Harry Agganis


Harry Agganis was one of those rare people whose legend was as great before and after his death. Agganis is considered, by many, to be one the finest athletes to ever come out of Massachusetts.

In high school, his three-year passing efficiency was 65 percent (326-for-502) for 4099 yards and 47 TDs. He scored 24 of those touchdowns himself and added 39 PAT’s. Oh, and he had a 40-plus yard average as a punter.

He was just as proficient in baseball, earning high school All-America honors at first base. Lynn High School, from where he graduated in 1947, retired his number 33 the year after he left to attend Boston University. (Agganis’ number 33 was, not coincidentally, the number of his idol, Washington Redskins quarterback, Sammy Baugh).

Agganis chose Boston University because he wanted to play close to home where his mother could see him play. In addition, he held a tremendous amount of respect for head coach Buff Donelli.

As a freshman, Harry showed that he would be a force during his collegiate career. In four games with the freshman squad (freshmen could not play varsity), he was 29-for-52 for 492 yards and five TD’s. He averaged 4.7 yards on the ground, rushing for four more touchdowns, while kicking 10 PAT.

During his sophomore season, 1949, he was 55-for-108 for 762 yards and 15 TD’s. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry, 46.5 yards per punt (tops in the nation) and scored a pair of touchdowns.

In 1950, he served in the Marines at Camp Lejeune, where he picked up a bat again, hitting .347 in over 100 games. He was named the all-star first baseman at the National Semi-pro tournament in Wichita in 1951.

Agganis returned to BU in 1951 and picked up where he left off, completing 104-of-185 passes for 1,402 yards and 14 TD’s. He was named to the All-American team and earned the Bulger Lowe award as New England’s outstanding football player.

His final season at BU was reduced to seven games due to a rib injury. He still managed to complete 67-of-125 passes for 766 yards and five TD’s. For his varsity career, he finished 226-of-418 (54 percent) for 2,930 yards and 34 touchdowns. He closed out his collegiate football career by grabbing MVP honors in the 1953 North-South Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. After that game, Red Grange proclaimed Agganis the best player he had seen all year.

Agganis graduated from BU holding 15 Terrier records. Although most of those records have since been eclipsed, it is important to note he only played three years of varsity. Greg Geiger, who bettered many of Agganis’ career marks, played four years.

He was also the first two-time selection as the school’s athlete of the year and was a first round draft choice by the Cleveland Browns as a junior. Echoing his high school career, he was inducted into the BU Hall of Fame upon graduation.

His football path seemed assured, but he chose instead to sign with the Boston Red Sox and pursue his love of baseball. He spent a year in the minor leagues, batting .281 for Louisville in 1953 before he broke into the big leagues in 1954. He batted only .251 but was set for a breakout season in 1955.

Sure enough, Agganis hit his way into the starting lineup with a .313 average to start the 1955 campaign, before tragedy struck. He was stricken with pneumonia and died tragically of a pulmonary embolism on June 29, 1955.