QUEENS, NY – The loss of Buddy Harrelson left me with a smile from a memory I will have forever. It was on October 8, 1973 when Game 3 of the National League playoffs was underway. It took place in Shea Stadium, where the NY Mets were hosting the Cincinnati Reds.
I was forcibly taking Greek classes after my regular school ended against my own wishes. My parents wanted me to learn my native language. My desire was to take fly balls to improve my defense in the outfield.
On that day my beloved Yankees were once again using the slogan, “Wait ’til next Year,” as they missed out on the post season once again.
As the Mets were playing their game, my Greek school session was in progress. I brought a small handheld transistor radio to class to listen to the action that was going on that afternoon. That was a time when television executives didn’t dictate that the games must be played at night.
The game went on as my fellow classmates would turn to me for updates, while I listened to the game in a very low volume as to not let the teacher know that my interests were elsewhere.
Suddenly the Reds Pete Rose slid hard into second base and collided with Harrelson. All hell broke loose as the crowd at Shea drowned out Bob Murphy’s voice. I turned the volume button upwards to the highest it could go, as the whole class including the teacher turned towards me.
While my classmates shouted, “What’s going on?!” So did the teacher. The difference was my classmates were inquiring about the game – unlike my teacher – who wanted to know what I had in my hand.
He took the radio from me, and I got up and walked out of the class that I never wanted to be a part of. I never returned back to that class and the Mets eventually upset the Reds to go onto the World Series.
About 10 years ago I ran into Harrelson at Pace’s Steakhouse in Hauppauge, Long Island at a charity event that L.I. resident Anthony Farino threw. Harrelson was then with the Long Island Ducks, a team from the independent Atlantic League. He showed up with the team’s bullpen catcher, Eric Colon. That was Buddy for you, hanging out even with the little people.
I told him the Greek school story and he responded, “How’s your Greek today?” I shot back, “It sucks, man!” We all laughed.
For Buddy, I salute him with the Greek saying, “Eonia e Mnimi.” Translation: “May his memory be eternal.”