Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bill Buckner Redeemed

The Boston Red Sox, after travelling to Tokyo, Los Angeles, Oakland and Toronto, finally had their home opener at Fenway where they received their 2007 World Series rings. The opening day ceremonies culminated with the first pitch which was thrown out by none other than Bill Buckner. Of course, Buckner is infamous for the squibbler off the bat of Mookie Wilson in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series that went threw his gimpy legs. Had Buckner made the play the Sox would have ended the Curse then as the Sox were an out away from winning their first World Series since 1918. But the Mets won the game on that play and went on to win Game 7 and thus began nearly two decades of heartache. Of course, much of the ire directed towards Buckner was undeserved. He was a key part of the 1986 Red Sox driving in 102 runs. He enjoyed a productive career collecting more than 2700 hits and a National League batting championship for the Chicago Cubs in 1980. But this one groundball changed his life so much he moved his family to a small farm in Idaho. Now Buckner did finish his playing career with the Sox in 1990 and was well treated by fans here. But still it lingered. Even when the Sox won in 2004 he was angry at being told he had been forgiven saying it left "a really bad taste in my mouth." As such, he refused to participate in World Series celebrations. But that was then. Today, Buckner was greeted with a wild standing ovation which visibly moved him to tears. Yet he managed to compose himself long enough to throw a perfect strike to his former teammate Dwight Evans to an even louder ovation. The ovation wasn't an act of forgiveness. It was simultaneously an act of apology and appreciation. An apology for blaming him solely for a loss that was a team effort. An appreciation for a hard working ballplayer who had a productive career despite physical limitations. I wasn't in the stands but it was a sure as cathartic a moment as I've ever seen in a major league ballpark.

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