Tuesday, May 28, 2019

'The Ball Gets Through Buckner!'

One Unforgettable Play: Bill Buckner, an outfielder and first baseman whose long, solid career was overshadowed by a crushing error that cost the Boston Red Sox Game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the Mets, who went on to win the championship in seven, died on Monday. He was 69.

Now, some of you young 'uns out there might think: Is this a Jewish story? So please let Abq Jew assure you: It is. It is.
  1. First of all: Baseball is Jewish. Everyone used to know that. Maybe you did, too. If not, you should read this and this and this.
  2. Second: Even though Bill Buckner was not, as far as can be determined, a MOT - Vin Scully (b 1927), the NBC sports announcer who called Bill Buckner's most famous play, most definitely is ... not, either. Nevermind.
  3. But third (really, second): Daniel E Slotnick, who has written (see below) the best description of Bill Buckner's inglorious error, is, we may presume, a MOT.
Buckner was ready to field a 10th-inning grounder by the Mets’ Mookie Wilson,
but it rolled between his legs and drove home the winning run for New York
in Game 6. The error shadowed Buckner for the rest of his life.  

Stan Grossfeld/Boston Globe, via Associated Press
Buckner began his career mainly as a speedy outfielder, but he had a bad ankle injury in 1975, and by the time he went to Boston, in a trade in 1984, he had become a full-time first baseman.

It was at first base that he made the error that would haunt him. Boston, facing the Mets, was looking for its first World Series championship since 1918.

It was the bottom of the 10th inning at Shea Stadium in New York, and the Mets had scored two runs to tie the score, 5-5, with Ray Knight on second base. There were two outs, and outfielder Mookie Wilson was at the plate with a full count.

Wilson, batting left-handed, hit a slow bouncer up the first-base line off reliever Bob Stanley, and to the fans at Shea and in the television audience, it looked like an easy third out. 
All Buckner had to do was scoop it up and touch first base, and the Red Sox would have had another chance to come to the plate in the 11th and possibly win the title that their fans had craved for 68 years.
It was not to be. 
The ball unaccountably skipped between Buckner’s legs and into the outfield. Knight dashed home, scoring the winning run as Mets fans went wild and sending the Series to a seventh game in New York.

The Mets won that one, too, 8-5, ensuring that Boston’s long dry spell would, to the bitter consternation of Red Sox fans, drag on, and cementing the most amazing Mets season in memory.
Bill Buckner returned to Fenway Park in 2008 and got a hero’s
welcome 22 years after a dribbler went through his legs.
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe, via Getty Images
Buckner, who endured heckling for years as the goat in Boston’s defeat, told The New York Times in 2011 that his error remained, unfortunately, unforgettable. 
“You can never really forget it because it comes up all the time,” he said. “I’m a competitive guy, so it’s something I didn’t enjoy. But for some reason, the stars were all lined up just right for the Mets that year, and here we are, 25 years later, still talking about it.” 

For the 25-Year Anniversary of the day that Buckner missed the ball, ESPN shot this video.

In 2011, ESPN aired this video.

The Times' Tyler Kepner notes (Bill Buckner Got Over It):
Had it not been for his fateful error in that 1986 World Series, Buckner — who suffered from Lewy body dementia, a degenerative brain disease — would have been best remembered as one of the finest hitters of his generation. 
Instead, his legacy includes some very gaudy statistics and one terribly unfortunate mistake but also proof that there are opportunities for true grace even after one really bad night. 
Bill Buckner at bat against the Mets. He won the National League’s batting title in 1980 and was an All-Star in 1981, when he was with the Chicago Cubs.
Larry C. Morris/The New York Times
In a career that lasted from 1969 through 1990, Buckner compiled 2,715 hits, won a batting title, made an All-Star team and never struck out three times in a game, something 16 major leaguers did on Sunday alone.
“He handled it amazingly well, but it killed him,” said [1986 Mets manager Bobby] Valentine, speaking metaphorically, of course. Valentine roomed with Buckner in the minors and played with him on the Dodgers. 
“There were probably 50 interviews where he could have blamed [1986 Red Sox manager John] McNamara, or said something about [Red Sox reliever Bob] Stanley throwing the wild pitch, or anything else about Game 6. He never said any of that.”
Bill Buckner throws the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park on April 8, 2008. Brian Snyder/Reuters

This brings us, as Abq Jew has previously (see Blood, Spit & Years) mentioned, closer to what is known in the trade as a:

As Nathan Heller wriote in the August 6 & 13 2018 issue of The New Yorker:
Long before the founding of Rome, the Etruscans measured time by something called the saeculum. 
A saeculum spanned from a given moment until the last people who lived through that moment had died. It was the extent of firsthand memory for human events—the way it felt to be there then—and it reminds us of the shallowness of American history. 
Alarmingly few saecula have passed since students of the Enlightenment took human slaves. We are approaching the end of the saeculum of people who remember what it feels like to be entered into total war. 
The concept is useful because it helps announce a certain kind of loss: the moment when the lessons that cannot be captured in the record disappear.

Many of Bill Buckner's achievements, of course, have been captured in the records of baseball. But (except for family and close friends) he will be remembered for one thing. Not at all a good thing. In fact, a very bad thing.

But one thing.

What one thing would Abq Jew like to be remembered for? What one thing would you, his loyal readers, like to be remembered for?

PS Some of you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, may have noticed that this blog post, 'The Ball Gets Through Bruckner!', is almost the direct, word-for-word opposite of Abq Jew's May 8 blog post, 'Havlicek Stole the Ball!'.

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