This Date In Mets History: August 17 — Buddy's First Home Run, The Say Hey Kid's Last

Whoa Buddy! (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

The back of Bud Harrelson's rookie card puts his playing weight at 155 pounds. It's hard to tell where he hid all that mass, because the 23-year old kid depicted on the front of the card looks as thin as the stock Topps printed it on. The point being, Buddy didn't put a charge into the ball very often. It took him three years and nearly 700 plate appearances, but on this date in 1967, the middleweight middle infielder finally picked up his first career home run. It came in a manner befitting a man of Derrel McKinley Harrelson's slight stature, too. Facing Juan Pizarro of the Pirates, Bud blooped a hit down the right field line that outfielder Al Luplow thought was foul. The umpire disagreed with Luplow's assessment, leading to a rather heated discussion between player and impartial arbiter. As the two bickered, Bud circled the bases to tie up a game the Mets would go on to win 6-5.

Six years to the day after Harrelson connected for his alpha dinger, Willie Mays went deep for the omega home run of his storied career. The Say Hey Kid was very much a grizzled Say Hey Man by this point in his playing days, but on August 17, 1973, the 42-year old mustered the strength to drive a pitch from the Reds' Don Gullett over the Shea Stadium fence for his 660th and last big league round tripper. Mays's milestone blast accounted for the only run the Mets would score in a 2-1 loss to their eventual NLCS foe.

Birthdays

  • Skip Lockwood (1975-79) is 66. The 42nd greatest Met of all time according to Amazin' Avenue's original iteration of the list, Lockwood first made it to the majors as an 18-year old third baseman in 1965, but didn't stick. He returned three years later as a pitcher and shuffled around for a bit before winding up with the Mets. Used exclusively in relief for the first time, Lockwood flourished, saving 65 games over the course of five seasons. Nicknamed "Jaws" by manager Joe Frazier, heavy usage chewed up Lockwood's shoulder and, after an ineffective stint with the Red Sox in 1980, he retired. Skip remained in the Boston area, however, earning a degree from MIT (S.M. '83).
  • Mike O'Connor is 32. O'Connor briefly served as a second lefty out of the pen last year. According to Baseball Reference's similarity scores, the pitcher O'Connor most akin to Jesse "The Crab" Burkett, a Hall of Fame outfielder who posted a 10.80 ERA over five innings of work between 1894 and 1902. If Mike works on his swing and gets a sweet crustacean-themed nickname, maybe he'll get a plaque in Cooperstown, too.

Transactions

On this date in 2008, the Mets traded one-time Opening Day second sacker Anderson Hernandez to the Nationals for Luis Ayala. An acquisition meant to bolster the bullpen in the wake of Billy Wagner's torn UCL, the team probably would have been better off putting Hernandez on the mound. That said, Ayala did pitch better for the Mets than he did for the Nats, lowering his ERA from 5.77 to 5.71.

Game of Note

The Mets could get nothing going against Rick Reuschel on August 17, 1988. The relatively underappreciated Giants ace limited the NL's best offense two mere hits, both of them singles by Wally Backman, en route to a shutout victory. David Cone was the tough luck loser, dropping his record to 12-3 despite striking out twelve in seven innings of work. The loss must have left a bad taste in Coney's mouth, because he was unbeatable for the rest of the regular season. David finished 1988 with a 20-3 record and a .870 winning percentage, tops in franchise history among pitchers who've made at least 15 starts.

Amazin'-ly Tenuous Connection

Miles Davis unleashed Kind of Blue upon an unsuspecting world on this date in 1959. Pretty much every cut on the album is a stone cold classic, but this writer is partial to "Freddie Freeloader". Surprisingly, a search of the New York Post archives reveals that the tabloid has never appropriated that song title for a headline regarding Fred Wilpon.

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