Bill Buckner was beloved by fans of the New York Mets for the poor fielding of a routine ground ball, which helped the Mets stay alive in the 1986 World Series and eventually prevail against the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox had already blown their lead in the game, but most people remembered it as if Boston had still been in line to win when Buckner let the ball through. Buckner had a long and otherwise distinguished career in baseball, and he didn’t let that error destroy him personally, the way sports stuff can ruin lives. He even goofed on himself in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm on the Home Box. The Red Sox finally won a World Series, and then three more, and the Mets still haven’t won another, so nobody really needed to hold a grudge.
My memory of Bill Buckner is older than that. It is from when he was on offense, and his team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, was trailing the Oakland A’s in Game Five of the 1974 World Series. I remembered watching some of the games in class at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic School, because the nuns liked baseball.
This was the play I always associated with Bill Buckner:
The Dodgers needed a man in scoring position desperately. Bucker led off and slammed one into the gap in right center. It seemed like an easy double, but Buckner decided to stretch it into a triple. What happened next encapsulates two very different postseason careers in one play. The ball rolled past CF Bill North. But Reggie Jackson, who had a reputation as being a little weak defensively, backed him up. He snared it before reaching the wall and shot it back to cut off man Dick Green, who relayed it to Bando at third. A shocked Buckner felt the tag slam down on his back and could only trot back to an equally stunned dugout.— How They Play dot com
The Dodgers went on to lose the game and with it the series, 4 games to 1, rendering Games Six and Seven unnecessary, so I have always believed Bill Buckner screwed me out of the possibility of two more days of sitting in school watching baseball.
When I went to fact-check this item, however, I realized that there weren’t any weekday World Series day games in 1974, so there’s no way I could have been watching the game in Catholic school that day with the nuns. I have been conflating my memory of watching regular-season or possibly playoff games with my memory of the 1974 World Series. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to my memory of Bill Buckner.