I don’t much follow baseball anymore but I grew up a Cubs fan and being a Cubs fan in the late 70s and early 80s meant finding a particular player to root for and hoping he’d avoid injury and win a league-wide honor because those teams stunk (in the words of former Cubs manager Lee Elia, I was a “real Chicago fuckin’ fan“). The Cubs famously have an institutional proclivity to trade its best players (see Brock, Lou), so all the players I liked would eventually get traded:  Rick Monday, Bill Madlock, Dave Kingman, Manny Trillo, Bruce Sutter, all traded. One of the guys the Cubs got back in the Rick Monday trade, amazingly, was an up-and-coming star, Bill Buckner. He played 7 seasons for the Cubs and when he got traded early in his eighth season with the team, I was okay with it. Here was a guy who would have to go through hours of preparation before every single game because of a bum ankle, who spent his best playing years with an awful organization (he won the batting title in 1980; from 1977-1983, the Cubs had 486 wins and 589 losses), and I hoped he’d have better luck in Boston. He did–until he didn’t.

I won’t rehash his famous error in the 1986 World Series, other than to quote from Allen Barra, who dispenses with the notion that Buckner’s error lost the series:

But Buckner’s error did not lose the championship for the Red Sox; it didn’t even lose Game 6 for them — the Red Sox had already blown their two-run lead. Two nights later, with another chance at the ring, Boston lost 8-5.

(Buckner, incidentally, had two hits in four at-bats and scored a run in Game 7.)

The Red Sox released Buckner the next season.

Generally, people have come around and don’t blame Buckner for losing the series. Red Sox Nation even came around in 2008 when fans at Fenway Park gave him a four minute standing ovation (presumably the unfurling of the World Series banner from the previous season made for a forgiving crowd).

Larry David has even done his part to repair Buckner’s reputation:

Now Buckner is 62 years old and it’s the Cubs’ turn to do be right by him. They just hired Buckner to be a minor league hitting coach for the upcoming season.

 

Derek Bridges lives in New Orleans, trading in words and pictures. A carpetbagger of long standing, he grew up in the top right corner of IL and later went to college in the middle cornfield part. He has also lived in MS and FL, for educational purposes only, and was diasporized for a time in TX.

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