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Welcome Back, Buddy

The Mets welcome back one of their baseball buddies on Tuesday night so it seems appropriate at this juncture to tell you about what happened the last time they did so.

We refer, of course, to the return of Mets quasi-legend Derrel "Bud" Harrelson, to Shea Stadium, on May 19, 1978.

For 1,322 games from 1965 to 1977, Harrelson was a "marvelous" (using a Bob Murphyism) Mets infielder. He was once a Gold Glove winner (1971), twice an All-Star (1970-71) and a three-time recipient, amazingly enough, of votes for MVP (1970, 1971 and 1973). He was a good-field, little-hit, occasional sparkplug who was a significant part of the first championship era. He played in 1,322 games, 2nd in Mets history to Ed Kranepool.

Near the end of Spring Training 1978, the housecleaning Mets dumped Harrelson, a sub .200 hitter the year prior, on the Phillies, for young second baseman Fred Andrews. It was a good move for Harrelson in that it sent him from a cellar dwellar to a division champ but marked a rather sad ending to his Mets career. Harrelson told the media he felt unwanted in New York and had demanded a trade to a contending team. The Mets obliged in a continuation of the purging of the past.

Harrelson told the media that he felt born again after the trade, and in a manner of speaking, he was. The Phillies, rather than have Harrelson back up shortstop Larry Bowa, turned him into a second baseman, the position he played at Shea Stadium in his return a little more than a month into the season.

There were but 13,000 or so on hand on this particular night, as Harrelson's return wasn't quite the attraction that Tom Seaver's was the previous campaign. In fact, it was of so little significance, that there was no mention in the next day's New York Times, other than a photo of Harrelson being playfully lifted off the ground by Mets third baseman Lenny Randle.

In his first at-bat from the familiar No. 8 slot, Harrelson grounded to first against Craig Swan, who was locked up in a tight pitchers duel with Phillies hurler Jim Kaat. The game remained scoreless until the 6th inning, when Harrelson started a rally with a single and scored on a hit by Bowa.

The Phillies added to their lead in the top of the 8th on Bob Boone's solo home run and Bowa's infield single, than turned the game over to their trusty closer, former Met Tug McGraw. Newspaper reports note that McGraw had confounded his former friends to the tune of 22 1/3 scoreless innings entering this game, but his success concluded with this contest.

The Mets staged an unlikely comeback, scoring three times in the 8th, with the last two runs coming on Lee Mazzilli's single to left, which followed a two-out error by third baseman Mike Schmidt.

Skip Lockwood retired Philadelphia 1-2-3 in the top of the 9th and then his replacement, pinch-hitter Bruce Boisclair, led off the bottom of the frame with a double against McGraw. This was an era in which closers pitched, even in tie games, so McGraw stayed in the contest to try to keep the game even. Randle followed with a bunt single, giving the Mets runners on the corners with nobody out.

After a force play, McGraw intentionally walked Steve Henderson, who had won the previous day's contest with a walk-off single, to load the bases. That brought up Willie Montanez, who was just at the beginning of a rather hot streak, allowing him to conclude the month with 28 RBI. Harrelson could only watch as Montanez singled to center, bringing home Boisclair with the game-winning run.

True Metdys know...That today being Primary Day in Connecticut, it seems appropriate to share that the Mets have never beaten a Lieberman via walk-off (they were benficiaries, appropriately enough, of a Lieber throwaway the other day), but they have beaten a Lamont (former Pirates manager Gene, no known relation to Ned) via walk-off on 6 different occasions.

And since we're talking politics, it was 32 years ago Tuesday that Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States. His walk-off was followed by one from Pirates slugger Richie Zisk, who beat the Mets and Jon Matlack with a walk-off home run.

Oh, and for those of you who scrolled down this far...here's a list of the best Mike Piazza-related posts I've done:

http://metswalkoffs.blogspot.com/2005/07/clairvoyance-prognostication-and-walk.html
http://metswalkoffs.blogspot.com/2005/09/giant-finish.html
http://metswalkoffs.blogspot.com/2005/09/monster-mike.html
http://metswalkoffs.blogspot.com/2005/09/i-want-my-turn-at-bat.html
http://metswalkoffs.blogspot.com/2005/09/bells-are-ringing.html
http://metswalkoffs.blogspot.com/2005/07/you-gotta-boolieve.html

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