Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Buckner’s blame is also our own

     He had more hits — 2,715 — than either Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams.
     But Bill Buckner also blew one important play, and was smart enough to know what that meant.
     “The headline on my obituary will say I missed a ground ball in Game 6,” Buckner once said. “A little note at the end will say, ‘He was a pretty good player.’”
     He got that right, the first part anyway. The obituaries for Buckner, who died on Monday, did try not to let his 22 stand-out seasons be eclipsed by one bobbled ball.
     “A MIXED LEGACY,” read the headline in Tuesday’s Sun-Times. “’80 NL batting champ with Cubs committed big error in ’86 Series.’’
     “2,715 Hits, Eclipsed by One Miss” is how the New York Times put it.
     They tried, but they failed. Because Bill Buckner was a goat, the biggest goat in baseball for the past three decades. If the term doesn’t pluck a heartstring, then you’ve forgotten your “Peanuts.”
     “If I catch it, we’ll win the championship, and I’ll be the hero,” Charlie Brown says to himself, looking up, glove at the ready, as the baseball flies in his direction. “If I miss it, I’ll be the goat!”
     Spoiler alert: Charlie Brown misses it.

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  1. Such a pleasant surprise to see a post about sports. Not sure I can remember another by you.

    Part of Buckners infamy was because the red Sox much like the Cubs hadn't won a championship in decades. His notoriety was linked to the organization's sale of babe Ruth to the Yankees. Another famous purse

    Also to some large degree sports writers and other media figures inflated this event beyond its importance.

    I think our obsession with sports says so much about us and at the same time so little.

  2. Spot-on, as usual. Buckner's career is proof that baseball can be, in its way, a uniquely cruel sport.

  3. My memory of Bill Buckner is of him hitting several foul balls out of the park on to Sheffield Avenue in the 9th inning and then succumbing with a weak ground ball to an infielder. A classic Cubby moment. Which resonated with me because when I played fast pitch softball in the Navy, I was known for loud foul balls, which kept me batting 4th, but my only hit in our 10-game season was a triple and I pinched a nerve in my back sliding into 3rd base.


  4. "It all looks easy, slow, and above all, safe. Yet we know better, for what is certain in baseball is that someone, perhaps several people, will fail. They will be searched out, caught in the open, and defeated, and there will be no confusion about it or sharing of the blame. This is sure to happen, because what baseball requires of its athletes, of course, is nothing less than perfection..."

    --Roger Angell, "The Summer Game" (1972)

  5. Billy Buck got more hits than DiMaggio or Williams because he played longer than either of the other two. He did not miss any seasons, or partial seasons, due to military service, as the other two did during WWII, and in Williams' case, during the Korean War. His abnormally keen eyesight not only made Williams one of the best all-time MLB hitters, but an excellent fighter pilot as well. Missing all or part of five seasons probably kept him from being what he wanted to be known as: "the greatest hitter who ever lived."

    The stats:

    Buckner: 2,715 hits, 22 seasons, .289 career BA, seasons missed: 0 (during Vietnam)

    Williams: 2,654 hits, 17 seasons (plus 2 partial seasons during Korea), .344 career BA, seasons missed: 3 (during WWII)

    DiMaggio: 2,214 hits, 13 seasons, .325 career BA, seasons missed: 3 (during WWII)


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