Wednesday, June 6, 2012

#380 - Bud Harrelson

1973 was certainly not a yawner for old Bud here. He went on the DL twice: once when turning a double play and he got bowled over by the Reds’ Bill Plummer resulting in a broken wrist; and once when tagging out Pittsburgh’s Rennie Stennett in a rundown whose collision resulted in a broken sternum. He missed a combined two months although he did make it back just in time to be part of the big September comeback. Then in the NLCS against Cincinnati he and Pete Rose got into a big brawl which endeared Bud even more to us little guys since he was giving away about 40 pounds in that one. After the Reds upset the Mets nearly took Oakland in the Series. Lots of ups and downs for Bud that year. But he was probably destined for drama: Bud was born June 6, 1944 – his post gets published on his birthday, a first for this blog – otherwise known as D-Day.

Bud Harrelson was born and raised in California and picked up his “Bud” handle as a young kid. In high school he played all the big three sports, earning local honors in each, and the big plan was that he’d get drafted by the local Giants. When that didn’t happen he went to San Francisco State on a hoops scholarship. He also played ball a year and was then signed by the Mets in ’63 for a $10,000 bonus. In A ball the rest of that summer he had a tough time, both at the plate and at shortstop. The first wasn’t too surprising but the latter one was and he returned to that level the next year where he added 10 points to his average and cut down his running error total to raise his fielding average from .886 to .943. In ’65 he jumped to Triple A where he also remained the bulk of ’66. Both seasons he improved in fielding and both years he got a bit of action in NY.

In ’67 spring training Bud made the cut and was announced as starting shortstop by the Mets. He put up a pretty good first year – technically he wasn’t a rookie – for a shortstop at the plate though he had a few too may errors in the field. He would aright the second stat in ’68 but suffered a big downtick in his average in part due to a bum knee that required off-season surgery. That surgery led to some downtime in ’69 but like ’73 it was worth it to Bud for the post-season work. After the Mets won it all he returned in ’70 to what was probably his best season as he made the All-Star team, was not injured, and turned in a super defensive performance. In ’71 he continued that run, winning his Gold Glove, and starting the All-Star game. In ’72 his average tanked and he missed a bunch of time due to a bad back. Then after the big ’73 finish it was more of the same for ’74 and beyond: lots of time on the DL. That year he nearly came to blows with Cleon Jones in spring training and then missed 60 days due to a broken hand suffered while diving back to first. He did, though, put up his best OBA with a .366. He then missed almost all of ’75 when his knee problems returned in spades.  When he returned in ’76 he put in his most time and had his best season in a long time: .234 with a .351 OBA in 359 at bats. In ’77 everything went south as he hit only .178 in another season marred by injuries. After it he was sent to the Phillies for a guy named Fred Andrews. There Bud backed up Larry Bowa a couple seasons though he missed any playoff action. In ’80 he finished things up in Texas where he moved as a free agent with a pretty good season: .272 with a .373 OBA alternating time with Pepe Frias. Bud finished up top with a .236 average and a .327 OBA. In the post-season he hit .200 with six RBI’s in 20 games. He ranks in the top 100 shortstops in lifetime fielding average.

Harrelson didn’t take too long to get back in baseball. In ’82 he was a Mets coach. In ’83 he did a season of broadcasting work. He then managed in the Mets chain from ’84 to mid-’85 (he went 66-44) before returning to NY as a coach to replace Bobby Valentine who left to manage the Rangers. Bud stayed in that position through the ’86 Series championship and into ’90 when he was named manager to replace Davey Johnson. He went 149-129 before the pulled-apart team collapsed at the end of the ’91 season and he was replaced by Mike Cubbage. In ’92 he helped found and co-owned the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a Class A team in the Royals chain. He and another owner then founded the Atlantic League in ’98 as well as their own franchise in that league, the Long Island Ducks. Bud also coached the team a bit, managed it in 2000 (82-58), and was even activated for a game. He continues his association with the team as an owner and administrator.

There’s Bud’s full name which could not be pronounced by his brother when they were kids, hence the nickname. For a short time Bud and his main double play partner, Ken Boswell, each held the record for consecutive error-less games. I think that Topps sets the “star” hurdle a bit low as Bud only hit .250 with two runs scored during the Series although his OBA was .379. I would have given that designation to Rusty Staub.

Time to recap some music news and it is all from ’73. On June 1 the vocalist/drummer from the group Soft Machine (think Yes but with a jazzier feel) – Robert Wyatt – fell from an open window at a party in the UK and was paralyzed from the waist down. He has since done a bunch of solo and corroborative work. On June 2 Paul McCartney’s “My Love” took over the Number One spot in the States and would keep it for four weeks. And on June 5 Gram Parsons performed what would be his last live set in Philadelphia.

Back to the double hook-ups. I have a feeling Martin the manager would have appreciated Harrelson as a player:

1. Harrelson and Mickey Lolich ’76 Mets;
2. Lolich was managed by Billy Martin on the ’71 to ’73 Tigers.

For Billy as a player we get:

1. Harrelson and Phil Linz ’67 to ’68 Mets;
2. Linz and Elston Howard ’62 to ’65 Yankees;
3. Howard and Billy Martin ’55 to ’57 Yankees.

Phil Linz was a Yankees backup infielder in the early to mid-Sixties who also played for the Phillies and ended things with the Mets in ’68. Howard, of course, was an All-Star and MVP catcher for the Yankees and Red Sox.  

1 comment:

  1. Bud's photo looks like Topps is preparing for him to be traded. I wasn't following baseball in '74, wonder if there were rumors of him in a trade.