Harry Agganis, The Golden Greek
Born Aristotle George Agganis in Lynn, Massachusetts, on April 20, 1929, Harry Agganis was the seventh and last child of George and Georgia Agganis, immigrants from the village of Loggonike in Sparta, Greece. Harry's mother called him “Ari” and over the years this nickname became Americanized to “Harry” by his friends. Later on, Harry was affectionately known as “The Golden Greek” in recognition of both his proud heritage and outstanding athletic achievements.
By 1948, Harry was a football, basketball, and baseball phenomenon at Lynn Classical High School; seventy-five colleges including Notre Dame tried to recruit the young sensation. Harry's mother-with whom Harry was close-had been widowed in 1946, and Harry wanted to attend a college that allowed him to stay near her while he pursued his academic and athletic goals. Boston University was a perfect fit.
Agganis more than fulfilled his athletic promise while attending Boston University, winning awards for his exploits on both the gridiron and the diamond. After his sophomore year, Harry's collegiate career was put on hold when he was activated for the Korean War; he ultimately served fifteen months in the Marine Corps in 1950-51. Never called to Korea, Harry spent his service time at Camp LeJuene in North Carolina, where he played football and baseball and was named Most Valuable Player of the National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita, Kansas.
Harry resumed his collegiate career in 1952 without missing a beat-on the diamond, his batting average soared to .322 for the season; on the gridiron, he played both offense and defense and also handled kicking duties. An All-American quarterback, he left BU holding school records for passing yardage, touchdown passes, punting average, and interceptions.
Harry had long dreamed of becoming a professional athlete; it was simply a matter of choosing which sport to play. As a junior, he turned down a lucrative offer to play football as the number one draft choice of the Cleveland Browns, opting instead to play baseball for the Boston Red Sox as the team's starting first baseman. A left-handed batter, Harry quickly became Boston's best hitter, achieving an impressive .313 batting average. One memorable Sunday in June 1954, he hit a home run at Fenway Park, and then raced up Commonwealth Avenue to receive his Boston University degree.
Sadly, a vibrant young life and a promising future were cut tragically short on June 27, 1955, when Harry Agganis died of a massive pulmonary embolism at the age of twenty-six. His legend endures nearly fifty years later, particularly at Boston University and in Boston's thriving Greek-American community. The athletic stadium at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina, a public square in his hometown of Lynn, a street on BU's Charles River Campus, and a BU scholarship are all named in his honor. "The Golden Greek" is also memorialized at the Sports Museum of New England at Boston's Fleet Center. Boston University is proud of the new Agganis Arena in the Student Village, the most recent tribute to this extraordinary individual who left us far too soon.