“When I received the news that I was being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, I was at a loss for words. I am proud and honoured to have my name added to a list that includes so many great people who have had such a positive impact on baseball in Canada. I’m so grateful to all the people who helped and supported me along the way, and I’m looking forward to the induction weekend in St Marys this summer.”
Born in Victoria, B.C. in 1981, Rich Harden honed his pitching skills in the Layritz Little League and with the Victoria Mariners of the B.C. Premier Baseball League.
Out of high school, the young right-hander was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 38th round of the 1999 MLB draft, but he declined to sign. He re-entered the draft in 2000 and was chosen in the 17th round by the Oakland A’s. However, before signing with the A’s on May 18, 2001, he dominated for a season with Central Arizona College, going 11-2 with a 2.14 ERA in 18 games, striking out 127 batters in 96 2/3 innings
Harden began his professional career close to home with the Class-A Short-Season Vancouver Canadians, posting a 3.39 ERA in 18 games in 2001. But he’d enjoy a breakout campaign the ensuing year when he went a combined 12-6 with a 2.94 ERA, while striking out 187 batters in 153 innings in 28 starts between High-A and Double-A. His efforts earned him the A’s Minor League Player of the Year award and helped him land the starting nod for the World Team in the Futures Game the following year.
He’d make his major league debut on July 21, 2003 and permit just one run on four hits in seven innings against the Kansas City Royals in a 6-1 A’s victory. From there, Harden became a mainstay in the A’s rotation for the next two seasons. After setting career-highs with 31 starts and 189 2/3 innings in 2004, he went 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA and struck out 121 batters in 128 innings in 2005.
Following two injury shortened campaigns, a rejuvenated Harden put up ace-like numbers with the A’s in 2008, going 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts. He even threw an immaculate inning in the first inning of his start against the Los Angeles Angels on June 8.
One month later, he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs where he continued his dominance, going 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA, allowing just 39 hits and striking out 89 batters in 71 innings, in 12 starts down the stretch. He completed that season with a combined 10-2 record and a 2.07 ERA with 181 strikeouts in 148 innings in 25 starts.
Harden returned to the Cubs in 2009 and fanned 171 batters in 141 innings in 26 starts prior to finishing his major league career with single seasons with the Texas Rangers (2010) and the A’s (2011).
In all, in parts of nine major league campaigns, Harden had a 59-38 record and a 3.76 ERA in 170 appearances. His 949 strikeouts and 17.9 WAR rank sixth all-time among Canadian big league pitchers, while his 160 starts ranked 10th among Canucks. He also retired as one of four Canadian major league pitchers to have averaged more than a strikeout per inning (minimum 100 innings).
For his efforts, he was inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.