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Bill Buckner

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Title: Bill Buckner  
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Subject: List of Los Angeles Dodgers seasons, 1989 Kansas City Royals season, 1988 Kansas City Royals season, Boston Red Sox, History of the Chicago Cubs
Collection: 1949 Births, Albuquerque Dodgers Players, Arizona Instructional League Dodgers Players, Baseball Players from California, Boston Red Sox Players, California Angels Players, Chicago Cubs Players, Chicago White Sox Coaches, Kansas City Royals Players, Living People, Los Angeles Dodgers Players, Major League Baseball First Basemen, Minor League Baseball Managers, National League All-Stars, National League Batting Champions, Ogden Dodgers Players, Spokane Indians Players, Sportspeople from Boise, Idaho, Sportspeople from Vallejo, California, Tiburones De La Guaira Players, University of Southern California Alumni
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Bill Buckner

Bill Buckner
First baseman
Born: (1949-12-14) December 14, 1949
Vallejo, California, U.S.
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
September 21, 1969, for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
May 30, 1990, for the Boston Red Sox
MLB statistics
Batting average .289
Hits 2,715
Home runs 174
Runs batted in 1,208
Career highlights and awards

William Joseph "Bill" Buckner (born December 14, 1949) is a former Major League Baseball (MLB) first baseman. He appeared in MLB from 1969 through 1990. During his career, he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, California Angels, and Kansas City Royals.

Buckner accumulated over 2,700 hits in his twenty-year career, won a batting title in 1980, and represented the Cubs at the All-Star Game the following season.

Despite his successes, Buckner is best remembered for a fielding error during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets, a play that has since become prominently entrenched in American baseball lore.[1]


  • Early years 1
  • Career 2
    • Los Angeles Dodgers 2.1
    • Chicago Cubs 2.2
    • Boston Red Sox 2.3
      • 1986 World Series 2.3.1
      • Fallout 2.3.2
    • Career twilight 2.4
      • Forgiveness 2.4.1
  • Career stats 3
  • Post playing career 4
  • Personal life 5
  • References in popular culture 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early years

William Joseph Buckner was born in Vallejo, California and grew up in American Canyon, California.[2] Buckner graduated from Napa High School in 1968 after playing on the school's baseball and football teams. While playing football, he was a two-time All-State wide receiver Coaches and also achieved All-America honors twice.[3][4] Buckner was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 1968 Major League Baseball Draft. His friend, Bobby Valentine, was the Dodgers' first round pick. Upon signing with the Dodgers, Buckner was assigned to the Ogden Dodgers of the Pioneer League. He also briefly attended Los Angeles Valley College, the University of Southern California and Arizona State University and became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity while a farmhand with the Dodgers.


Los Angeles Dodgers

After two minor league seasons, in which he batted .323, Buckner made his major league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a September call-up in 1969 at the age of 19. He appeared in one game, September 21 against the San Francisco Giants, and popped out to second baseman Ron Hunt, pinch hitting for Jim Brewer in the ninth inning.[5]

Buckner began the 1970 season with the Dodgers, but after batting .121 with no home runs and no RBIs, he was returned to Triple-A Spokane. His .335 batting average with the Spokane Indians earned him a second chance, and he returned to the Dodgers when rosters expanded that September. He batted .257 in the months of September and October, with four RBIs and five runs scored.

Buckner earned a starting job with the Dodgers in 1971 as their opening day right fielder. Buckner also played some first base with the Dodgers, making 87 starts at first in 1973, but when Steve Garvey emerged as a Gold Glove first baseman and the National League's Most Valuable Player the following season, he was shifted to left field permanently. Buckner played a supporting role in a baseball milestone on April 8, 1974. Playing left field, Buckner climbed the fence in an attempt to catch Hank Aaron's 715th home run. In his Dodger career, Buckner batted .289 with 38 home runs and 277 runs batted in in 773 games.

Chicago Cubs

Buckner bats at Wrigley Field on June 11, 1981

Following the season, Buckner was traded to the Chicago Cubs with Iván DeJesús and Jeff Albert for Rick Monday and Mike Garman. He'd suffered a staph infection in his ankle in 1976, so the Cubs shifted him to first base, where he remained for the final fourteen years of his career.

Whereas early indications seemed to lean toward the Dodgers getting the better end of this deal, with Monday becoming one of the key centerpieces of the Dodgers clubs that went to the 1977 and 1978 World Series, Buckner soon emerged as something of a star for the beleaguered Cubs. During his career in Chicago, he batted over .300 four times, leading the league in 1980 at .324, and was the Cubs' sole representative at the 1981 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.[6]

On May 17, 1979, in a famous slugfest at Wrigley Field that included three homers by Dave Kingman and two by Mike Schmidt, Buckner went four-for-seven with a grand slam and seven RBIs.[7] When manager Herman Franks resigned late in the 1979 season, he made negative comments about several players, including calling Buckner "nuts."[8]

Boston Red Sox

Early in the 1984 season, the Boston Red Sox were in the market for an upgrade at first base. On May 25, they acquired Buckner from the Cubs for Dennis Eckersley and Mike Brumley. The Red Sox were 19–25, and in sixth place in the American League East at the time of the trade, and improved to 67–51 the rest of the way to finish the season in fourth.

Buckner appeared in all 162 games for the Red Sox in 1985, and batted .299 with sixteen home runs and a career high 110 RBIs. Buckner was a prototypical contact hitter, and struck out just 36 times in 718 plate appearances to lead the league in that category (he also led the league in most at bats per strike out in 1980, 1982 & 1986, and placed second in 1979, 1981, 1983 & 1987). In 1985, he also set the Major League record for assists by a first baseman in a season with 184. His record stood for almost 25 years; in 2009, the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols had 185 assists.

In September 1986, Buckner hit .340 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs, while missing just three games in spite of chronic ankle soreness. Dave Stapleton, the Bosox first baseman prior to the acquisition of Buckner, began seeing more playing time as a late inning defensive replacement for Buckner in September and October. Buckner, meanwhile, became the first major league player to wear Nike high-top baseball cleats professionally in an effort to relieve pressure from his ankles.

Buckner drove in over 100 runs for the second season in a row, and was a key member of the team that won the American League East by 5.5 games. He entered Game five of the 1986 American League Championship Series batting just .111 in the ALCS, and was 0-for-three in the game when he singled to start the ninth inning rally, which was capped off by Dave Henderson's famous home run. He went three-for-six in the final two games, as the Red Sox came back from the brink of elimination to defeat the California Angels, and win the American League pennant.

1986 World Series

Buckner watches his misplayed ground ball as Wilson goes to first.

Boston was leading the heavily favored New York Mets three games to two in the 1986 World Series when Game Six of the series went into extra innings. For his part, Buckner was batting just .143 against Mets pitching, and was 0-for-5 in Game 6. When the Sox scored two runs in the top of the tenth, Boston manager John McNamara chose to have Buckner take the field in the bottom of the inning instead of bringing Stapleton in as a defensive replacement for the ailing Buckner as he had in games one, two and five.[9]

New York came back to tie the game with three straight two-out singles off Calvin Schiraldi and a wild pitch by Bob Stanley. Mookie Wilson fouled off several pitches before hitting a slow roller to Buckner at first base. Aware of Wilson's speed, Buckner tried to rush the play. As a result, the ball rolled to the left side of his glove,[10] through his legs and into right field, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run from second base.[11]

Boston led Game 7 of the World Series 3–0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning when New York scored three runs off Bruce Hurst (who had been named World Series Most Valuable Player before the Mets' improbable comeback in Game 6) to tie the game, and score three more off Schiraldi in the seventh to take a 6–3 lead. Buckner was two-for-four in the game, and scored one of two runs the Sox plated in the eighth. However, the comeback fell short, and the Mets won their second World Championship in franchise history.[12]


Regardless of Schiraldi's pitching, Stanley's wild pitch or any of the other perceived shortcomings that led to Boston's loss in the 1986 World Series, Buckner's error epitomized the "Curse of the Bambino" in the minds of Red Sox fans, and he soon became the scapegoat for a frustrated fan base.[13] Buckner began receiving death threats, and was heckled and booed by some of his own home fans. Meanwhile, he was the focal point of derision from the fans of opposing teams on the road — especially when he faced the Mets in Spring training 1987, and the first time he came to bat at Yankee Stadium during the regular season.[14] The Red Sox released Buckner on July 23, 1987, after recording a .273 batting average, two home runs and 42 RBI through 95 games.

Career twilight

Upon his release from the Red Sox, Buckner signed with the California Angels. For the remainder of the 1987 season, Buckner batted .306 and drove in 32 runs in just 57 games.

At 38 years old, Buckner was released by the Angels on May 9, 1988 just before a road trip that would have brought him to New York against the Yankees and Boston. He signed with the Kansas City Royals shortly after his release, and walked into Fenway Park as a player for the opposing team for the first time on July 15. He went one-for-two off Roger Clemens with a walk.[15]


Buckner returned to the Red Sox in 1990 as a free agent, and received a standing ovation from the crowd during player introductions at the home opener on April 9.[16] His return was short lived, as he retired on June 5 with a .186 batting average, one home run and three RBIs.

On April 8, [17]

Career stats

Buckner was a speedy baserunner until his ankle surgeries in 1975 and '76 for a severe ankle sprain and bone chips, respectively. He twice finished in the top-ten in the league in stolen bases (1974 & 1976), and twice led the league in doubles (1981 & 1983). After moving to first base, he played 1,555 regular season games and made only 128 errors in 13,901 chances.

Buckner signing autographs in 2011

Post playing career

After Buckner retired from professional baseball he moved his family to Idaho, where he invested in real estate in the Boise area. One of the housing subdivisions which he developed is named Fenway Park. He lent his name to and was a minority owner of a local car dealership, Bill Buckner Motors in Emmett, which was in business from 2006 to 2008.

On January 4, 2011, Buckner was named the manager of the Brockton Rox of the Can-Am League.[18][19]

The Rox posted a 51–42 record in 2011, but went on hiatus following the season. In December, Buckner became the hitting instructor for the Boise Hawks for 2012. The Hawks are the Cubs' affiliate in the Short season class A Northwest League.[20][21] Buckner announced his retirement from baseball on March 3, 2014.[22] Buckner was inducted into the Napa High School Hall of fame in 1997 [23][24] and the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section[25] Hall of Fame in 2010.

Personal life

With his wife, Jody, Buckner has two daughters, Brittany & Christen, and a son, Bobby. Bobby is a member of the Texas A&M–Corpus Christi Islanders baseball team.[26] Buckner also has two brothers, Jim & Robert, who played minor league ball but did not make it to the majors. He also has a sister, Jan, who is Jim's twin.

Warren Brusstar who also graduated from Napa High School was a teammate with Buckner for a year and a half while they played for the Cubs.[27]

References in popular culture

Charlie Sheen purchased the "Buckner Ball" at auction in 1992 for $93,000, and it long resided in the collection of songwriter Seth Swirsky, who refers to it as the "Mookie Ball."[28] The ball was on loan for a time from Swirsky to the Mets to display in their Mets Hall of Fame and Museum, and it was among the most popular artifacts for fans to see. On May 3, 2012, Swirsky sold the ball through Heritage Auctions for $418,250.[29][30][31]

Buckner made a cameo at the beginning of the sports parody film The Comebacks and appeared in an episode of the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm,[32] as well as a cameo in the pilot episode of the short-lived sitcom Inside Schwartz, advising the title character to "just let it go". His famous miscue is also referenced in the films Celtic Pride, Rounders[33] and Fever Pitch, the episode "Brother's Little Helper" of The Simpsons,[34] and the musical Johnny Baseball.[35] On October 23, 2008, during former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's testimony in House hearings on the Economic crisis of 2008, Representative John Yarmuth referred to Greenspan as one of "three Bill Buckners."[36]

During WrestleMania XIV, Pete Rose cut a promo against the city of Boston, facetiously saying "I left tickets (to the event) for Bill Buckner, but he couldn't bend over to pick 'em up. How 'bout it?"

See also


  1. ^ Ron Smith, Foreword by Joe Morgan. "The Sporting News Selects Baseball's 25 Greatest Moments, #8 E-3".  
  2. ^ James, Marty (May 20, 2010). "AmCan's Buckner to enter Sac-Joaquin Section shrine".  
  3. ^ James, Marty (June 13, 2011). "A high-flying Hall of Famer".  
  4. ^ James, Marty (February 3, 2009). "Still talkin’ baseball".  
  5. ^ "San Francisco Giants 4, Los Angeles Dodgers 3".  
  6. ^ "1981 Major League Baseball All-Star Game". 1981-08-09. 
  7. ^ "Philadelphia Phillies 23, Chicago Cubs 22". 1979-05-17. 
  8. ^ Sullivan, Paul (1999-05-16). "History Shows Tirades Nothing New Around Wrigley Field". Chicago Tribune. 
  9. ^ Bill Simmons (2002-10-14). "Buckner Deserves Some Peace".  
  10. ^ Gibney, Alex (director, narrator). Simmons, Bill (producer/creator). Buckner, Bill (himself, commentator). "Catching Hell", 30 for 30 series of documentaries. ESPN, 2011.
  11. ^ "1986 World Series, Game six". 1986-10-25. 
  12. ^ "1986 World Series, Game seven". 1986-10-27. 
  13. ^ Stan Grossfeld (2003-10-23). "Error doesn't weigh: He's been a Sox scapegoat for 17 years, but Bill Buckner is at peace in Idaho".  
  14. ^ "Boston Red Sox 6, New York Yankees 2". 1987-07-28. 
  15. ^ "Boston Red Sox 3, Kansas City Royals 1". 1988-07-15. 
  16. ^ Ben Houser (2006-10-06). "'"Buckner: 'I try to look at it in a positive way. ESPN. 
  17. ^ Amalie Benjamin (2008-04-08). "An Emotional Day for Bill Buckner". Boston Globe. 
  18. ^ Brockton
  19. ^ James, Marty (January 6, 2011). "NHS great Buckner back in baseball".  
  20. ^ Chicageo Tribune - Cubs officially name Buckner as Boise hitting coach - 2011-12-30
  21. ^ The Idaho Statesman - Buckner will serve as Boise Hawks’ hitting coach - 2011-12-31
  22. ^ The Idaho Statesman - Boise Hawks hitting coach Bill Buckner retires from baseball - 2014-3-3
  23. ^ James, Marty (April 9, 2008). "Buckner in Napa High Hall of Fame".  
  24. ^ James, Marty (October 31, 2010). "Napa baseball coach accepts honor for his childhood hero".  
  25. ^ James, Marty (April 22, 2010). "Napa High alum Buckner to enter Sac-Joaquin Section shrine".  
  26. ^ Mike Finger (2006-11-09). "UT sign Bill Buckner's son". 
  27. ^ James, Marty (September 27, 2011). "Brusstar earns Storm’s highest honor".  
  28. ^ Steve Zipay (2006-08-16). "The Buckner Ball: After getting by Buckner, it eventually was snared by fan who grew up on LI". Newsday. Archived from the original on 2007-03-13. 
  29. ^ "Buckner ball sells for $418,250". 
  30. ^ "Bill Buckner ball sells for $418,250". 
  31. ^ ">"Auction record for Buckner Ball". 
  32. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (September 4, 2011). "Mister Softee: Bill Bucker to the rescue?". Retrieved September 5, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Rounders (screenplay)". Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ Shea, Brendan. "Tonight’s Lineup: A Crash Course on Red Sox History".  
  36. ^ Greenspan Admits Errors to Hostile House Panel, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 24, 2008 (accessed Oct. 24, 2008)

External links

  • Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors), or Baseball Almanac, or The Baseball
  • Bill Buckner official website
Preceded by
Mike Schmidt
National League Player of the Month
August 1982
Succeeded by
Claudell Washington
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