On Opening Day at Fenway this year, former Red Sox player Bill Buckner threw out the first ball. It was an emotional moment, seeing how well-received the old Number Six was as he walked out to the mound; especially so considering how reviled he was after he flubbed that Mookie Wilson grounder during Game Six that pretty much led to the Mets winning the 1986 World Series.
Those Beantown Idiots have won two World Series since then - in 2004 and 2007. So maybe that's why the fans were willing to cite "Bygones", a la Richard Fish of 'Ally McBeal'. But I would hope they would have been just as forgiving and welcoming if the drought had continued. After all, 20/20 hindsight shows that it was a managerial error at the base of it - MacNamara should have pulled him out of the game earlier since he was so visibly hurting.
I know I would have been more forgiving even without the two championships, and I was a guy who was merciless on him back then. That play left me in a fetal position on my friend Robin's floor that night. It would have been fun to do that anyway, but for a more... interesting reason. But if you can't let something like that go by the next season, you're the one with a problem.
Of course, don't get me started about New York's channel 5 yanking 'Forever Fernwood' off the schedule back in 1978 in favor of 'Hogan's Heroes' reruns! But that's different.....
All of that venom from the fans took its toll on Buckner and he almost turned down this opportunity to come back to the Red Sox Nation.
"Yes, it was the World Series, and yes, it was a dramatic moment, but one play shouldn't define the legacy of a man who was a great player and a great hitter," said Ron Cey, a friend since they joined the Dogdgers together back in 1968. "Billy was a gritty player, a determined player and an emotional player, and this comes from someone who was his teammate in the Minor Leagues, with the Dodgers and then with the Chicago Cubs."
Here's why Bill Buckner should never be known only for that one play. In his 20 years of Major League Baseball from '70 to '90:
2,715 career hits
54th on the all-time list
more hits than Ted Williams, Billy Williams, and Steve Garvey
.289 batting average
1,077 scored runs
174 home runs
450 walks and only 453 strike-outs
.991 in career fielding
So here's to you, Bill Buckner. Thanks for being patient with us as we finally came around.