A major newspaper’s political writer, an iconic newspaper columnist and TV commentator, and social media converged this week and the result was creepy as people began to mourn former Major League Baseball standout Bill Buckner all over again.
It happened Friday on Twitter, creating both confusion and déjà vu.
Bill Buckner died last spring at the age of 69
Bill Buckner, a veteran of 22 major-league seasons but destined to be remembered for a single miscue, died on May 27, 2019, after dealing with a dementia-related illness.
Buckner was remembered as a steady player throughout a journeyman career that encompassed 2,517 games for five teams from 1969 to 1990. He finished with 2,715 hits for a .289 average and won a National League batting title for the Chicago Cubs in 1980.
But obituaries written in the days after his death focused on the one fateful mistake in 1986 that changed the course of a World Series. His error on a grounder to first base in the 10th inning of Game 6 allowed the New York Mets to pull out a 6-5 victory over the Boston Red Sox. The Mets went on to win Game 7 and the Series.
A wayward tweet on Friday set off confusion about Buckner
Bill Buckner’s name began showing up on Twitter on Friday night after users latched onto ESPN’s 2019 obituary and started retweeting.
Twitter’s algorithms are for the most part a mystery but it’s apparent that some users have more clout than others. It’s why Maggie Haberman’s decision to retweet the story with a comment of “Oh no” is being blamed for adding to the confusion.
Haberman, a political writer for the New York Times, has more than 1.2 million followers on Twitter and it probably didn’t take much to confuse some of them. Those retweets of her message contributed to Buckner’s name trending on the social media site.
The confusion was compounded by former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle, who now appears on MSNBC, adding a tribute to Buckner on his Twitter account. Barnicle at least suggested that Buckner shouldn’t be remembered solely for the World Series error but rather for being a solid hitter over a long period of time in the major leagues.
Boston came to embrace Bill Buckner, eventually
After the 1986 World Series loss extended the misery of Red Sox fans, Bill Buckner received death threats and was heckled by fans at Boston’s Fenway Park to the point that the club released him midway through the 1987 season.
Time healed the wounds, and Buckner received a standing ovation during the 1990 home opener after returning to Boston’s roster in the offseason. He retired two months into the season.
Buckner’s error was all but forgotten in Boston – or at least forgiven – once the Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series and then the Colorado Rockies for the 2007 championship.
He threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Boston’s 2008 home opener. After retiring from baseball, Buckner moved to Idaho and became a real estate developer, even naming one subdivision in honor of Fenway Park.