The Mets announced the very sad news that Buddy Harrelson, a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets championship team, passed away on Wednesday night at age 79 at a hospice house in East Northport, Long Island after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Harrelson played shortstop and second base for the Mets from 1965 to 1977, and in addition to winning a ring in 1969, he was a part of the Ya Gotta Believe 1973 National League Championship team. The lasting moment from the 1973 NLCS was when Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds crashed into him at second base, and Harrelson fought back, leading to a benches clearing brawl.
A two-time All-Star in 1970 and '71, Harrelson earned the 1971 Gold Glove at shortstop. After he retired, he became a coach for the Mets in 1982 and then from 1985-90, which means he was in uniform for their second championship in 1986.
In 1990, Harrelson took over as Manager from Davey Johnson, and he led them on a late season surge that nearly got them into the playoffs, as they went 71-49 and finished 91-71. He then managed most of the 1991 season, but was relieved of his duties when they were 74-80.
Mets Owners Steve and Alex Cohen said in a statement the Mets released on Thursday morning with the announcement, "We were saddened to learn of Mets Hall of Famer Buddy Harrelson's passing. He was a skilled defender and spark plug on the 1969 Miracle Mets. The Gold Glove shortstop played 13 years in Queens, appearing in more games at short than anyone else in team history. Buddy was the third base coach on the 1986 World Champs, becoming the only person to be in uniform on both World Series winning teams. We extend our deepest condolences to his entire family.
On Thursday afternoon, as the baseball world and the Mets family reacted to the sad news, they released the following tributes:
Ed Kranepool, first baseman on 1969 Mets: "He always made perfect throws to me at first - everything was chest-high. Buddy and I were with the Mets in the early days and he did everything to promote the team. I don't think we ever missed a Little League dinner in the early years to talk baseball to kids."
Jerry Koosman, pitcher on 1969 Mets: "He was the best shortstop who played behind me - period. I can't tell you how many runs he saved."
Cleon Jones, left fielder on 1969 Mets: "Buddy and I played together in the minor leagues in Buffalo. He worked so hard to become the shortstop that he became. He listened to the coaches and did everything he could to get better."
Ron Swoboda, right fielder on 1969 Mets: "There wasn't a play he couldn't make at short. When I played left he saved me so many times, coming back to catch pop-ups. We must have had 50 collisions and he never complained once."
Art Shamsky, outfielder on 1969 Mets: "We don't win in 1969 without him. A fighter. The heart of the team. He was such a big part of Mets history."
Keith Hernandez, first baseman on 1986 Mets & current announcer: "I played against Buddy. I remember him as a feisty player who would do anything to win. As a coach, he was so caring and giving. He was the best third base coach in the game. Also, he threw the best BP in baseball. We bonded over both being from the same area in San Francisco. He was just a great man."
Davey Johnson, Manager of 1986 Mets: "Great coach. Great friend."
Kevin Mitchell, left fielder/third baseman on 1986 Mets: "I don't score the tying run in Game Six without Buddy's advice. He gave me a tip to be aware that (Red Sox pitcher) Bob Stanley throws a lot of balls in the dirt. What a nice man he was."
Ron Darling, pitcher on 1986 Mets & current announcer: "Buddy loved coming to the field. He did things with such grace and caring. Without a doubt I learned more baseball from Buddy than any other person in the Mets organization."