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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Spirit of the Mets

During his entire active tenure as a New York Met between 1965 and 1977, Buddy Harrelson never played a position besides shortstop, yet I find myself today thinking of his versatility. He could be described as the heart of the Mets, the soul of the Mets, the spirit of the Mets. I think I’ll go with spirit. The Mets as a whole at their best when Harrelson was in his heyday played like nine Buddy Harrelsons. A more spirited team you would not find, though they weren’t exactly short on heart and soul.

It’s fitting that any of those would work, in that Harrelson would answer to his given name of Derrel (though only Ed Kranepool called him that), Bud (the nickname his family pinned on him when his brother couldn’t quite say “brother,” and it came out “bubba,” which, as nicknames will, morphed into something else) or Buddy, as if “Bud” was too formal. I can’t track down the quote, but I clearly remember reading a passage in the past fifteen or so years in which Harrelson said he liked “Buddy” best because it was friendly. So was he.

Heart, soul, spirit, shortstop, speedster, scrapper, star, champion, coach, manager, scout, broadcaster and, out in Central Islip, owner and ambassador. Versatile Buddy Harrelson did it all in these parts. A mainstay on our baseball scene for most of the years the Mets have existed. One way or another, you knew he was around. That’s how a spirit operates.

Buddy has died at 79, about six years since he went public with his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Once in a while, we’d hear about his condition. It was never one that had any hope of improving, but he hung in as long as he could, and goodness knows his family played to the last out. This is one of those passings you were conscious was coming. Nevertheless, his presence to Mets fans won’t be going anywhere soon.

You can still see him, right?

He’s leaping in that montage on Channel 9 while “Meet the Mets” plays and participating sponsors are recited.

He’s dashing out into shallow left to pull in a popup other shortstops might not get to.

He’s turning another year older on D-Day.

He’s sliding into third with another triple.

He’s safe at home, no matter what Augie Donatelli thinks.

He’s absorbing whatever Pete Rose dares to dish out.

He’s “roomie” in whichever anecdote Tom Seaver is sharing.

He’s yukking it up with Ralph on Kiner’s Korner.

He’s attracting more popular votes than Don Kessinger.

He’s accepting a Gold Glove.

He’s coming off the disabled list and making all the difference defensively.

He’s so smooth on the double play.

He’s advising Kevin Mitchell to look alive, Bob Stanley might throw one in the dirt.

He’s teaching the pitchers to bunt.

He’s switch-hitting at Casey Stengel’s behest.

He’s refining his fielding under the tutelage of Roy McMillan.

He’s trying to get comfortable on SportsChannel.

He’s fulfilling his contractual obligations on WFAN.

He’s mentoring Kevin Elster at Little Falls.

He’s giving signals in the “Let’s Go Mets” video.

He’s striving to live up to the example of Gil Hodges set for him once he’s asked to succeed Davey Johnson, though he was perfectly content serving under a skipper rather than suddenly being one.

He’s back at Shea, a place he should have never been asked to leave.

He’s back at Citi, no matter how difficult being there for the last time was going to be.

He’s going into the club’s Hall of Fame alongside Rusty Staub in the first class of players.

He’s signing enough autographs to paper over Nassau and Suffolk counties.

He’s letting you try on one of his World Series rings if you like — he earned two as a Met, one more than any person ever earned while in uniform.

Bud Harrelson played two seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies and one for the Texas Rangers and put the Long Island Ducks on the map. We had Buddy first and most. Forever our shortstop. Always our Buddy.

17 comments to The Spirit of the Mets

  • Harvey

    Seaver’s roomie. Together again. RIP

  • David Purcell

    As for Gary Cohen, Buddy is my all-time favorite Met.

    I just looked up his obituary in the New York Times–I think you, Greg, will get a kick out of this. And I’m pretty sure Buddy would have, too.

    Bud Harrelson, Shortstop on Championship Mets Teams, Dies at 79

    An outstanding fielder, he helped the team win the 1969 and 1973 World Series and stayed with the Mets as a coach and, briefly, manager.

    (I’ve tried to restrain myself, but I just can’t. If only Yogi had let George Stone pitched Game 6, this wouldn’t require a correction!)

  • Dave

    Time to retire #3.

  • Ed Rising

    This is a rough day for us fans for whom Buddy Harrelson played a special role in our growing up with the Mets. Thank you Greg for a wonderful tribute. He most certainly was everybody’s Buddy.

  • Brian in Oregon

    The only thing I can remember my mom to me about baseball is that she didn’t like Pete Rose cuz he beat up Bud

  • Seth

    As teenagers in 1972, Bud was my sister’s and my favorite Met. Aside from being such a great SS, I guess it’s because he didn’t really look like a baseball player. But oh man, did he ever play like one. He just seemed like a regular guy who happened to be a great shortstop. Modest, unassuming, and yes — Seaver’s roommate. I hope he’s OK, wherever he is.

    One must also point out that Buddy is the reason we all dislike Pete Rose so much. :-)

  • eric1973

    Such a very sad day.
    The rooming now with Seaver comment really got to me.

    When I was 8 in 1973, my father was like a giant to me. Somehow, I found out he was 5 ft 9 and 145 pounds.

    You can imagine the shock I felt when I looked at the back of the baseball card to find that Bud was 5-11, 150.

    “Dad, Bud Harrelson is bigger than you!”

    Thank you to Kim and family for keeping a close watch on him all these years until he had to go into assisted living.

  • Bob


    RIP in Baseball Heaven-Orange & Blue section.

  • Curt Emanuel

    Childhood hero. A lot of folks became Mets fans in ’69. For me it was ’73. Was in LL and old enough to start to figure out what was going on. After the fight with Rose he became my second favorite after, surprise, Seaver. Sort of funny because when I played I could hit but was, at best, a mediocre fielder. But he got everything he could out of what he had.

    If there was a Mr. Met – not much hitting but keeping the other team from getting runs – IMO Buddy was it.

  • Matt

    In Little League I wanted to be a shortstop and my Father would tell me “watch everything Harrelson does” – I followed him religiously

    His passing makes me remember that time and the experience I had with my father .. RIP Buddy .. you and Tom can remember all those stories again – say hello to my Dad please

  • stanley justin bielen

    Thank you for this wonderful article. You captured Buddy’s essence perfectly.
    I love Buddy.
    I love that Buddy gave it all right back to Pete Rose and he never backed down one inch.
    I love that Buddy was The Franchise’s roommate.
    And not one but two World Championships. The only one Buddy.

    God Speed to Our Buddy.

  • Rich porricelli

    Greatest Met shortstop…

  • Cobra Joe

    I can’t remember how many times I saw the late, great Bud Harrelson play superbly at shortstop for the Mets at Shea Stadium during the late 1960s and into the 1970s. As a wiry, young kid myself, I always identified with the ectomorphic Mr. Harrelson. I remember one time when Mr. Harrelson (at 5’11,” and 150 lbs.), stood next to his Met teammate Tommie Agee (also 5’11,” but weighing in at a solid 195 lbs.) and Mr. Harrelson, said, “You don’t have to be a big guy like Tommie to play Major League Baseball. Just look at me.” (Needless to say, Mr. Harrelson and I both “packed on the pounds” with the passing of the years!)

    Several years later, Mr. Harrelson appeared at a charity celebrity basketball game over here in Jersey City along with fellow major leaguers Ron Swoboda, Bill Robinson, Ed Kranepool and Stan Bahnsen, among others, against the faculty members of Dickinson High School. My late father and I spoke with Mr. Harrelson after the game and Mr. Harrelson could not have been more gracious and friendly.; he truly was a wonderful man.

    With Mr. Harrelson’s untimely death occurring not all that long after the death of the greatest Met of all, Mr. Tom Seaver, my two favorite Met players of all-time are now gone. This truly is a sad day for Mets fans of a certain age. I mourn both gentlemen’s deaths.

    Requiem aeternam, Mr. Harrelson.

  • Joey G

    Buddy loved the game as much as we do. I vividly remember seeing Mets coach Buddy in the early ’80s prior to a game at the Launching Pad in Atlanta repeatedly throwing a ball against the backstop and fielding the balls as they returned. I was struck by the apparent innocent joy that the then 40 year old guy extracted from that simple repetitive action. He also embraced Long Island from the time he arrived as a neophyte until his dying day. Californian Buddy became one of us, and stayed one of us. There is no one who exemplifies the Mets’ enduring underdog ethos more than Buddy did. He will be missed.

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    R.I. P. sir! The buddiest of buddies. Roomie,all around great guy who didn’t hold a grudge against Pete (though we did). Legend,good viber.For some of us the world changed when he left the starting line up.Always fun at Met functions.
    The day that Seaver Way was named the man showed up with his lovely wife taking care of his every step. We are humbled to have shared times with you. It will never be same with out you D. #3 must be retired . Peace out……

  • Argman

    Beautiful eulogy Greg. I knew this site was the place to go to sit shiva for Buddy. I have nothing more to add to the wonderful sentiments expressed by my fellow fans. May Buddy’s memory be a blessing to all us Mets fans.

  • Hey you can look it up and see for yourself. He outplayed mark Belanger of the Birds in the ’69 WS. Never made an error and had a few clutch hits too.Buddy, you were the best.