Bill Buckner returned to Fenway Park today to a standing ovation while throwing out the first pitch, after staying away for years and living in near isolation in Montana. I saw a piece about him on ESPN about 2 years ago and he looked really depressed.
I'm glad to see that he was received so warmly by the often super-critical Boston fans. As you all recall, Mookie Wilson's little grounder up the first base line in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series went under Buckner's glove and right between his legs, which allowed Ray Knight to score from 2nd base and give the Mets an incredible come from behind win, and propelled the Mets to their decisive game 7 win, continuing the "Curse of the Bambino".
I, for one, think Buckner should have little culpability in that disastrous Red Sox loss. Why?
1. The Mets were down to their final out. The Mets pounded out three straight hits against Calvin Schiraldi (Carter, Mitchell, Knight) to come within one run of the Sox. All Schiraldi had to do was get one of those guys out.
2. Bob Stanley came in to relieve Schiraldi, and, by virtue of a wild pitch, allowed the tying run (Mitchell) to score, and allowed Knight (the eventual winning run) to move up to 2nd base.
3. Stanley could not get the Mookster out, as the "Mook" fouled off 8 or 9 pitches to stay alive.
4. When Mookie finally put the ball in fair territory, the infamous grounder toward Buckner, even if Buckner fielded the ball cleanly, I don't think he beats Mookie to the bag. Mookie was a speed demon and was hopping out of the batter's box from the left side of the plate. Buckner had 2 bum ankles and was playing well back of the 1st base bag. I think he was actually standing on the grass he was so far back. So, Mookie probably would have beat it out anyway.
5. Even if Buckner fields the ball and somehow beats Mookie to the bag, the game was tied at that point, and Mets had so much momentum (and Shea Stadium was absolutely rocking) that the Mets probably win the game later anyway.
So, I'm glad the Boston fans, with 2 recent World Series titles in hand (2004 and 2007) were finally able to show the respect and admiration for Mr. Buckner. He never deserved all that criticism.