All systems were a go for Dr. Duchess Harris when she threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Minnesota Twins’ July 20 game at Target Field against the Oakland A’s.
The honor was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing that took place July 20, 1969. Harris’ grandmother, Miriam Mann, was one of 11 Black women mathematicians recruited by NASA to assist in the agency’s quest to put a man on the moon. The story, which in part came to light due to Harris’ research, turned into the box office smash, “Hidden Figures.”
Harris, an author, professor and department chair of American Studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, said she worked with a trainer to perfect her form on the mound for her pitching debut. She said the honor of throwing out the first pitch was special for many reasons.
“My family and I are huge Twins fans, so I was thrilled. I did the pitch five days before what would have been my grandmother’s 112th birthday. I think she would be delighted that people now know about the work that she did,” said Harris.
Mann began working for NASA in 1943 during World War II. She worked for the agency until 1966, passing away in 1967, two years prior to the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. Nineteen sixty-nine was also the year Harris was born.