A few years ago Harrelson was looking for some way to hustle enough money to finance a trip from Savannah to the baseball golf tournament in Miami. He had lost $400 in a bowling match, which got him so mad he threw his bowling ball and shoes into a swamp near his home. "The next day I cooled off and went out to look for them, but I never could find the things." Happily, a pool shark landed in town and began to tell everyone how great he was.
"Sure enough," says Harrelson, "we got into a match and I beat him for $400. I ran home and told the wife that we had our stake for Miami and to pack up. But then I left my golf clubs on the front porch and in Miami I had to borrow a set of real whippy clubs from some pro. I had a lousy tournament."
As for arm wrestling, Harrelson "guesses" he is the best in baseball, but he insists that he has given up that sport. "Arm rasslin' is bad for your arm," he says, "and I've got to do too many things with my right arm."
Aside from that, about the only competitive concession Harrelson has ever made was in auto racing. "I used to have these two racing Corvettes—you know, the ones with only a motor and a frame? We'd have these drag races over those two-lane roads in the Georgia woods. Well, one night my buddy challenged me to pass him on a straightaway, and I told him that'd be easy. We were both acting just juvenile. I was going 150 miles an hour when my car hit a bump in the road. I regained control of the thing, but I was so scared I couldn't even drive home. Never mind tomorrow that time. Next day I didn't even want to drag the guy."
Last year, when Owner Charles O. Finley of the Athletics was looking for a player to ride his mule, Charlie O, around the field before games, it was Harrelson who accepted the challenge.
"I knew there'd be some money in it," he admits, "and I knew I could stay on the thing." He did manage to stay on most of the time, but one afternoon in Yankee Stadium in New York he abandoned a bouncy ride and jumped off when the mule began to gallop.
"I was getting paid $100," Harrelson says. "That only goes so far."