Bud Harrelson, Miracle Mets World Series champion, has died at the age of 79

Bud Harrelson, Miracle Mets World Series champion, has died at the age of 79

MLB

Bud Harrelson, the Mets' first two World Series starters and then the club's manager for parts of two seasons, died Wednesday at a nursing home in East Northport on Long Island. Harrelson, 79, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016.

A good, non-hit-hitting player, Harrelson spent 15 years in the major leagues and was the starting shortstop on the 1969 World Series Miracle Mets team that upset the Baltimore Orioles in October of that year and the 1973 National League pennant winners who lost that year. This year's World Series came to the Oakland Athletics in seven games.

The Mets announced his death in a new statement Thursday morning.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Mets Hall of Famer Buddy Harrelson,” Mets owners Steve and Alex Cohen said in the statement. “He was a skilled defender and sparked the 1969 Miracle Mets. He played the Gold Glove shortstop for 13 years in Queens, appearing in more games at shortstop than anyone else in team history. Buddy was the third base coach in the 1986 World Series “He became the only person to wear the uniform on both World Championship-winning teams. We extend our deepest condolences to his entire family.”

Since 2000, Harrelson has been affiliated with the independent league Long Island Ducks. He was their first manager, a member of their coaching staff, and, at the time of his death, a vice president and part owner.

“Best thing I ever did in baseball,” he said several times.

Bud Harrelson, the Miracle Mets outfielder who won the World Series in 1969, has died at the age of 79. AP
Bud Harrelson, a two-time All-Star, played 13 seasons for the Mets from 1965-77. AP

“Bud’s impact on Long Island will be felt through Ducks baseball for as long as we play,” Ducks owner and CEO Frank Bolton said in a news release Thursday. “He was my partner in bringing professional baseball to Long Island after his distinguished playing career in Major League Baseball, and he left his mark on so many through his charitable giving, exposure and kindness. He was a one-of-a-kind human being, and we will miss him greatly.”

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The third base coach on the Mets' 1986 World Series championship team—following Ray Knight down the line as Knight hit the improbable series win in the 10th inning of Game 6—Harrelson replaced the fired Davey Johnson as manager in 1990 and coached the team. team until late in the 1991 season when he was also fired. He had an overall record of 145-129 as Mets manager when he was fired in the final week of that season.

LOOKING BACK: Mets legend Buddy Harrelson has opened up about his battle with Alzheimer's

Buddy Harrelson waited impatiently in the offices of Dr. Max Rodansky, a Huntington-based neurologist who asked the Mets legend about his list of troubling symptoms.

It was the summer of 2016 and words seemed to disappear from Harrelson's vocabulary. He had difficulty finishing sentences and completing ideas and often lost his place in the conversation. These were not new concerns: In 2013, the family took Harrelson to another doctor, who attributed the decline to normal aging, stress, and possibly depression.

But red flags kept popping up. Harrelson began to get lost driving on familiar roads. His ex-wife, Kim, was a long way behind when Harrelson turned the turn he'd taken a million times in the Hauppauge neighborhood. He then overcorrected by making a sharp left turn from the far right, nearly resulting in an accident.

Bud Harrelson at his home on Long Island. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Rudansky listened as Kim described the harrowing experience before Harrelson admitted that this wasn't the first time he'd become disoriented. In October 2015, Harrelson was driving to his apartment in Venice, Florida, where he visited after every baseball season. It was an annual trip, and he knew the routes by heart.

Except this time.

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It wasn't until 2018, two years after his diagnosis, that Harrelson went public with his battle. But once he did, he became active in the fight against Alzheimer's, raising money and awareness.

“I didn't know what it was,” he said in 2018. “I know it now.”

Naturally, Harrelson never backed down from a fight. Harrelson was a fierce competitor despite his size (5-foot-11, 160 pounds), and is perhaps best remembered for his battle with Pete Rose during Game 3 of the 1973 NLCS when Harrelson intercepted a hard slide into second base by a Cincinnati lefty. Fielder. Their skirmishes on the swirling infield at Shea Stadium led to a fight over vacating seats.

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“I got out a little bit in Cincinnati after that [Game 2]Harrelson said. “I made a silly statement and it looked like the Reds were hitting him. I didn't think it was that bad. I was getting myself down a little bit but I was getting them down too. Then I heard they were going to come after me. … I thought that was right there, and when he hit me after I had already thrown the ball “I felt crazy. And we had a little game. He kind of lifted me up and put me to sleep and it was all over.”

Harrelson was traded to the Phillies in 1978. Rose joined the team as a free agent the following season and the two became friends.

“I love this guy,” Harrelson told The Post in 2018. He can beat you in so many ways, he's a really smart player, one of the best players in the game. Sign the photo [of the fight] “Thank you my friend,” he wrote. You made me famous. “

Derrell McKinley Harrelson was born on D-Day, June 6, 1944 in Niles, California and grew up in nearby Hayward. He got the nickname Bud when his older brother Dwayne couldn't pronounce Derrel and started calling him brother which evolved into Bud. It's stuck.

Harrelson was a three-sport star in football, basketball, and baseball despite weighing 97 pounds. With little interest from major league teams, he attended San Francisco State on a basketball scholarship but only played baseball. He hit .430 in 30 games.

Bud Harrelson (r.) during a ceremony honoring the Mets' 1969 World Series in 2019. Paul J. Bereswell for the New York Post

“We played a top-notch schedule against schools like Stanford, and professional scouts quickly started flocking to me,” Harrelson said some 50 years later. “I decided it was time to take advantage of that and give professional baseball a chance.”

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While the Yankees offered him the most money, the Cubs and Cardinals also showed interest. But the Mets were coming off a 40-120 first season and Harrelson, no dummy, felt like he had a strong chance to break through. He signed with the Mets for just over $10,000, the day after Harrelson turned 19.

After a few minor league seasons, he made his debut for the Mets in September 1965 but started the following year in Triple-A Jacksonville where he met Tom Seaver. The two from Northern California — Seaver from Fresno — would live with the Mets from 1968 until Seaver was traded in 1977.

Bud Harrelson as manager of the Mets in 1991. New York Post

“We were perfect roommates,” Harrelson wrote in his book “Turning Two.” “Tom did all the reading and I did all the talking.”

Seaver died in August 2020 after battling dementia.

Harrelson batted .236 for life and made two All-Star teams (1970 and 71). He was the starting shortstop in the 1971 game when his NL teammates included Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Willie McCovey, Johnny Bench and Willie Stargell, all Hall of Famers.

“Before the game, I went out, dressed, and took ground balls at shortstop, but did not take batting practice,” Harrelson wrote. “With all these slackers throwing bombs, I thought no one was coming to see me throw a three-hit shutout and hit two opposing players on the field.”

After spending two seasons with the Phillies following his trade from the Mets, Harrelson finished his playing career in 1980 with the Texas Rangers. He managed in the Mets organization before joining Johnson's major league staff midway through the 1985 season after Bobby Valentine left to become manager of the Rangers.

Harrelson is survived by his ex-wife Kim Battaglia, who remains his primary caregiver, his children Kimberly, Jessica, Timothy, Alexandra, Cassandra and Troy Joseph, and his grandchildren.

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