September 7, 1970
Aspindly, good-field, no-hit shortstop from California would seem an unlikely New York symbol, but for nearly 35 years Bud Harrelson has been a Mets icon. By the time the 160-pound pride of Hayward, Calif., was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1978, he had helped the Mets to a World Series championship in '69 and a National League pennant in '73. En route to the latter, Harrelson brawled with Pete Rose, then of the Cincinnati Reds, in Game 3 of the League Championship Series, a display of scrappiness that endeared him further to New Yorkers. After retiring as a player in '80, Harrelson worked the '83 season as a Mets broadcaster, then managed the Little Falls ( N.Y.) Mets of the New York-Perm League in '84 before joining Davey Johnson's staff as the third base coach in '85. When Ray Knight pranced gleefully toward home after Bill Buckner's notorious error in Game 6 of the '86 World Series, Harrelson danced beside him.
Harrelson's love affair with the Big Apple temporarily turned sour when he succeeded Johnson as Mets manager in '90. Harrelson was canned with a week remaining in the tumultuous '91 season, during which New York finished fifth and Harrelson battled his players and the media. "I was fired on a Saturday night, and when I went to the bus stop with my kids on Monday," recalls Harrelson, 55, who still lives in Hauppauge, N.Y, "the kids on the bus were booing me."
Few realize that Harrelson's .529 winning percentage ranks him third among Mets managers, but it suits Harrelson just fine if no one remembers his stint at New York's helm. Leaving the majors has given him a chance to devote more time to charitable endeavors and to his five kids, two of whom, Kassandra, 15, and T.J., 12, still live at home. Bud and his wife, Kim, are the two largest Make-A-Wish fund-raisers in their county, and he has been visiting schools and Little Leagues regularly for 30 years to sign autographs and to urge kids to stay in school. Harrelson is returning to the diamond this year as co-owner and field manager of the expansion Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. The Ducks, the first pro baseball team on Long Island outside New York City will inaugurate a 6,002-seat stadium in Islip, N.Y, on April 28.
Suburban Long Islanders could see another former Met in their midst before the season is done: Harrelson has invited perennial rehabber Darryl Strawberry to play for him. "In my career in New York, the Ducks may be the biggest impact thing I've ever done," says Harrelson. "This will be my legacy."