Bill Buckner Died This Morning

(From May 27, 2019)

I’ve never been a Red Sox fan, per se, or even a Bill Buckner fan, actually. But, I admit, I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Billy-Buck ever since the night of October 25, 1986, when I watched a routine ground ball — with a little bit of a funky spin on it — miss his first baseman’s mitt just a few feet from first base. I know he probably took his eye off the ball just a bit, but, man….

Two outs in the bottom of the ninth…Game 6 of the World Series, with the Red Sox up, three games to two. The New York Mets had already scored two runs to tie the score, so if Buckner fields the ball and steps on 1st base, the game goes into extra innings, and there’s no guarantee who wins. But, as the ball slowly dribbled behind him, and down the right-field line, Ray Knight galloped home with the winning run, sending the Sox & Mets to a deciding Game 7.

My personal theology holds that God REALLLLLLY probably doesn’t care about who wins baseball games…but, I may or may not have literally prayed that Bill Buckner would drive in the winning run in Game 7, and be the hero for Boston, and their beloved Red Sox. (Full disclosure: I REALLY, REALLLLY hated that Mets team.)

It was not to be. The Red Sox lost Game 7, and in a fairly predictable, and yet, still terrible aftermath, not only was Buckner blamed for the loss of a baseball game, and the World Series, but he was branded as one of the worst sports “goats” of all time.

Even though he and his family had made their home in Massachusetts, eventually the harassment, taunts, and criticism — especially from the media — forced them to move to Idaho, where Buckner purchased a ranch.

One of the ironies in all of this is that Buckner was an outstanding baseball player, and a true veteran leader on that Sox team. Everyone agrees they would have never even made it to the World Series without him. He had a great career with the Dodgers, Cubs, and Red Sox…until 10/25/86.

Thankfully, time does heal most wounds — if we let it. It took almost 22 years, but Billy-Buck finally had a triumphant return to Fenway Park when he was announced to the opening night crowd in 2008, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The standing ovation he received lasted almost two minutes, and, not surprisingly, brought tears to the eyes of many, including Bill Buckner.

I’m glad. Buckner was only sixty-nine years old when he passed away this morning from a form of dementia. I’m glad that he got to experience not just the sense of being forgiven, but also the even more powerful release of forgiving those who had tormented him, and his family. According to his wife, he was at peace with both God and man when he slipped across the Last Divide.

RIP, Billy. I’m happy for you now. 😇

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