Thursday, April 10, 2008

Told You So

Yesterday I argued that the idea that Bill Buckner's Opening Day appearance at Fenway marked a moment of redemption, at least from fans, was absurd because Sox fans never believed that Buckner needed to be redeemed. In today's "Red Sox Notebook" in The Boston Globe my opinion is confirmed:
Lou Gorman, the Red Sox general manager who traded for Bill Buckner, released him, re-signed him for the final season of his 22-year career, and released him again, said that after Tuesday's emotional pregame ceremony, Buckner told him he finally felt "closure."

But on radio airwaves and websites yesterday, this question repeatedly was raised: Closure from what?

Numerous Sox fans noted that on Opening Day 1987, Buckner's first appearance after his Game 6 error in the 1986 World Series, he was given a standing ovation, and that scene repeated itself in 1990, when Buckner was brought back for a last hurrah.

"I kind of suspected the fans were going to give him a hand," manager Joe Morgan said at the time about the team's opener in 1990. "But I didn't think it would be forever. It was as long as any I've ever heard."

Buckner marveled that final season at how many ovations he received, one of the loudest coming after he hit an inside-the-park home run, the final home run of his career. "It surprised me the way it's turned around," Buckner said at the time.

"I challenge anyone in the media or anywhere else to produce a tape of Bill Buckner being booed at Fenway after October 1986," a poster with the handle "xjack" wrote on the Sons of Sam Horn chatboard. "In fact, I bet the ovations at the home openers in '87 and '90 were louder than yesterday's."

It was also noted that Buckner has profited from the error, making joint appearances at card shows with Mookie Wilson, the Mets batter whose ground ball Buckner missed. Various websites offer baseballs, photos, and posters autographed by both men, baseballs on one site going for more than $200.

Buckner, who wiped away tears before delivering the ceremonial first pitch, pointedly referred to the media in his postgame comments.

"I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but in my heart, I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through," he said. "I've done that, and I'm over that and I'm just happy."

Buckner's alleged pariah status was nothing more than a concoction of writers at The Globe and The Herald, the chattering classes on talk radio and television, and a national media that simplifies most every narrative they get their hands on. They created the story and thus had an investment in its perpetuation.

Buckner's error was only one facet of the 1986 story -- people seem to forget that there was a Game 7 in 1986, for example. And that Buckner should not have been on the field during extra innings of the fateful Game 6, which represents just one of manager John McNamara's blunders that night. And that had the relief corps (Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley, as well as catcher Rich Gedman) done their job the Sox never would have been in that position. Red Sox fans long ago reconciled their history with Buckner even if we never fully got over Game 6 until 2004. Now, twenty-two years later, perhaps the media will finally do the same.

No comments: