Monday, May 27, 2019

Farewell, Bill Buckner, who made my day in 1986.

In October of 1986 I was at home watching my Mets play the Red Sox in game six of the World Series. The Sox led the series 3-2, and this game had gone into the tenth inning, with the Sox holding a 5-3 lead and three outs left to secure their first Series victory since 1918. Ignoring Yogi Berra's advice - "It ain't over till it's over" - I left my apartment and headed for a bar where I knew my friend Bill, a Springfield, Massachusetts native and thus a cradle Red Sox fan, would be, so as to congratulate him. On my way to the bar, I heard a loud crowd noise coming from an open window, which I now know signalled the Mets' having scored two runs to tie the game. When I got to the bar, I looked in through its large front window and saw everyone jumping up and down and cheering, except for Bill, who stood stock still with his face ashen. When I got in, I went to Bill and said, "What happened?" He gestured at the TV just as it showed a replay of a ground ball skittering between the legs of a Sox player.

That player was Bill Buckner, the Sox first baseman. His error allowed the Mets to score the go-ahead run, and to tie the Series. They then won game seven, gaining their second Series title following their victory over the Orioles in 1969.

Bill Buckner died today at 69, a victim of Lewy Body Dementia. Although Buckner had a solid career that touched parts of four decades, included a National League batting title, and an All Star appearance, his fate was to be remembered for his one error watched by millions.

The grounder he misplayed was hit by Mookie Wilson, who became a close friend of Buckner's after they retired. It's unfair, as Mookie and so many others have said, for Buckner to be remembered for one error during a long and praiseworthy career. Still, it's ironic that, were it not for that error, he wold now be remembered only by older and obsessive fans of the Red Sox, Cubs, and other teams for whom he played during his long time in the Majors.

Bill Buckner photo: Craig Johnson from San Diego, CA, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

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