The song “I’m Just Wild About Harry” was written in 1921 years ago and popularized by Judy Garland in 1939, but it’s having a comeback moment this month thanks to an unlikely figure: Yankees outfielder Harrison Bader.
Fans have taken to calling him ‘Hometown Harrison’ or ‘Darth Bader’ on Twitter but John Sterling, the longtime radio play-by-play announcer, has made it the signature home run call for Bader in the postseason. That call has been getting plenty of play in October as Bader has blasted four of them in the playoffs.
“I think it’s wonderful and I would love to make him continue to do that as often as possible,” Bader said.
The Bronxville native is having a monster postseason for his hometown team, having reached base in six of seven games and in 10 of his 26 plate appearances. He’s slashing .273/.385/.818 with four home runs, five runs scored, five RBI and three walks.
Opposing pitchers sure haven’t been wild about Harry.
“He’s had an outstanding postseason, obviously,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Saturday afternoon before Game 3 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros. “Hitting the ball out of the ballpark, had a good game the other day getting on base a couple times.”
The versatile Bader batted leadoff in Game 2 in Houston and was moved to the No. 6 spot Saturday with the Yankees trying to spark some offense and get more production from the middle of the order. Bader has produced regardless of where he has hit in the lineup.
“I think Booney does a really good job of building a lineup and changing it up when he feels necessary, and we have complete confidence in it as hitters,” Bader said. “I can only speak from experience. Regardless of where I’m hitting in the lineup, maybe with the exception of the very first at-bat of the game only the road where you might want to see some pitches, the approach pretty much remains the same, unless the opposition is doing something crazily different that makes you can change your approach.”
Bader has taken to the team and the market well since he was traded at the deadline from the St. Louis Cardinals for southpaw Jordan Montgomery. The trade was initially a bit of a head-scratcher since Bader was out with plantar fasciitis at the time, and Montgomery was eating innings for the Yankees with Luis Severino on the injured list.
The injury kept Bader off the road so trying to develop chemistry with the team and figure out his role was not a quick process. His rehab stint helped him feel as though he was finally a part of the team he grew up watching.
The trade worked out well for both sides but his addition has been especially important given the injuries to the outfield.
No one could have foreseen the level of depletion to the outfield with injuries to Andrew Benintendi and Aaron Hicks, but had that trade not been made the Yankees might be forced to use someone like Tim Locastro or Marwin Gonzalez in this series, who hit just .186 and .185 this season, respectively. Leaving Gonzalez off the roster allowed the club to carry rookie Oswald Peraza and improve the defense.
The Yankees got a naturally observative player who hangs on every pitch to try and glean information during games and communicates well with the outfield. Giancarlo Stanton is playing in left field out of necessity in the series but Bader can cover a lot of ground in center, helping to mitigate some of the defensive risk.
Bader also brings a level-headed, yet focused, approach to the game. With the Yankees looking to get back in the series after going down 2-0 in Houston, they need all the production they can get from spark-plug players like Bader.
“These games have been really close, these last two games. They could really go either way,” Bader said. “And just because they haven’t gone in our favor doesn’t mean that our attitude or level of confidence is defeated, by any means. You go out there, you play your brand of baseball, you do it confidently with a smile, and see how it shakes out.”