May 28, 2019

Bill Buckner, All-Star slugger best known for his '86 World Series error, is dead at 69: Bill Buckner, an elite hitter for 22 seasons whose All-Star career was overshadowed by an infamous fielding error he made in the 1986 World Series, has died, according to Major League Baseball. He was 69.

posted by BornIcon to baseball at 07:27 AM - 7 comments

RIP Bill. I think an earlier gracious reconciliation with Boston would have been possible if it hadn't been for guys like Shaughnessy who think it's their job to not let stuff go.

What I didn't like was during the 2004 Series, the Sox were clearly dominating and they put Mientkiewicz in at first base as a late inning replacement. The announcers said something like: "That's mainly for defensive purposes. They're leaving nothing to chance. They remember what happened before." Whoever said that can go to hell.

posted by beaverboard at 08:13 AM on May 28

Whoever said that can go to hell

I hereby second that damnation. It's really sad that so many couldn't keep what happened in perspective. Was Buckner a great hitter for seemingly all of my youth? Yep. Was he a class act and a great representative of the organization? Yep. Do the Sox make the WS without him? Arguably no. Could they have recovered and won game 7? Yep. But by all means, punish the guy until he dies.

posted by tahoemoj at 11:42 AM on May 28

On Sunday, the last full day of Bill Buckner's life, 16 major leaguers struck out at least three times. Buckner played 22 seasons and never did it once.

Also, Mr Buckner was wearing his old Cubs batting glove under his mitt during his infamous error.

I'll always remember him in those amazing Cubs road unis; the light blue ones with the white pinstripes.

posted by NoMich at 02:40 PM on May 28

It's cool Buckner got some big celebratory moments in Boston in recent years, such as tossing out a first pitch the season after a Series win. Part of me still hates the "Boston forgives Buckner" idea, though. The question I cared about was whether he forgave Boston.

posted by rcade at 05:25 PM on May 28

Part of me still hates the "Boston forgives Buckner" idea, though. The question I cared about was whether he forgave Boston.

100% this. If anyone needed to forgive anyone else in this situation, it's Buckner forgiving Boston sports fans

posted by NoMich at 06:11 PM on May 28

What I didn't like was during the 2004 Series, the Sox were clearly dominating and they put Mientkiewicz in at first base as a late inning replacement. The announcers said something like: "That's mainly for defensive purposes. They're leaving nothing to chance. They remember what happened before." Whoever said that can go to hell. posted by beaverboard

The story was that McNamara left Buckner at first instead of putting in Stapleton for defensive purposes, as he had often done during the season, so he could be on field for the celebration. Not sure if that was ever confirmed or denied, and I did read where Buckner claimed the only time Stapleton came in to replace him was when he was hurting.

Regardless, he should have been taken out. And that was the manager's fault, not Buckner's. Buckner went through hell with the media, but I don't see anything wrong or untrue with what the announcer said.

Joe Posnanski:

Then, I also think that Billy Buck's legacy should have nothing to do with an awkward ground ball that slipped through his legs when he shouldn't have even been out there, when his manager dozed rather than replace him with a younger man, when his teammates floundered and gave the Mets a chance to win a game they'd already lost.

That Posnanski piece is the best write-up I've read on Buckner's passing, showing what qualities made Buckner unique while also completely ignoring the false claims the Red Sox fan base took years to forgive him.

It's cool Buckner got some big celebratory moments in Boston in recent years, such as tossing out a first pitch the season after a Series win. Part of me still hates the "Boston forgives Buckner" idea, though. The question I cared about was whether he forgave Boston. posted by rcade

100% this. If anyone needed to forgive anyone else in this situation, it's Buckner forgiving Boston sports fans posted by NoMich

None of this is true.

Joy of Sox

Red Sox fans did not wait 21 years to forgive Buckner. They gave him a huge ovation during a public rally for the team in Boston on October 29 ,1986, two days after the team lost the World Series.

On October 30, 1986, the Associated Press reported that "hundreds of thousands of fans ... offered prolonged cheers for first baseman Bill Buckner".

Peter Gammons wrote in Sports Illustrated (November 10, 1986)

The Hub Hails Its Hobbling Hero

He awakened on the morning after the morning after, knowing that he had two more rivers to cross. First, there was a parade in downtown Boston. ... As he started to get out of bed, he heard some mention of the Mets' parade on the radio. "More than two and a half million people honored the world champions yesterday in New York," said the announcer, "and the parade finished with the Mets' team bus going through Bill Buckner's legs."

"Here I just experienced the best year of my life with a team, and I feel rotten," Bill Buckner said to his wife, Jody, as they drove down Route 93 toward Boston last Wednesday morning. "This whole city hates me. Is this what I'm going to be remembered for? Is this what I've killed myself for all these years? Is a whole season ruined because of a bad hop? I've got to go through the humiliation of this parade, partly because I know I don't deserve it. Oh well, there'll only be two or three players and about 50 people who'll show up to boo us." ...

It was a crystal-clear autumn morning ... when the truck neared Copley Square, he saw that the street was lined with faces and banners as far as he could see. Buckner had asked not to speak at the rally at City Hall Plaza, and so he stood at the end of the stage. But when he heard the ringing one-minute ovation that followed his name, Buckner stepped forward and thanked the crowd.

"That was the most incredible experience of my career," he said to Jody ...

Joy of Sox

I have memories of Bill Buckner receiving a standing ovation from Red Sox fans at Fenway Park on Opening Day in 1987. Yet no sportswriter mentioned that in his or her coverage of yesterday's events.

there's some revisionist history going on with Buckner, that people around here never really hated him, and that, um, hello, he came back to play for the Red Sox in 1990 and got a standing ovation then.

Art Martone mentioned 1990's return -- "when the fans gave him an ovation similar to today's" -- but many writers didn't even bother mentioning that event.

So we have an ovation for Buckner at the rally 2 days after the World Series, during the opening game of the 1987 season, and during the first game of 1990 when Buckner returned to the Red Sox for his last year. Three times in the 3 years after his error.

And we haven't even gotten to 2004 and 2008.

Take it from Buckner himself:

(and notice the headline:"Bill Buckner, Red Sox Scapegoat Later Embraced By Fans, Dies)

"I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but I would have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media. For what they put me and my family through. So, you know, I've done that and I'm over that."

It was the media that was merciless to Buckner. Dan Shaughnessy made a living discussing Buckner's error, only to now claim the fans were unfair to him. Another reporter called Buckner's wife after Donnie Moore killed himself after a blown save to ask if Buckner had every contemplated suicide after his error.

And yet almost every article written by the media upon Buckner's death, even though he publicly blamed the media for his treatment, focused on the falsehood that the fans treated Buckner terribly. Think about that for a second.

Yes, some fans were cruel. I've heard the talk radio comments at the time, and I know the story of his kid being told by a classmate that he had to quit baseball because of the error. Kids can be cruel. But that would have happened at the fringe of any fan base as big as the Red Sox.

But the idea that the base of Red Sox fans forgave him only when they won in 2004 is not based in any kind of reality. It's simply not true. Again, to quote Buckner after a Red Sox rally 2 days after his error:

"That was the most incredible experience of my career."

But Boston fans being cruel until finally forgiving Buckner in 2004 makes a much better story than the truth, that the vast majority of Red Sox fans never held the error against Buckner, and were smart enough to know that error was the least of that innings problems.

Not that the truth will change anything. The story and lie is too big and the false narrative too ingrained to ever be corrected. If fans alive during his career believe a false narrative, those who were not and only know of his career through a false history shaped by the media don't stand a chance.

posted by justgary at 04:55 PM on May 29

None of this is true.

I'm not clear on what you're disputing. I said he had celebratory moments in Boston including tossing out the first pitch at a game after the World Series win, which happened in 2008 according to Time. I said there's a "Boston forgives Buckner" idea I found distasteful, which we seem to agree on.

I didn't mention it, but I was motivated specifically by this Lowell Sun headline: "Bill Buckner, forgiven by many fans, dies at 69."

I can give the media most of the blame for "Boston forgives Buckner" but some of what sticks in my craw are fans who picked that notion up and ran with it. When Boston won in 2004 I recall seeing on TV a group of fans behind third base running with a "We Forgive Bill Buckner" sign. (This photo from 15 years ago may be the sign.)

It's interesting to revisit a discussion we had in 2004 after Buckner expressed his bitterness when happy Red Sox fans told him he was forgiven. I mentioned an interview Buckner gave where he was still so aggrieved he avoided ever visiting the city of Boston and refused to do anything ceremonial for the team.

posted by rcade at 11:38 PM on May 29

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