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Carroll’s Column: A Tribute to Bud Harrelson

Image Credit: Doug McWilliams/National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

NEW YORK — “I have always said I’ll take God to three-and-two and take my chances. I might foul two off before He gave me ball four,” the late great Bud Harrelson once wrote. 

The passing of Mets Hall of Fame shortstop Bud Harrelson at the age of 79 from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease last Thursday elicited an outpouring of tributes from former teammates, media, and fans.       

Yes, Harrelson was a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets, the 1973 “Ya Gotta Believe!” Mets, and was the third base coach on the 1986 World Series champion Mets. That, however, fails to explain the connection many felt to him. His former roommate, Tom Seaver, was a baseball deity, Harrelson, however, was a relatable everyman who worked hard at his craft. He was also approachable and likable.       

Although his Topps baseball card listed him as Bud (his given first name was Derrel), he was referred to as Buddy by everyone from avuncular Hall of Fame announcer Bob Murphy to fusty former Mets general manager Frank Cashen, who also called him the “heart and soul of the 1969 Mets.”      

Bud Harrelson grew up in northern California but from the time he joined the Mets in late 1965, he made Long Island his home during the off-season, as well as when he retired. My friend and colleague, Scott Mandel, recalled how excited he was to receive a trophy for being on his Little League All-Star team from him.    

That type of story was common. When a nonprofit needed a Mets player to attend a fund-raising dinner, they could always count on Bud. Mets radio voice, and Cardozo High School alum, Howie Rose nicely summed up Harrelson’s popularity with the Mets faithful in his tribute to him. “If you were a Mets fan, and you never met Bud Harrelson, you probably were not trying very hard.” It should be noted Harrelson never turned down an autograph or photo request. Many of today’s athletes and other celebrities could learn from his example.   

Photo Credit: Bill Menzel

Bud Harrelson of the the ‘69 Mets received keys to the city from former mayor Bill de Blasio – Image Credit: Latino Sports

Twenty-five years ago, Harrelson became manager and part-owner of the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. It is hard for independent professional baseball leagues to survive because they do not have a player affiliation deals with Major League Baseball, which have their own minor league teams.  

Despite the odds, the Long Island Ducks, and the Atlantic League, have been longstanding success stories. The Ducks play at the beautiful Fairfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip. Harrelson’s stewardship, which he called the most rewarding aspect of his professional baseball career, is a key reason.   

I asked Harrelson about the secret to his success with the Ducks. “I never lost sight of the fact we are family entertainment. We are not competing with the Mets. We are competing with the movies. We have to price tickets and concessions accordingly. It is important for us to attract customers who may not be diehard baseball fans,” he replied.     

We will miss you, Buddy.    

Free-agent Marcus Stroman signs with New York Yankees

It will be interesting to see how new Yankees starting pitcher Marcus Stroman adapts to that team’s buttoned-up corporate culture. Likewise, it is to be seen if Yankees executives tell Stroman, who likes to speak his mind on social media, to tone it down.     

Former Blue Jay Marcus Stroman pitching at Yankee Stadium during the 2019 regular season. The Long Island native, of Puerto Rican descent, also pitched for the Mets and Cubs prior to signing with the Yankees – Image Credit: Latino Sports

Too Much Zoom? 

Zoom was an important technological tool during the pandemic since communicating virtually was all we could do. Unfortunately, Zoom is replacing in-person press conferences for economic and policy reasons, and that is bad for journalism. It is impossible to get off-the-record info from the participants. Players and executives are more cautious in what they say virtually than when they are chatting with reporters in-person. Moderators can also determine who gets to ask a question, and who does not, which reinforces a media caste system.     

In the last week, the Mets held virtual introductory press conferences for a pair of free agents they signed, pitcher Luis Severino, and centerfielder Harrison Bader, while the Yankees did the same for key trade acquisition of the off-season, outfielder Juan Soto. Come on, guys. Let’s make live conference room pressers great again.   

Beef between Stephen A. Smith and Jason Whitlock? 

ESPN’s star talent, and Hollis native, Stephen A. Smith, is feuding with another sports media personality, Jason Whitlock, who is affiliated with the conservative outlet, The Blaze. Whitlock claims Smith made some exaggerated claims in his memoir, “Straight Shooter” (Gallery Books), which was released a year ago.      

Stephen A. Smith (left), Jason Whitlock (right) – Image Credit: Complex

Whitlock claims Smith was not recruited to be on the Winston-Salem State University men’s basketball team. Winston-Salem is a Division III school, and they do not attract the cream of the crop high school athletes. Smith was up front about the fact he rode the bench playing for Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica.  

Stephen A. Smith denies Jason Whitlock’s claims. I have no reason to disbelieve Smith’s accounts. He admits he was pulled over by transit police for jumping a turnstile at the Continental Avenue station in Forest Hills. If he can admit an embarrassing moment such as that, then he gets the benefit of the doubt from me.    

Arctic Weather in NFL Playoffs

After seeing the Arctic weather in both Kansas City and Buffalo this weekend, it can be argued the New York Jets are the smartest NFL organization for missing the playoffs for thirteen straight years.     

GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri – Image Credit: Kansas City Chiefs/NFL

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” return this week

Here is a sign the holiday season is officially over: HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” returns this Friday night, while NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” is back with a new episode the following evening.      

Final season coming soon for “What We Do in the Shadows”

The comedy vampire series, “What We Do in the Shadows,” which can be seen on cable’s FX, and the Hulu streaming service, will have its final season this spring. If you have not seen it, this one is worth binge watching.    

Replays on ABC: “Only Murders in the Building” 

Hulu’s most watched comedy series, “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Steve Martin and Martin Short, is having its first season being replayed on ABC because of the lack of programming created by the thankfully concluded writers and actors strikes. Last week’s episode, “The Twist,” had scenes shot in Howard Beach and Broad Channel.     

Association of Arts Professionals hold annual conference at New York Hilton

The Association of Arts Professionals (APAP) held their annual conference this past weekend at the New York Hilton. APAP is where talent booking agencies meet representatives from venues and event planners in the hopes of placing their acts.

Image Credit: APAP

A representative for that fancy girl from Flushing, Fran Drescher, promoted her one-woman show in which she discusses her battles with cancer, and what it was like taking on the behemoth entertainment conglomerates as the president of the Screen Actors Guild. A rep from the United Attractions Agency was touting Maspeth hip-hop DJ, Fatfingaz, and Jamaica, Queens legend Ja Rule.    

Tribute artists were prominent at this year’s APAP conference. Among the performers were a Tom Petty cover band from Minneapolis, Free Fallin’, and Levittown, Long Island native Steven Ryan, who bills himself as “Street Loaf.” He does resemble and sound like the late Marvin Lee Aday, who was better known as Meat Loaf. Jose Feliciano, who does not have any tribute artists portraying him to the best of my knowledge, made an appearance at APAP.

Las Vegas-style illusionists Rick Thomas, and Leon Etienne, and an old school “card tricks and rabbit-out-of-your-hat” magician, Robert Segal, had booths at the Hilton. Surprisingly, there were no standup comedians at the conference.

You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.

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