The Mets Top 5 leadoff hitters of all time # 5: Bud Harrelson
This selection might have been affected by my heart on some level, but that is only because during his time here, Harrelson was the heart and soul of the team. He anchored the Mets defense for 13 seasons and spent the majority of his Mets career batting leadoff. His .236 lifetime batting average belies the fact that he brought emotion and intangibles to the top of the Mets lineup. He was the motor that made the team go.
Derrel McKinley “Bud” Harrelson’s records claim that he was 5’ 11” tall and weighed 155 lbs. but anybody who ever saw him play would understand that those statistics are embellished by at least 10%. The slick fielding switch hitting shortstop was the leader of the team in an era before Mets were named official captains. Harrelson’s bio reads like a history of the franchise. He played for the 1969 World Champions and the 1973 National League pennant winners. He represented the Mets at the 1970 and 1971 All-Star games while also winning the 1971 Gold Glove Award. Later in his career, Harrelson was a coach for the 1986 World Champions, the 1988 National League East Division Champions, and even managed the team from 1990 to 1991.
Harrelson is perhaps best known in Mets history for his fight with Pete Rose in game 3 of the 1973 National League Championship Series. In the fifth inning, Joe Morgan hit a double play ball to Mets first baseman John Milner with Rose on first. Rose slid hard into Harrelson at second base attempting to break up the double play and a fight between the two erupted into a bench-clearing brawl. The game was nearly called off when the Shea Stadium crowd began throwing objects at Rose, causing Reds manager Sparky Anderson to pull his team off the field until order was restored. Mets manager Yogi Berra and players Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones and Rusty Staub walked out to left field to calm the fans. Eventually the game resumed. The Mets won the game 9-2 and took the series 3-2.
You can make the case that Bud Harrelson’s statistics shouldn’t earn him a rating this high. All I can say is that statistics don’t always tell the whole story. If you disagree, please ask someone who saw him play.