October 28, 2004

Bill Bitter: "This whole thing about being forgiven and clearing my name, you know, I mean ... cleared from what? What did I do wrong? ... I've gone through a lot of, what I feel, undeserved bad situations for myself and my family over a long period of time, and for someone to come up to me and say, 'Hey, you're forgiven.' I mean, it just kind of brings a really bad taste in my mouth." -- Bill Buckner

posted by rcade to baseball at 02:51 PM - 58 comments

Ok, not forgiven then. Do what you got to do, dude.

posted by jerseygirl at 03:15 PM on October 28, 2004

I guess he's not in the parade then.

posted by tieguy at 03:16 PM on October 28, 2004

Its true that he didn't deserve the full obsession of the crazed and angry Red Sox fans who blamed him, right or wrong, for what happened in 1986.

But its also true that he booted that ball big time, so technically, yeah he did that wrong.

He's served his time as the focal point for long enough not to need to be pardoned or anything. On the other hand why should he stir up the hornets by saying he doesn't need to be let off the hook for the error long ago.

Its crazy how one play or moment can be so widely seen as the point of collapse, like the Buckner play or the Bartman thing in Chicago, but all of the collapsing after that point is ignored.

It is hard not to look at Buckner's error in game 6, 1986, as the turning point in that series though. Accept the pardon is my advice to Buckner.

Either way, Scott Norwood now awaits a Buffalo Bills Super Bowl victory in similar fashion so he can have his forgiveness/pardon...

posted by chris2sy at 03:16 PM on October 28, 2004

I heard a Buckner interview on ESPN this afternoon. Bitter doesn't even begin to describe how he feels when someone approaches him about the Buckner Boot. He avoids going to the city of Boston for any reason and won't even consider doing anything ceremonial for the Red Sox.

posted by rcade at 03:18 PM on October 28, 2004

I was kind of hoping he'd be in the parade, really. I'd love to just put all that stuff behind us.

posted by jerseygirl at 03:18 PM on October 28, 2004

I was hoping he'd be mayor of the parade. I never blamed the guy, even at 10 years old. They had already choked plus there was still a Game 7 they could have won. There was a whole pack of goats. On the flip side, Sox "fans" ran him out of any number of minor league jobs. So there's a downside to the breadth of Red Sox Nation.

posted by yerfatma at 03:29 PM on October 28, 2004

The whole Buckner obsession was just the worst and most pointless form of scapegoating, and like any scapegoating, it was a stupid waste of energy. Every ballplayer makes mistakes; arguably, every World Series is lost because someone screwed up or somehow failed to deliver, even if it's not a capital-E Error. A pitcher hangs one, a batter hits a dinky grounder for an easy out, whatever. The game ends on somebody's play, and sane people move on.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:42 PM on October 28, 2004

Well, we're still agreed that Fred Merkle was an awful human being, right?

posted by yerfatma at 04:09 PM on October 28, 2004

Guy makes millions of dollars playing a child's game and then is upset when the fans who buy the tickets and such that provide those millions hold him responsible for their huge disappointment. Film at 11.

posted by billsaysthis at 04:24 PM on October 28, 2004

Didn't Buckner get death threats? If so, I would submit that he has every right to be rather bitter.

posted by NoMich at 05:04 PM on October 28, 2004

billsaysthis, I accept that you have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to baseball, but this is probably the worst one yet. You can't do smarmy cynicism; it falls flat everytime. Here's a guy who had it made, made money playing baseball. Played well. Possibly Hall of Fame quality. American Dream. And then he became a Red Sox and his life was literally ruined.

posted by yerfatma at 05:11 PM on October 28, 2004

Buckner made a single bad play in Game 6 in '86, but it was the whole team that blew it in that game and in Game 7. he is more of a symbol for the loss in '86 than anything else. Dude didn't do anything he needs to be forgiven for. Hell, Ortiz at first could have made the exact same error. Anyhow, he didn't sound bitter in this article to me so much as bluntly honest. Good for him.

posted by Joey Michaels at 06:24 PM on October 28, 2004

Some people need to get a grip. Buckner isn't one of them.

posted by squealy at 06:29 PM on October 28, 2004

Forget the article, if you hear his voice there is surely some bitterness there. And yes, it was totally unfair to blame buckner for the loss, and the series loss, and forgiving him is silly, but in all fairness I've ready many, many articles in the last 5 years putting that play into perspective. He doesn't want to have anything to do with boston, the cubs, yes, dodgers, yes, boston...no. That's his choice. Thanks for the memories. His bitterness doesn nothing but harm him. Good luck to him.

posted by justgary at 06:32 PM on October 28, 2004

Yerfatma, this has nothing to do with baseball, I'm sure there are plenty of similar examples from other sports too. My point is that he got the big money because there are so many people who take child's play so seriously and that he shouldn't be so surprised or bitter when those same fans turn on him for losing the big game.

posted by billsaysthis at 06:50 PM on October 28, 2004

IMO, he didn't lose the big game for two reasons:

1) The whole team was on the field that day. One could just as easily argue that whats-his-name the pictcher lost the game by throwing a ball that could be hit.

2) Technically, the big game was the next day. Love the Sox, but some fans took this dislike of Buckner way too far. That being said, don't get me started about Grady Little. Yes, it is sort of a double standard.

posted by Joey Michaels at 07:11 PM on October 28, 2004

Yeah, cut Buckner some slack. Hopefully, in time, he'll be able to enjoy this win, but damn, does he have to snap to attention and be Pesky II to make this perfect for everyone? The man doesn't define himself by that game, and shouldn't.

posted by lbergstr at 07:48 PM on October 28, 2004

You can't help but feel bad for this guy. He took the blame for the failure of an entire team...and this is coming from a Mets fan.

posted by SigEpStyles at 08:49 PM on October 28, 2004

I always liked Billy Bucks. He was a gamer playing on two bad knees. In fact, he would fit in on this current team.

And I'm sure nobody feels worse about that play than him. So why does the public feel the need for him to concede his guilt? It's like kicking a man when he's down. I've heard and read the confrontations he has had to endure, and I'm sure I would have taken a swing at quite a few of the instigators too.

With that being said, look at his stats sometime (I'm on a mac and can't figure out to link!). The guy came up in 69' with the Dodgers, and we define him from a game in 86'?

posted by usfbull at 09:16 PM on October 28, 2004

My point is that he got the big money because there are so many people who take child's play so seriously and that he shouldn't be so surprised or bitter when those same fans turn on him for losing the big game.

And my point is that is no point. It's facile and meaningless. Just because he made a bunch of money doesn't take away his humanity. Do a little reading and find out what happened to him before you judge. If you're not willing to walk a mile in his mocassins, at least get a feel for the path he took before you tell us all how to get there.

posted by yerfatma at 09:29 PM on October 28, 2004

The funny part is how many people (mostly under 30, who only know of that single replay) think that Buckner's error turned a win into a loss. They think that if he had picked up the ball and tossed gotten the out at first, they would have won the World Series. They forget that the game was tied at the time, and the Red Sox would still have had to score a run in the top of the next inning (and hold off the Mets again). He didn't cost them the World Series, since they didn't (at that time) have it won.

posted by grum@work at 09:59 PM on October 28, 2004

Yerfatma, I surrender to your superior logic. Because the Red Sox called and told me that next time they make the World Series I can come play first base for one game. Just so I can walk in Buckner's shoes.

posted by billsaysthis at 11:06 PM on October 28, 2004

Here ya go, usfbull. Bill Buckner Statistics (I'm on a Mac too. ;-)

posted by Dick Paris at 05:13 AM on October 29, 2004

I think the root of Buckner's bitterness might be how his kids were treated. As bitter as he is today, he lived in Boston until 1993 and has two college-age daughters and a son at home today in Boise. Ten years ago, they'd just be getting old enough to understand fan sentiments about the game and for classmate insults to sting.

Here's a pre-Series interview with the Idaho Statesman:

I have no strong feelings one way or another, but if (a Boston win) would mean that no one would bother me or my kids, I guess I would like to see them win it,'' said Buckner, who has two daughters in college and a son at home.
I feel sympathy for Buckner and Steve Bartman and others who get a target painted on their back over a sporting event debacle. But there is some truth to Bill's "facile and meaningless" comment.

Buckner, unlike someone like Bartman, knew he was putting himself in a position where fans would never forget a huge mistake. If you benefit from enormous fan attention, money, and celebrity that comes from a 21-year pro sports career, you ought to be able to accept the downside.

I'll bet that if the abuse was strictly directed at him, Buckner would have a better attitude about it. If I were him, and the abuse of my kids was particularly egregious, I would be throwing out the first ball for the Cardinals in Game 1.

posted by rcade at 05:39 AM on October 29, 2004

I know very little about baseball and, until five minutes ago, nothing about this guy or what happened to him - but you see it time and again in many sports - fans who turn their disappointment into anger and abuse. To my mind, that's never justified unless you believe the person deliberately threw a game or a play. Otherwise, surely we all watch sports with the basic assumption that everyone is trying their best? They may not always produce it, and they may often need to try harder, but you can't slag someone and their kids because they had the misfortune to cock something up in the World Series instead of game one. Now, could everyone else just shut up and let Billy and Fatma get it on?

posted by JJ at 06:43 AM on October 29, 2004

billsaysthis, I'm being polite here. It might not feel like it, but I really don't care. The alternative is I could start showing up in soccer threads and shitting on those with my uninformed comments. But that wouldn't even be equivalent, since I watch a little soccer and like it, two things you proudly claim (over and over) aren't true about you and baseball. Why watch sport if you hate the players so much?

posted by yerfatma at 06:59 AM on October 29, 2004

It is hard not to look at Buckner's error in game 6, 1986, as the turning point in that series though.

I still think Bob Stanley's wild pitch that allowed the Mets to tie the game was the turning point. Besides the point, Buckner was clearly hurting, and really should have been pulled for a defensive replacement.

I blame McNamara. :-)

The Steve Bartman thing was a joke, and fed my running feud with Cubs fans who I continue to kid as being some of the most uninformed fans in the game (mostly unfair). Bartman interfered with a ball that might or might not have been caught by Alou, but then the entire f'ing team went on to brain fart collapse and give up eight runs.

It was a disgustingly gutless performance by the Cubbies that night, even for them. It was a total team failure, just like it was for the Sox in 1986.

posted by psmealey at 07:32 AM on October 29, 2004

The alternative is I could start showing up in soccer threads and shitting on those with my uninformed comments. I can help with that, I know jack shit about soccer.

posted by YukonGold at 07:45 AM on October 29, 2004

Jack Shit - Chelsea's new centre-half.

posted by JJ at 07:47 AM on October 29, 2004

billsaysthis, I'm being polite here.

Are you kidding? Bill can probably take the heat, but your first response was sponsored by the letters F and U.

posted by rcade at 07:51 AM on October 29, 2004

grum, not only was the game tied when Buckner let the ball go through his legs, but no one was covering first base at the time. With Mookie flying down the line, the pitcher no where near the bag, and Bill's aching knees, it's quite possible Wilson would have beaten it out anyway. Just something to think about. I'd hesitate to call Buckner bitter... Or at least to pass judgement on that. The man has lived in a world of shit for nearly two decades. Oh, and did I mention that I will always love Bill Buckner.

posted by 86 at 08:20 AM on October 29, 2004

I mean I'm being polite now. And certainly there are levels of impoltic not yet met. We could do the whole "dig up a bunch of past responses to make the point," but there's a history here of popping into baseball threads and dropping an uninformed flame/troll. So when the next response is to defend the troll like it's an argument worthy of discussion, it gets my hackles up. Which requires a salve not covered by my health insurance.

posted by yerfatma at 08:42 AM on October 29, 2004

Jack Shit - Chelsea's new centre-half.

Morning coffee exiting through nose.

I don't blame Buckner, though even now that game is a very vivid memory to me. Maybe blame Stanley for the wild pitch, but why not blame Schiraldi for putting the guys on base (catch where I'm going here?). It's really sad, Buckner was one of my favorite players on that team, and as disappointed as I was, I always thought he got a raw deal.

posted by trox at 09:14 AM on October 29, 2004

No one deserves death threats because they booted a ground ball. Period. I won't even mention familial stuff. The guy made a freaking error, and then the entire team blew Game 7. If you were going to lash out at anyone, I would think it would be McNamara for not making the defensive replacement.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:17 AM on October 29, 2004

Jack Shit - Chelsea's new centre-half. Not to be confused with Jack Up, Chelsea's Romanian forward.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 09:58 AM on October 29, 2004

"there's a history here of popping into baseball threads and dropping an uninformed flame/troll" We have to be informed now? Am I ever out of my depth.

posted by JJ at 10:02 AM on October 29, 2004

Buckner is not responsible. Was I the only one who saw the Sox trying to play "defense" in this world series? Error after bloody Error. Obviously, one error does not win or lose the World Series, the TEAMS decide the victor.

posted by mayerkyl at 10:20 AM on October 29, 2004

the TEAMS decide the victor.


And another thing, if this postseason teaches us anything, it doesn't necessarily matter when you win the games, you just have to get all four of them.

I remember in 86, when the sports wags were calling it for the Sox in a walk after the Mets had dropped the first two at home.

(Same with the Yankees in 96.)

It's much less annoying to not tune out the sports punditocracy who is trying to add false drama to a game where there's plenty enough of the real stuff to go around.

posted by psmealey at 10:38 AM on October 29, 2004

How can anyone say Buckner's not responsible for the loss? Two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Sox up by 1. Mookie Wilson grounds to Buckner. If he doesn't make the error, Wilson's out and the Sox win the Series. What am I missing? Anything that happened after the play is irrelevant. He had the Series in his hands.

posted by rcade at 11:09 AM on October 29, 2004

you're missing that the mets tied up on a wild pitch. if buckner makes the play the game is tied and goes to the 11th.

posted by goddam at 11:15 AM on October 29, 2004

How can anyone say Buckner's not responsible for the loss?

Off the top of my head:

1. The Mets had already come back after either MacNamara pulled Clemens or Clemens asked out due to a blister that did or did not exist.

2. Buckner did not throw the wild pitch, Calvin Schiraldi did. Buckner was similarly not responsible for the bullpen's wildness.

3. There were three other losses in the Series by the Sox.

4. Throughout the year MacNamara had subbed Dave Stapelton in at 1B as a defensive replacement, but he chose not to or forgot to in Game 6.

posted by yerfatma at 11:42 AM on October 29, 2004

rcade, goddam nailed it. It was going to be over. It's a common mistake, but the game was tied at the time. It was the wild pitch that lost the game and moved Knight into scoring position to score on Buckner's error.

Boston scored two in the tenth to go up 5-3. Sox have Schiraldi in. He gets Backman and Hernandez. The Sox are an out away. Gary Carter singles. He tells the first base coach 'there is no fucking way I'm making the last out'. The only time he ever cursed apparently. Kevin Mitchell follows with another hit. He tells the first base coach 'there is no fucking way I'm making the last out'. Schiraldi goes to 0-2 on Ray Knight. Knight singles, scoring Carter and moving Mitchell to third. Bob Stanley comes in. Mookie battles him. His seventh pitch goes wild. Mitchell scores. Game tied. And as importantly the winning run (Knight) moves up to second. On the tenth pitch, Wilson grounds to first. Stanley doesn't cover first, but the ball bounces through Buckners legs and Shea goes silly. I'm also not convinced that it would have been an out if Buckner had handled the ball cleanly.

And it was one of the worst played World Series of all time. Errors, mistakes, wild pitches, managing fuck-ups, etc. Pinning the loss on Buckner is not fair. The guy screwed up, but so did just about everyone else.

posted by 86 at 11:43 AM on October 29, 2004

you're also missing the concept of the word "series" in World Series. You cannot point to one isolated error as the determining factor in a 7 game series. Errors were made prior, and errors were made after. The only thing you can blame Buckner for is bad timing.

posted by mayerkyl at 11:47 AM on October 29, 2004

Yerfatma, since my comment is on topic and does not make ambiguous or vague accusations, how am I shitting on this thread? Or is your point that nobody gets to say negative things when you don't like them? I could care less about telling me to fuck off, no skin off my back. I don't, though, care very much for your insistence that I have no business posting the comment. If you want to refute what I said, please go ahead.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:06 PM on October 29, 2004

I don't, though, care very much for your insistence that I have no business posting the comment.

Not really what I meant. What I'm saying is that for someone who has repeatedly told us he has no interest in baseball (because baseball, unlike real sports, is all about filthy lucre), you have no problem making pretty strong assertions. And it bothers me when people suggest athletes make a clear choice between $$$ and being treated like a human being. Is it your feeling that an annual salary in the millions should preclude complaining about death threats? Comment away, but it'd be nice if you thought before you spoke. So many of your baseball-related comments seem intended to garner attention rather than say anything meaningful.

posted by yerfatma at 12:25 PM on October 29, 2004

Bill, I'm not sure Buckner is upset that fans "turned on him". I think he's upset about the death threats and treatment of his family. No matter how much a guy makes playing a kids game, I don't think he should have to face that. Not to mention that he is held entirely accountable while so many of his teammates are equaly culpable and are just footnotes in history. (See the rest of the conversation above). Maybe the treatment of his family has something to do with his bitterness. And maybe you can cut the guy some slack considering how that treatment affected his family and career.

posted by 86 at 12:29 PM on October 29, 2004

forgiveness, boston style.

posted by dusted at 01:50 PM on October 29, 2004

That's a great photoset. I love the Dave Roberts shot.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 03:05 PM on October 29, 2004

Having posted four times in this thread already, you'll just have to take my word for it that I've thought about what I'm saying. This is not a new thought for me or, I'm sure, many others. Nor is it particularly (the point of this thread or my comment) specific to baseball, which I said in my previous comments, so I don't see how my dislike of baseball has anything to do with it either. I'm also not saying death threats or treating his children poorly are good things or justified, whether or not Bucker was responsible for the Sox losing in '86. I am saying that you make your bed and you have to lie down in it.

I'm a sports fan. I spend money on sports. But I also recognize the absurdity of athletes (for instance) making such huge dollars and euros when we have many social issues that the money could more productively be spent on, or when the money could be spent to make sure some much more important yet significantly underpaid professions (teachers, police, firefighters, military).

Nonetheless in our culture we almost worship athletes and that comes at a cost to the athletes whether they recognize or accept it. TANSTAAFL, Yerfatma. And the cost is extreme emotional response to 'heartbreaking' losses. Not to mention that a small percentage of the population is literally mentally unbalanced and sometimes that gets expressed as death threats and poor choice of targets for our freedom of expression. Combine the two and you get the small number of death threats and taunts at Buckner's children.

I'm pretty sure that if we were able to read through David Beckham's mailbag we'd find the same threats and the taunts will come as his kids get older. Have I covered this topic enough for your taste? I have for mine.

posted by billsaysthis at 06:05 PM on October 29, 2004

I have always felt that anybody who held Buckner responsible for the REd Sox loosing is an idiot. Even if he wuld have caught the ball,he wouldnt have got the runner out. Last time I checked it was a team game! If I was Buckner, I'd be a little bitter too. That was one of those plays that the Media, aka ESPN, kept alive all of these years.

posted by daddisamm at 11:36 PM on October 29, 2004

I'm pretty sure that if we were able to read through David Beckham's mailbag we'd find the same threats

The ultimate tautology; it might have happened to t others. Ergo, my point is somehow valid. What does his bedding have to do with the threat to his children again? Bill, just so we're clear: my opinion means nothing.

posted by yerfatma at 12:02 AM on October 30, 2004

billsaysthis: how am I shitting on this thread?

I'm with rcade here. Your original statement is a valid point worth discussing: should Bill Buckner (or any other pro sports player) accept gracefully that any kind of fan abuse is part of the risk he took when deciding to play professionnal sports in front of millions of those same fans in exchange for insane money?

Now, why did you have to go and say this:

billsaysthis: Film at 11.

If I understand you correctly, this means that not only your point is valid, but that it's also the end of the discussion. Combining your two arguments, I would deduce that according to your logic, we're all wasting our time here discussing professionnal sports. Would you care to lead by example and stop doing it, then?

posted by qbert72 at 11:12 AM on October 30, 2004

No, qbert, Film at 11 was my version of Dog Bites Man. I have no interest in closing off discussion, only in making sure my point is understood by others which clearly didn't happen in this instance.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:34 PM on October 30, 2004

Film at 11 was my version of Dog Bites Man.

Exactly. You're saying that for you this Bill Buckner story is nothing more than a "fait divers", implying that we should move along. You could clearly see by the comments made before your own that some people took this issue at heart. By belittling the issue, you were looking for trouble.

And when you got this trouble, you defended yourself by saying you brought a valid point to the discussion: a generalization of the "overpaid athletes vs overzealous fans" equation. And it's true that it would have been nice to discuss this issue with a broader range than the Buckner story. But if that's really what you wanted, you would not have belittled the Buckner story, as you knew it would only create noise in the higher-level discussion.

I guess what I'm saying is that you should heed your own advice. If you think a discussion is of little relevance, don't bother participating. If you think you can bring more relevance to it, you're welcome to do so, but you need to respect those who already have entered the discussion, or else you'll only bring it to an end.

posted by qbert72 at 03:44 PM on October 30, 2004

Qbert, I have no problem with people disagreeing with my opinion though I do have a problem with people saying that my opinion isn't valid because they (to my eyes, at least) don't like it; if anything, I felt like Yerfatma was the one trying to shut down dissenting opinion by saying mine was not welcome. I never said that any of the rest of you have to agree with me. I really don't understand the flack I'm getting--to me the range of possible opinions are from my own on one end of the spectrum to "Oh my god, these fans are criminals" on the other. And snarkiness has always been in heavy use on this board.

posted by billsaysthis at 05:14 PM on October 30, 2004

I can see both sides. I understand bill's "its a game get over it" and I can find truth in yerfatma's comments. After reading everything, I think a few things are being over looked.

1. A LOT of sox fans never blamed buckner, and put the error in it's place (didn't lose the series, just one bad play among many). Look at this very thread, and red sox threads elsewhere, for proof. It's just the idiots are always louder.

2. I'm sure buckner got death threats. Probably any athlete involved in anything controversial does. It's not right, but let's not pretend buckners the only one who ever did. Hank Aaron got more death threats than buckner will ever see, most of the racial variety, and although he's been bitter at times (and rightly so) he seems to be doing pretty well and has been involved in baseball for years.

3. Let's talk reality for a minute. When you play for chicago, ny, or boston, as examples, whatever you do is going to be blown WAY out of proportion. If buckner had hit a home run to win the series, he would now be a god in boston, kids would be named after him, and anything in the city would be his. That would be an overreaction, must like the one he experienced. In other words, the upside is always going to match the downside. To believe that Schilling wasn't risking just as much as he had to gain from coming to boston would be naive. Fair? No, Reality? Yes.

So bill doesn't want to be forgiven. I don't blame him. But at the very least now he'll, hopefully, be left alone, because that's what he seems to want. He can be bitter, or happy, it's his choice.

posted by justgary at 08:06 PM on October 30, 2004

Where does the "abuse is the flipside of glory" argument fit with regards to the Andres Escobar case? Was he asking for it?

posted by qbert72 at 10:28 PM on October 30, 2004

Was he asking for it?

Really, I hope you're joking. The two examples are so far apart that your statement is ridiculous. (and where is any statement saying he was "asking for it"?) As far as buckners situation, I never said it was fair, I said it was the truth, and it is. Again, I'm talking about the blame game/hero worship, not death threats.

posted by justgary at 11:28 PM on October 30, 2004

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