Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bill Buckner?!?!?

"You are forgiven!
You are forgiven,
You are forgiven!

-The Who A Quick One While He's Away

Of all the "villains" in the history of Boston sports no one deserves the title of villain LESS than Bill Buckner. Let's review the facts:

In Game Six of the World Series, with the game TIED in extra innings due to the Red Sox bullpen - the team's weak spot all year - failing to get the final out with the Sox up by 2 - Mookie Wilson hits a grounder up the first base line at Bill Buckner - who was usually replaced by Dave Stapleton in the late innings of ball games - with went through Mr. Buckners legs as the Mets won the game. And if you really want to get technical, there is a theory out there that Mookie Wilson would have beaten the out even if Buckner had fielded the ball cleanly.

So, it's somehow Buckner's fault that the Red Sox lost the world series when the bullpen failed to hold a lead in game six (not game seven, game six) in a game that ended up tied in a position he never should have been in to begin with? This isn't the first time that Red Sox fans have found a completely inappropriate scapegoat. Johnny Pesky did NOT hold the ball against the Cardinals. The Bucky Dent home run happened in the early innings of the game. Pretty much the only appropriate scapegoat was Grady Little who was justifiably raked over the coals for one of the dumbest managing decisions in baseball history: leaving Pedro in too long in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. And even that was a bit over blown considering that how dominant the Marlins ended up being in the post season should the Sox have advanced. And again, that was in the eighth inning.

To their credit, Red Sox fans have given Bill Buckner a standing ovation TWICE. Once was on opening day of the 1990 season when Bill returned to the Red Sox to end his career. The second time was yesterday when Buckner threw out the first pitch. So I'm beginning to wonder if Bill Buckner is really that hated. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that the people who really keep this alive is the media.

Consider the caricature of the typical Red Sox before 2004: some meathead with a Red Sox hat and a "Yankees Suck" t-shirt (if I'm ever elected to public office, I'm banning anything saying "Yankees Suck" and burning it in a huge bonfire. Just to let you know) who can't pronounce the letter "R" and is obsessed with the Buckner play.

Now, after 2007 and two World Series titles, is anything about that stereotype correct - aside from hating the Yankees, of course? I would argue that most people in Boston do NOT have the Boston accent. I would also argue that there are plenty of meatheads in this country who find the word "sucks" amusing who don't root for the Red Sox - if you don't believe me, look at our current president.

It makes a nice stock character, but I'm not sure it's at all accurate. There are plenty of reasons to dislike Red Sox fans: having the second highest payroll in baseball, the pomposity of the very idea of "Red Sox Nation", Wally the Green Monster gives you nightmares, "Fever Pitch", and the existence of Ben Affleck. None of that crap is 100% accurate about all of us. For example, I had friends in college who were Yankees fans and they weren't unbearable louts. They were only unbearable louts when you discussed baseball. So we didn't. And we all got along splendidly.

The real problem is the "Buckner obsession" is the 2 World Series Titles. Not everyone was around for 1986, but most of the population can remember 2004 and 2006. The further we get from 1986, the less relevant Game Six gets. Yes, media hacks, Buckner is off the hook and so are Denny Galehouse, Johnny Pesky, Mike Torrez, and Tim Wakefield. Grady Little is a different story.

BTW: I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Game Six was only the second most famous moment Bill Buckner was a part of. If you look at the footage of Hank Aaron's record breaking home run, Buckner is playing left field for the Dodgers

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