The long and short of Bud Harrelson's power
You’d think a writing assignment to chronicle Bud Harrelson’s career home runs would be a breeze. I mean, come on, he only hit six home runs with the New York Mets and one with the Texas Rangers.
But after researching Harrelson, trying to find details for each of his home runs was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You’d expect a celebration, if for no other reason the unexpectedness of such an event.
But, no. Harrelson’s homers came and went with about the same force as his swing.
August 17, 1967, Forbes Field vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
Harrelson hit his first major league home run on August 17, 1967 at Forbes Field against the Pittsburgh Pirates. With the game tied 4-4 and one out in the eighth inning, Harrelson drilled Juan Pizzaro’s first pitch into the rightfield corner.
According to a report in the New York Times, the ball traveled just 250 feet. “Harrelson’s shot popped off his bat … Al Luplow started for the ball, decided it was foul, and stopped. Harrelson kept churning around the bases and when Luplow decided to field the ball it was too late.”
Harrelson’s first major league home run was recorded as an inside-the-park home run.
April 17, 1970 at Shea Stadium vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Nearly three seasons passed before Harrelson could muster enough power to hit his second career home run. This time, hitting righthanded at Shea Stadium, Harrelson pulled a fastball from Phillies starter Grant Jackson into the visiting bullpen.
New York Times reporter Joe Durso described the moment as a “rare piece of work,” adding: He hit it over the 358-foot sign into the leftfield bullpen … the ball immediately took its place alongside Marv Throneberry’s glove as a museum piece in Mets history.
“If I swung for fences all the time I’d hit .080. I broke two bats in batting practice and Seaver was using my fat-handled bat during the game, so I had to switch to an old model 32-ounce bat that I used to swing.”
May 1, 1972 at Candlestick Park vs. San Francisco Giants
Harrelson hit his third career home run two years later during a 7-4 win at Candlestick Park over the San Francisco Giants. Again, batting righthanded, Harrelson hit the first pitch of his 2,634th career AB from Giants starter John Cumberland over the leftfield wall. Mets players gave Harrelson the “silent treatment” when he returned to the dugout.
Durso described the low line drive as “a convincing demonstration of the wind-loss effect in the park.”
May 27, 1974 at Riverfront Stadium vs. Cincinnati Reds
With the Mets trailing the Reds 4-0 in the 5th inning at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Harrelson delivered a two-run home run off Reds starter Fred Norman. According to media reports the ball barely cleared the left field fence. It was his fourth career home run and the third as a righthanded hitter.
May 26, 1976 at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium vs. Atlanta Braves
Two years had passed, and Harrelson was due. Trailing the Atlanta Braves 7-6, Harrelson led off the eighth inning by greeting Roger Moret with a first-pitch fastball into the left field bullpen.
May 29, 1977 at Veterans Stadium vs. Philadelphia Phillies
One year later, Harrelson hit his final home run with the Mets, a solo shot off Philadelphia Phillies starter Jim Kaat. Once again, Harrelson hit the home run from the right side and, once again, he hit the long ball on the road. “For the record, that’s my meat, down and in,” said Harrelson with a grin.
Five of Harrelson six home runs with the Mets came on the road and as a righthanded hitter. Harrelson’s only major league home run as a lefthanded hitter was of the inside-the-park variety at Forbes Field. Tom Seaver started four games and Jon Matlack started two in games that Harrelson homered.