorsi remembered. “Harry said, ‘You don’t have to keep me.’ I said, ‘Harry, let me tell you something. There is no way you’re going anywhere. Now get out of my office.’ But that was Harry.”
The two longtime friends and colleagues also shared a secret that they never talked about publicly.
“We spent our entire lives – and between the two of us probably 90 years in the NFL – with baseball being our true love,” said Accorsi, involved in the Hall of Fame’s membership program since 2005. “Harry was the quintessential Phillies fan. He was a fanatic. His father worked in a warehouse overlooking Baker Bowl on Lehigh Avenue and Broad Street and he couldn’t see the outfielders but he could see into the game. Harry would go with his dad and sit at the window and watch the games.
“One of Harry’s children is even named Richie after Richie Ashburn.”
As for Accorsi, he said, “I feel almost religiously connected to the sport through my dad,” echoing a common refrain involving fathers, sons and the game. “There is a reverence that I have for baseball where I just want to be part of anything having to do with it.”
Accorsi was hooked by the time he saw his first game in person, a 1950 doubleheader in Philadelphia in which Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson stole home.
Hulmes’ widow, Barbara, added how meaningful the Hall of Fame donation experience has been for the entire family.
“If Harry only knew that in some little way he made the Baseball Hall of Fame,” she said. “He’ll never get into Canton on his merits, but if he knew that in some small way that his name would be in Cooperstown it would just mean the world to him.
“Harry would be so proud and happy that his logbook from so many years ago would be housed in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He loved baseball very much and followed it meticulously every day of his life, especially his beloved Phillies. This has made me and the children very happy and I know he’s smiling down on us.”
Accorsi aptly summed up the story of two football men who loved baseball and a special artifact now a part of the Baseball Hall of Fame permanent collection that represented their longtime friendship.
“Baseball is more of a way of life than football because it’s every day. It’s so long and you live it every day,” he said. “Plus, if you’re my age, baseball was the sport. We all grew up worshipping baseball.
“And Harry would just be blown away if he knew this.”
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum