Saturday, February 14, 2009
If you were to play Word Association with any baseball fan under the age of 35 and said "Bill Buckner" they would probably reply "Error." Play the same game with a Cubs fan over 35 and their response should be "Best Player on Team."
It's unfortunate that a twenty year career can be condensed into one unfortunate play. For a Cubs fan like me, his career was so much more, so much better.
Buckner was acquired by the Cubs in January of 1977 along with shortstop Ivan DeJesus for Rick Monday. He came over as damaged goods. A severe ankle injury had limited his mobility as an outfielder. The Dodgers had Steve Garvey over at first base, and so there was nowhere for Buckner to play, hence the trade to the Cubs.
But he wouldn't let his injury keep him down. Buckner had a rigorous routine each day to get his ankle game-ready and ready he was. He had the best years of his career in Chicago, hitting over .300 four of his seven seasons with the Cubs. He led the National League in hitting in 1980 and was named to the NL All Star team in 1981. Between 1981 and 1982 he led the National League in RBI's, outproducing the entire league including Mike Schmidt. From 1980-1982 he had more hits than any National Leaguer including Pete Rose. And he was tough to strike out, fanning only 26 time in 657 at bats in 1982. Despite his gimpy ankle, he could still steal a base, swiping 15 in 1982 and 12 in 1983.
From 1977 - 1982 Bill Buckner was the Cubs. He was their best player and a fan favorite. You could always count on him to play hard, get dirty, get a hit, and then watch the rest of the team blow it. The best record of any Cub team during his time was in 1977 when they finished 81-81. Billy Buck was one of the few bright spots.
Buckner also loved to beat up on his former team. His combined batting average against the Dodgers in 1977 and 1978 was .391. He loved sticking it to the club that traded him away.
His time in Chicago came to an end in 1984. After hitting only .209 in 21 games, he was sent to the Red Sox for Dennis Eckersley. And you know what happened to him two years later as a member of the Red Sox.
But do you know the entire story...
Look at these cards and notice the batting gloves he like to wear.
Now look at this picture from that fateful day in 1986. Look closely at his right hand. See the batting glove...the Cubs batting glove.
Bill Buckner made one of the most infamous errors in baseball history wearing a Chicago Cubs batting glove, two years after he had been traded away. If ever a Red Sox fan was looking for a reason why this tragedy happened, there it is. The combination of two baseball curses was too much for fate to handle and the result is a ball goes through his legs!
But Billy Buck, we Cubs fans still love ya!