Harry Leon “Suitcase“ Simpson was born in Atlanta on 30 November 1924 and came to fame as an outstanding baseball player, who was the second Black American that followed Jackie Robinson into the Major League.
He became even more famous for being given the nickname “Suitcase“ which supposedly came about because he was traded so many times that he always had the Suitcase ready for his next move – but is that right ?
What a wonderful name “Suitcase“, it just rolls off the tongue and makes you smile, well it makes me smile anyway.
Americans are excellent at coming up with great names –
- The Manassa Mauler – World heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey, born in Manassa, Colorado
- The Refrigerator – William Perry – Chicago Bears Defensive Linesman, who weighed in at 160kgs
- Downtown Freddie Brown – Seattle Supersonics outstanding shooter and all time leading scorer, who shot from so far out, he was Downtown
- The Sultan of Swat – Babe Ruth – say no more
- The Grim Reaper – Stu Grimson – legendary NHL brawler, to be avoided at all cost
- The Hick from French Lick – the Boston Celtics superstar Larry Bird. I could go on and on, but aren’t they great
Any way, it’s a misconception that his nickname “Suitcase“ came from being so frequently traded.
In fact it seems that he was called “Suitcase“ in 1951, by a group of Cleveland sportswriters, where he played, after the Toonerville Trolley character Suitcase Simpson because of his size 13 shoes, feet as large as suitcases.
This was in fact before he was ever traded from his first club, the Cleveland Indians.
Apparently his real nickname was Goody, due to his willingness to help out his neighbours in his hometown of Dalton, Georgia.
Maybe this is all true, but I still like the idea of him being traded so often.
He actually was traded 8 times in the period from 1955 to 59 and played for 5 different clubs including Kansas City Athletics twice –
- Cleveland Indians
- Kansas City Athletics – twice
- New York Yankees
- Chicago White Sox
- Pittsburgh Pirates
Despite all of this controversy about the origin of his nickname, the real truth is that he was in fact a very good player, with one famous Sports writer describing him as the – “best defensive right fielder in the League“. He also played first base for the NY Yankees when they lost the 1957 World Series to the Milwaukee Braves.
He was an All Star in 1956 and interestingly batted left handed and threw right handed.
In the excellent TV series Jesse Stone, starring Tom Selleck, who’s character is the local sheriff of a small North eastern coastal town called Paradise, who was a former Major League player, he has a Deputy, Luther Simpson ( played by Kohl Sudduth ), who he anoints as “ Suitcase“, Jesse has to explain.
The fact of the matter is that there have been a number of players since, that have played for many more different teams in different sports than Harry “ Suitcase “ Simpson did.
In fact the real suitcase of Baseball is Edwin Jackson who was traded some 17 times and played for 14 different clubs. He not only always had his suitcase ready, he never unpacked it His resume looks more like a Travel Documentary than a baseballers career. Get this, he actually played for –
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Detroit Tigers – twice
- Arizona Diamondbacks – twice
- Chicago Whitesox
- St Louis Cardinals
- Washington Nationals – twice
- Chicago Cubs
- Atlanta Braves
- Miami Marlins
- San Diego Padres
- Baltimore Orioles
- Oakland Athletics
- Toronto Blue Jays
This player, the real “Suitcase“ was a right handed pitcher, a 2009 All Star, World Series Champion in 2011, pitched a No Hitter in 2010, and is still active in the league at age 37, so who knows, yet another trade – perhaps ?
There is also Octavio Dotel, a pitcher from the Dominican Republic, who played for 13 different teams and was a World Champion in 2011.
So will the real “Suitcase“ please stand up, because, it certainly ain’t Harry Simpson
What about some other sports –
The NBA world has a Suitcase full of “Suitcases“
There are 4 players that have played for 12 different franchises and another 3 that have played for 11, not to mention the 10 players that have played for 10 teams or the 31, yes that is correct 31, that have played for 9 different teams.
And the winners are !!! – eachas has played for 12 NBA Clubs
- Joe Smith – number 1 pick in 1995
- Tony Massenburg – 43rd pick in 1990 – also played for 3 teams outside of the NBA
- Jim Jackson – played 14 years in the NBA
- Chucky Brown – played 13 years in the NBA and won a Championship ring with the Houston Rockets , also played for 3 teams outside of the league
J T O’Sullivan, who played at Quarterback, was born John Thomas O’Sullivan in Burbank, California in 1979, he played for 11 different NFL teams including the Chicago Bears twice as well as the Frankfurt Galaxy twice and the Saskatchewan Roughriders .
Dale Mathew Kickett, originally from Western Australia, an indigenous player related to a number of other highly successful players including Derek Kickett, Byron Kickett, Jarrod Garlett, Nicky Winmar, Buddy Franklin and Marlion Pickett.
Dale has played for 5 different AFL Clubs –
- Fitzroy – now Brisbane
- West Coast Eagles
- St Kilda
A highly skilled and talented player, he was also part of 3 Claremont WA Premiership teams in 1989, 91 & 93, winning the Simpson Medal as the MVP for both the 91 & 93 Grand Finals.
The “Suitcase“ of the Australian NBL title goes to –
Lucas Walker , born in 1984 in Launceston, Tasmania has played for 5 different NBL Clubs, but has also played for numerous other teams during his 18 year career.
This includes winning scholarships to –
- Australian Institute of Sport
- Montana Billings College – USA
- St Mary’s College – USA, where he played alongside NBA star Patty Mills
He went undrafted in the NBA in 2009 and returned to Australia .
The total number of teams he has played for is –
- 2002 – Launceston Tigers
- 2003 – North West Tasmania Thunder
- 2004 – Australian Institute of Sport
- 2010 – Dandenong Rangers
- 2010 – Melbourne Tigers / United
- 2013 – Ballarat Miners
- 2015 – Dandenong Rangers
- 2016 – Adelaide 36ers
- 2017 – Perth Wildcats
- 2017 – McKay Meteors
- 2018 – Frankston Blues
- 2018 – Cairns Taipans
- 2019 – Nunawading Spectres
- 2019 – Sydney Kings
WOW , that’s some list .
At 6’8” tall, with a very strong and athletic build, he is a genuine journeyman, who has been a starter at most of the clubs that he has played for.
He has also represented Australia on several occasions.
As I understand it, he is still contracted to the Sydney Kings.
So, there is no doubt, Harry “ Suitcase “ Simpson has been falsely accused.
Although probably when asked, 100% would agree, that he was called Suitcase because he was traded so many times, this is clearly incorrect.
There are without doubt many others, who have earned and should have been awarded that Moniker.
But in terms of alliteration, “ Suitcase “ Simpson, certainly has the much better ring to it.
Sorry Harry, but “ Suitcase “ Simpson it’s gonna be.