Harrison Apar stood barely three feet tall, but had a persona that easily filled an entire room. His energy and wit drew the admiration of young and old, and his chutzpah carried him through multiple heart and lung surgeries until he passed away at the age of 15 in 2003.
His memory carries on via the Harrison Apar Foundation, and on Monday at Mohansic Golf Course in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., the foundation held their annual Columbus Day Golf Classic. It was fitting that in their 10th year, the guest of honor was New York Yankee great Bucky Dent. In many ways, Dent’s playoff heroics mirrored the spirit of late Apar.
Dent was a small shortstop, known more for his glove and hustle than any prodigious display of power. Yet on the evening of Oct. 2, 1978, Dent stood on the shoulders of giants at Fenway Park when he belted an improbably home run off of Mike Torrez over the Green Monster in left field, catapulting the Yankees to the World Series. He carried the momentum from his historic home run into the World Series, batting .417 in their victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. His efforts earned him the MVP award for the 1978 World Series.
Bruce Apar, Harrison’s father and the president of the foundation, found Dent to be a perfect fit for this year’s event.
“Bucky has been great,” Apar said. “It’s really thrilling to have Bucky Dent here with us on the 35th anniversary of his historic and unforgettable home run. He’s driving around to all the groupings and talking to people, taking photographs, sharing stories, and giving autographs. He’s a great guy; you can see it, he’s genuine.”
Dent made himself readily available for everyone, whether it was to take a photo, sign an autograph or to listen to their tale of where they were when he hit his famous home run. By the end of the day, he seemed like a longtime friend of the community.
“The experience has been great,” Dent said. “I like doing these kinds of events. It’s fun. You get out there, make people laugh and enjoy themselves. [You] hit some shots, shank some balls, miss some putts and just make people laugh and have a good time. That’s what it’s all about.”
The former Yankee shortstop enjoyed the atmosphere of the event and was gracious when it came to discussing his most famous baseball moment.
“It’s nice to be able to be remembered and be a part of history and be able to share the stories,” he said. “People like to share their stories of where they were when I hit the home run. [I enjoy] the camaraderie of mingling [with everyone] and having a good time, it’s fun.”
At the end of the dinner reception, Dent spent over 15 minutes taking questions from the crowd, sharing his vast experiences playing for and managing the Yankees.
While Dent’s appearance brought excitement to the event and smiles to the many faces that greeted him, this year’s fundraiser was also about the expansion of the reach of the foundation. This year signaled the pairing of the Harrison Apar Foundation with the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, an alliance that has paid immediate dividends.
“It’s the first year we’ve teamed with the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, which has been a great partner and I hope will be a great partner for years to come,” Apar said. “The chamber used to do its own outing and decided to combine with ours, and it’s been a great relationship already even though the tournament is just happening.”
Apar hopes that the partnership will further help the foundation realize what he calls his, “2020 Vision.”
“In the year 2020, I’ve set a goal to build in Yorktown a generation station, which would be a senior center and also a youth center, bridging the generations,” he said. “There has been a lot of talk in this particular community in Northern Westchester, about a new senior center. There has been talk about building an enhanced youth facility. Some of the buildings used for youth sports and recreation are historic, but that also means they’re old. That is the grand plan for our foundation, to undertake an endowment fund that would be able to build a senior / youth recreation center.”
Through the work of the foundation, Harrison’s memory continues to live on in the hearts and minds of not only those who knew him, but those that will follow in his footsteps.
“The thing about Harrison that continues to endear people to him and now his spirit, his memory, his legacy, is that he passed away at age 15,” Apar said. “People of all ages were so taken by him and his attitude towards life, even though he was afflicted by a lifelong heart and lung disease as a result of his growth condition. He had the greatest attitude. He would never let you see if he was a little down. He had a lot of pride. Somebody could be 80-years-old, or five-years-old, and they wanted to talk to him and be around Harrison because he projected that kind of very positive vibe.”