Friday, May 20, 2011

Buckner's Boston Return

Bill Buckner started out with the Dodgers.
Sometimes a fine career is defined by one bad moment. Such is the case for Bill Buckner, whose error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series allowed the New York Mets to win the game and ultimately best the Boston Red Sox in Game 7.

Tonight, Buckner returned to Boston to broadcast the BoSox game with the Chicago Cubs, their first visit since 1918. It's an interesting twist for Buckner, who played for both teams but it is remembered most for one missed ground ball.

Buckner had a career that was a notch below Hall of Fame caliber. When he retired in 1990, he had 2,715 hits and a .289 batting average. He appeared in the 1981 All-Star Game. He led the National League in fielding once and placed second twice. He ranks among the top 160 players all-time in several hitting categories.

That body of work, however, is seldom remembered. Instead, Billy Buck's career is defined by Mookie Wilson's grounder in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. It ended what seemed was a sure Series win for the BoSox, allowing the New York Mets to win the game and then take Game 7.

For me Buckner, will always be the smooth-fielding first baseman I saw for the time in 1970 when he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Later, he was star for the Cubs. One bad ground ball can't erase a career for me.

But the error happened on the biggest stage at a crucial moment. And Buckner has managed to live with the label "goat" with grace and humor. It can't have been easy but it says a lot about his character.

So, yes remember the error. But we should also remember his fine career. I realize it's probably a losing battle. After all, does anyone remember anything about Mickey Owen other than he missed a third strike in the 1941 World Series costing his team a game?

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