William Joseph "Bill" Buckner (born December 14, 1949) is a former Major League Baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, California Angels and Kansas City Royals. His playing career lasted over twenty years and he accumulated over 2700 career hits.
Career[edit | edit source]
Buckner was born in Vallejo, California, United States. He graduated from Napa High School. He was the second player chosen by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1968 June Draft (after his friend Bobby Valentine was selected first). Before entering MLB, Buckner briefly attended the University of Southern California, where he never played sports. While at Southern California he became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. Buckner played his first major league game in 1969 with the Los Angeles Dodgers (at the age of 19) and his last game in 1990 (at the age of 40) with the Boston Red Sox. He won the National League batting title in 1980 with the Chicago Cubs. He was an All-Star in 1981. Buckner was the first major league player to wear Nike high-top baseball cleats professionally, preceding by a number of years the waves of major leaguers wearing high-tops starting in 1989.
For his entire career, "Billy Buck" was known as one of the more consistent contact hitters in the major leagues: in 2,517 games, Buckner accumulated 2,715 hits and only 453 strikeouts. He led the league four times in most at bats per strike out (1980, 1982, 1985, 1986), and four times placed second in the category (1979, 1981, 1983, 1987).
As a player he was a speedy baserunner who twice finished in the top-ten in the league in stolen bases. He twice led the league in doubles. After a serious ankle injury in the early 70's while playing for the Dodgers, which affected him for much of his career, Buckner never was the same type of base runner. In the remaining years of his career, Buckner endured extensive daily therapy and icing of his ankle in order to maintain his high level of playing standards for another decade and a half.
Originally promoted to the majors as an outfielder, he moved to first base when he joined the Cubs to take pressure off his ankles. At that position, he played 1,555 regular season games and made only 128 errors in 13,901 chances. Despite his ankle problems, he managed to post respectable stolen-base numbers in 1981 (15) and 1982 (12) with the Cubs and 1985 (18) with the Red Sox.
1986 World Series[edit | edit source]
- Main article: 1986 World Series
Buckner was a key member of the team in 1986. He hit 8 home runs that September, with 22 RBIs and a .340 average, missing only three games. He drove in over 100 runs for the season. In Game 5 of the Championship Series when the Red Sox faced elimination, he singled to start their ninth inning rally, which was capped off by Dave Henderson's famous home run.
On October 25, 1986, the Boston Red Sox faced the New York Mets in Game 6 of the World Series. Boston led the best-of-7 series 3 games to 2, and had a two-run lead with two outs in the bottom of the tenth inning. New York came back to tie the game with three straight singles off Calvin Schiraldi and a wild pitch by pitcher Bob Stanley. Mookie Wilson fouled off several pitches before hitting a ground ball to Buckner at first base. The ball rolled under Buckner's glove, through his legs, and into right field, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run, forcing a seventh game, which the Mets won. The error capped off a poor Game 6 performance; he went 0-for-5 with runners on in all five at-bats.
Retirement and legacy[edit | edit source]
After Buckner retired from professional baseball he moved his family to Boise, Idaho, where he invested in real estate. One of the housing subdivisions which he developed is named Fenway Park. He also owns Bill Buckner Motors in Emmett, Idaho.
Buckner also played a supporting role in another baseball milestone. As left fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Buckner climbed the fence in an attempt to catch Hank Aaron's 715th home run on April 8, 1974.
Thirty-four years to the date later, on April 8, 2008, Bill Buckner threw out the first pitch at the Boston Red Sox home opener against the Detroit Tigers. He received a 4 minute standing ovation from the sell-out crowd. After the game, when asked if he had any second thoughts about appearing at the game, he said, "I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but I would have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through. So, you know, I've done that and I'm over that."
References in popular culture[edit | edit source]
- Boston poet John Hodgen wrote a poem titled "Forgiving Buckner". The poem begins, "The world is always rolling between our legs..." 
- In Boston, the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge has acquired the nickname "The Bill Buckner Bridge" because cars pass unimpeded through the bridge's Y-shaped "legs."
- In the movie The Comebacks, the team manager for the Boston Red Sox is working on a crossword in the dugout when he calls out to Buckner asking for the answer. Buckner gets distracted long enough for the ball to roll between his legs.
- Buckner was shown briefly in an episode of the Simpsons, where he ironically heckled Bart for missing an easy pop fly that lost The Springfield Isotopes the championship game.
- Buckner was referenced by Harry Connick Jr.'s character Leo (Season 5 Episode 8, "Marry Me A Little, Marry Me A Little More") on the sitcom Will & Grace when it appears that Leo and Grace miss being properly married by a slight error.
See also[edit | edit source]
- List of top 500 Major League Baseball home run hitters
- List of major league players with 2,000 hits
- List of Major League Baseball players with 400 doubles
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 runs
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 RBI
- List of Major League Baseball batting champions
- List of Major League Baseball doubles champions
Quotes[edit | edit source]
"Bill Buckner was more than just a great player. He was a champion warrior." -Ray Knight
References[edit | edit source]
- Mariners | Between the Seams | Bill Buckner feted in Fenway return | Seattle Times Newspaper
- John Hodgen
- Fabrizio, Richard (2003-07-27). Company begins Memorial Bridge assessment soon. Portsmouth Herald. Retrieved on 2007-02-06.
- Pegoraro, Rob (2005-07-11). Fast Forward. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2007-02-06.
[edit | edit source]
- ESPN.com The Buckner play 20 years later - http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2615471
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Video of the ball going through Buckner's legs in the 1986 World Series
- 1986 World Series Game 6 Re-Enacted in RBI Baseball - A popular viral video depicting Buckner's infamous error using RBI Baseball for video and Vin Scully's original play-by-play for audio.
- The Sporting News' Baseball's 25 Greatest Moments: E-3
- Newsday: The Buckner Ball, August 16, 2006