Jun 5, 2016

All Time Mets Short Stop: Bud Harrelson (Part Three: 1974 - Present)

After the pennant of '73, the 1974 season, was a disappointing one for the Mets, as they would finish fifth, going 71-91.

Harrelson had a great start to the season, gathering up three hits on Opening Day in a 5-4 loss at Philadelphia. When the Mets raised the pennant flag on April 10th, Harrelson had one hit in the 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

He hit safely in 13 of his first 19 games & was batting .300 at the end of the month. He also drew walks in 26 of his first 48 games as well, putting up good a .400 on base percentage.

In mid June he missed some time on the DL & then in September hi season was over by mid month. He drove in just one run from June through the end of the season. On the year he dropped to a .227 average with nine stolen bases, ten doubles & for the first time in his career, no triples. He played in just 106 games, due to the injuries, but was solid defensively as usual, posting a .968 fielding % (fifth in the league) turning 65 double plays making 17 errors in 528 chances.

In 1975 he suffered a knee injury that plagued him all season, seeing action in just 34 games on the season. He returned in the bicentennial year of 1976, with an Opening Day fourth inning double of Montreal’s Steve Rodgers. The hit drove in two runs, breaking a 1-1 tie and proved to be the winning runs in Tom Seaver's 3-2 victory.

Harrelson hit safely in ten of his first dozen games, posting a .400 on base %. On May 11th he hit career HR #5, it came in Atlanta's Launching Pad off Braves pitcher Roger Moret. He missed two weeks in June, & returned to drive in a pair of runs in San Diego in a 5-0 Mets win. He helped Craig Swan to a 3-1 win three days later in San Francisco with an RBI sac fly.

On July 4th 1976, as America celebrated its 200th birthday, the Mets played two at Wrigley Field in Chicago. In the first game Harrelson had a pair of hits, driving in two runs in the Mets 9-4 win over the Cubs. He slumped off down to the .200 mark but a strong September helped him raise his average twenty points.

Although he finished the 1976 season with a .234 batting average, he walked 63 times to earn a .351 on base %. He had 84 hits, 12 doubles, 34 runs scored & 26 RBIs. He drew 63 walks which gave him a .351 on base % despite the low batting average. At short he posted a .962 fielding percentage in 117 games. That year the Mets finished third with a 86-76 record.

1977 would a major change for the New York Mets organization, a turn for the worse which took years to recover from. It was also Harrelson's last year playing for the Mets. He struggled at the plate all year long, never batting higher than .200 after the third game of the year.

On May 29th, he hit his last Mets career HR, it came in Philadelphia off Jim Katt. On June 12th Harrelson was in the line up batting second, when Tom Seaver pitched his final game with Mets before getting traded to Cincinnati on June 15th. The Mets fell to last place winning just 64 games all season in 1977.

Harrelson played in 107 games, batting just .178 with one HR, 6 doubles & 12 RBIs posting a .255 on base %. In March of 1978 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Fred Andrews, like most of the players from the Mets glory days, Bud was gone as well.

Mets Honors: Bud Harrelson is the Mets all time leading short stop with 1280 games played at the position.

He is second on the all time Mets list in Games played (1322) third in triples (45) & walks (573). Harrelson is fourth in at bats (4390) fifth in singles (855) seventh in hits (1029) eighth in stolen bases (115) & tenth in runs scored (469).

Defensively he is second in turning double plays (686). Harrelson was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in 1982.

With the Phillies he won a division title and went to another NLCS although he did not play in any games. He was a free agent in the off season, but no one came after him. He was resigned by the Phillies that May. This time he was now team mate of Pete Rose who had also signed there as a free agent prior to the 1979 season. Bud hit .282 in 53 games that year mostly being used as a reserve infielder.

In 1980 he signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers, reunited with his old friend Rusty Staub also a Ranger that year. Harrelson saw action in 87 games that year & even hit his seventh career HR.

Bud finished his 16 year career batting .236 lifetime with 1120 hits, 539 runs scored, 7 HRs, 136 doubles, 45 triples, 633 walks, 267 RBIs 127 stolen bases & a .327 on base %.

He has played in 1400 games at the short stop position (69th most all time). He posted a .969 fielding percentage (95th all time) with 2387 career put outs (75th all time) 3975 assists (80th all time) making 203 errors in 6565 chances.     

Retirement: After retiring as a player, he served as a coach for the Mets in 1982. He then managed in the minor leagues returning to Davey Johnsons staff as third base coach in 1985.

Bud was in the third base coaches’ box during the 1986 Championship season. In the 1986 World Series he was leaping for joy, when Ray Knight scored the winning run in Game #6, after Mookie Wilsons grounder got by Boston's Bill Buckner.

After six years as a Mets coach, he was promoted to Mets manager in 1990 after Davey Johnson was let go. Harrelson's Mets finished second to the Pittsburgh Pirates that year with a 91-71 team record. Under his watch the team went 71-49 from the end of May on. It was the Mets seventh straight winning season.

In 1991 things started out well, but they were soon to be labeled "the worst team money could buy" as they collapsed in the second half . The club went 74-80 & Harrelson got fired with one week left in the season, getting replaced by coach Mike Cubbage. The team finished in fifth place at 78-84.

As a Mets manager, Harrelson posted a 145-129 record. His .529 winning percentage, is the fourth best among all Mets managers, behind Davey Johnson, Willie Randoph & Bobby Valentine but ahead of Gil Hodges (.523%).

Honors: Harrelson was on hand for the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008, & attended all the festivities of the 40th Anniversary for the 1969 Championship team in 2009. Back in 1993 he was also on board for the honoring of the 20th Anniversary of the 1973 NL Championship team. He appeared as himself in a 1999 episode of Everybody Loves Raymond along with several other members of the 1969 Mets.    

The Long Island Ducks: In 1999 Harrelson helped bring Independent League baseball to Eastern Long Island in Central Islip. Harrelson is the co-owner, & Senior Vice President for Baseball Operations of the Long Island Ducks, an unaffiliated minor league baseball team. Throughout the years Bud has served as a coach & manager for the team.

The 22 million dollar facility seats 6,002 fans, and is home to Long Island's first professional baseball team. The Ducks have led all independent leagues in attendance in each of their first seven seasons of play. They currently own the independent minor league baseball single-season attendance record of 443,142 fans. In 2004 they won the leagues Championship title.

Long Island: Harrelson has been a long time Long Island resident. He moved into his first house in East Northport Long Island on Opening Day, 1969. He now lives in Hauppauge with his second wife Kim, daughters Alexandra and Kassandra and son T.J. He runs several baseball camps and he volunteers for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Suffolk Police Athletic League and just about any organization that calls.

Quotes: "I wanted to stay out here. When I was renting, I talked to Ron Swoboda & he lived in Syosset. I looked there, but I asked the realtor, "Do you have anything cheaper?"

"People asked me how I settled in Suffolk County and I tell them I hit .236. If I had hit .250, I'd have been living in Nassau County. If I'd have hit .300, I'd be a neighbor of Tom Seaver when he lived in Greenwich, Connecticut. "But I love the communities here, I'm not from New York, but I always say I grew up in New York.”

Family Drama: In 2005 his son T.J. Harrelson, was the key witness in the trial of his best friend’s stepfather’s murder. He was sentenced to five years probation and 420 hours of community service for hindering the prosecution in the samurai sword slaying of the retired police officer.

No comments: