I can’t believe I’m thinking of this, but I am and I feel the need to state my piece.
Bill Buckner died this week at the age of 69. He crafted a stellar Major League Baseball career that ended in 1990. He collected more than 2,700 hits; he compiled a .289 batting average; he won the National League batting title in 1980; he batted more than .300 in seven of his years playing in the big leagues. Buckner appeared in several All-Star Games. He played for more than 22 years in both the American and National leagues.
Oh, but he is known to most baseball fans for one play. It occurred in the 1986 World between the Boston Red Sox (Buckner’s team at the time) and the New York Mets. In the sixth game of the series, Mookie Wilson of the Mets hit a “routine” ground ball to Buckner, who was playing first base. Buckner bent down to catch the ball — and then watched it scoot between his feet under his glove.
Error on Buckner! The Mets scored the winning run and went on to win the World Series.
For that play, Buckner was vilified, scorned, ridiculed, hassled and harassed for the rest of his career and beyond. The Red Sox eventually brought him back to honor him. The fans who once booed at the sound of his name stood and cheered him that day.
Which brings me to my central point: Is that single play responsible for this fine player being denied enshrinement in baseball’s Hall of Fame?
Players with far less impressive stats are in the hall. I think, for instance, of Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski, a second baseman who — in my view — is in the HoF because of one hit: a Game 7 walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees.
Buckner’s window for induction into the HoF induction has been closed for a long time. The old-timers committee cannot even let him in.
It’s a shame. The guy could hit a baseball. Absent that one play in the 1986 Fall Classic, he could field his position, too.
For what it’s worth, I think he deserved induction into the Hall of Fame . . . right along with Bill Mazeroski.