He was called “Shorty” not “Bud”, as the rest of the world referred to Derrel McKinley Harrelson and with a sad voice the former Met great remembered his friend and manager, Yogi Berra.
“I said, ‘Yogi you always called me Shorty and I’m 5’10’’’,” Harrelson said about the 5’7’’ Berra. “He said, ‘Well, I’m 5’10’’’, so I told him, I was 5’12’’.
“You could never say anything bad about him, because there was nothing bad.”
It was a friendship that started back in 1965 when the rookie Harrelson came up to the Mets. Just a few months earlier Berra signed in Queens after being fired by the Yankees as the manger. He was a full time coach then, which surpassed the former shortstop when he stepped into the Mets clubhouse for the first time.
“Who was there, Yogi Berra,” Harrelson said. “My God I grew up watching him. Mickey was my man. And you meet a guy like Yogi. When they called me back up in 1966, I was switch hitting the first time. Yogi threw to me. The first time, he did, he was all over the place. The first time I hit lefthanded, he yelled at me, ‘Shorty, can you reach that? Because I’m not out here for my health.
“I laughed about that because you laugh about stuff, but here was a guy who hit balls in the dirt who hit balls out of the ballpark.”
Yogi was part of the first 10 years of Harrelson’s career, on the coaching staffs of Casey Stengel, Wes Westrum, Salty Parker and Gil Hodges.
After Hodges death in 1972, he took the helm of the club.
“You don’t get someone you didn’t know,” Harrelson said about the move.
Over the years, the friendship remained as Harrelson stayed in touch with the “most down to earth” man he knew, playing golf and seeing him at baseball events.
“I wasn’t totally shocked,” he said about Yogi’s death. “He wasn’t really sick. I saw him at his 90th birthday. He didn’t play golf anymore and was in a wheelchair.”
To put it in perspective, Hodges died in 1972 at age 48 and was only a year older the Berra. It seems so long ago, but the amount of things Berra accomplished in his life was unbelievable.
“I looked at Yogi and said, ‘He did all those things with that body?’” Harrelson said and because he was so humble and never spoke about his military days, even to “Shorty” who was born June 6, 1944.
As a manager, Harrelson recalled a time he had a night game during spring training, and rented a boat during the day. Unfortunately, the boat broke down and he was late for batting practice. He spoke with Joe Torre, who told Yogi.
“When I get there, he walks in and said, ‘Next time get a boat that works!’” Harrelson said. “Doesn’t that sound like him?”
Yes it does Shorty. Yes it does.