Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: Turning Two (2012)

By Bud Harrelson with Phil Pepe

This starts with a rather unusual question for an autobiography.

How much did Bud Harrelson contribute to his book, "Turning Two"?

His fingerprints certainly can't be found too often on the manuscript, and that's the biggest problem in this book. There's not enough Bud Harrelson in it.

As baseball careers go, Harrelson had a fairly interesting one - especially for New York audiences. He started his career in the Sixties, working his way up the ladder from a modest start as a boy in California. Harrelson eventually worked his way to the shortstop's job with the Mets, despite a frame that was, um, on the slight side. This was no slugger - he had seven career homers - but he could slap the ball around and make all the plays at short.

Those skills made him an All-Star once, but more importantly he was on the 1969 New York Mets team that won the World Series in dramatic fashion. It's a team that will live forever when unexpected sports champions are discussed.

Harrelson went on to play several years with the Mets, who returned to the World Series in 1973. He jumped to the Rangers and Phillies briefly, but he'll always be a Met. The fans no doubt were happy to see him return as a coach in the 1980s, and he was the third-base coach when the Mets won another title in 1986. That's him, wearing number 23 on the bottom cover photo, following Ray Knight in to the play to end Game Six of the World Series with the Boston Red Sox. You probably know why the Mets look so happy and why catcher Rich Gedman of the Red Sox looks so somber.

When Dave Johnson's time finally ran out as the Mets manager of that crew, Harrelson was promoted to that same position. New York's mix was rather volatile at that point, and the roster slow fell apart - highlighted by Darryl Strawberry's free-agent departure to Los Angeles. It took the Mets almost a decade to rebuild, although Harrelson wasn't around to see much of it.

Anyone reading this book wants to learn more about Harrelson and some of the personalities on those special teams. There's little such insight here. We hear that Gil Hodges was a father figure, that Tom Seaver was as good a guy as he was a pitcher, and that Strawberry had a big heart for all of his troubles. Otherwise, this reads like a researcher had written portions of the book, complete with statistics and highlights of big games and events.

Along those lines, here's a stunner. There is a little more than a page devoted to the 1988 team, which won the National League East title. Any baseball fan who goes back that far remembers who made that year's playoff his personal property - Orel Hershiser of the Dodgers. He dominated the playoffs. Care to guess how many times his name comes up here? Zero.

When Harrelson does get to tell a story here, he shows himself to be a pretty good guy with a nice sense of humor. He still apparently owns a share of the Long Island Ducks, an independent league team. If he hasn't signed an autograph for every Mets fans in the New York City area yet, well, he's working on it. Harrelson sounds like he's still thrilled someone asks for one, which is nice to hear.

"Turning Two" isn't a disaster of a book by any means. The publications reads well enough and doesn't seem to contain any huge mistakes (there are a few relatively small ones). It offers a casual and quick look back at a couple of memorable Mets eras, and burns no bridges. That's all fine if that's what you are looking for. Most people, though, probably have good reason to expect more.

Two stars

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