Bill Buckner died today.
Even many non-baseball fans know his name. The first baseman gained cultural infamy in 1986, when Mookie Wilson hit a slow bouncer that found its way through Buckner’s legs, winning Game 6 of the World Series for the New York Mets after the Boston Red Sox had appeared certain to finally win their first Word Series tittle since 1918. Buckner became an object of ridicule nationally and a scapegoat in Boston, which had reached its limit in close calls and near misses after dramatic final game defeats in 1946, 1948, 1949, 1967, 1975 and 1978. (Game 6 wasn’t the final game in ’86: the Sox had to blow a three-run lead in Game 7 to lose that Series. Never mind: the surviving narrative was that it was still all Bill’s fault).
Knowledgeable and fair Red Sox fans—like me—never blamed Buckner, and condemned those who did. Indeed, Buckner’s late season offensive heroics probably got the Sox to the Series in the first place. Playing on fragile, oft-injured legs, he endured painful daily therapy to allow him to stay in the line-up, even though he was barely mobile. Boston manager John McNamara routinely replaced him in the late innings with defensive specialist Dave Stapleton. Continue reading