World Series Memories: 35 Years Ago, Bill Buckner Infamously Had a Ball Slip Through His Legs, Giving the Mets New Life Against the Red Sox

Bill Buckner took an awful lot of heat for an error. Thirty-five years ago, it happened in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between Buckner’s Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets. Bucker’s error at first base certainly proved costly, but there was plenty of Sox blame to go around.

The Mets capitalized, scoring the winning run on the miscue and forcing a Game 7. New York went on to win that Game 7, but it’s Buckner’s error that remains the talk of that series.

The Red Sox completely collapsed against the Mets in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series

The Red Sox seemingly had the 1986 World Series locked up. They entered the bottom of the 10th inning with a 5-3 lead and got the first two outs. The Mets strung together three straight singles off young reliever Calvin Schiraldi and cut the deficit to 5-4. They had runners on first and third with Mookie Wilson at the plate.

Veteran reliever Bob Stanley replaced Schiraldi to face Wilson, who put together one of the most epic at-bats in World Series history.

During his 10-pitch at-bat, the count was 2-2, and Stanley threw an inside fastball that went for a wild pitch as it sailed past catcher Rich Gedman. Kevin Mitchell came home with the tying run, and Ray Knight advanced to second base. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Wilson hit a slow dribbler down to first base that made its way through Buckner’s legs and into right field.

Knight came around to score the winning run to give the Mets a 6-5 victory. They also outlasted the Sox 8-5 in Game 7 to come away as World Series champions.

Bill Buckner took a lot of heat for his World Series gaffe but handled himself well

Buckner’s error has been the talk of the 1986 World Series for the last 35 years. It’s not Schiraldi’s meltdown on the mound. It’s not Stanley’s wild pitch. Had Buckner fielded the ball cleanly and stepped on first base, the game was going to an 11th inning. Momentum was clearly on the side of the Mets, and there was no guarantee the Sox were pulling out Game 6.

Yet, Buckner has always gotten the blame. Despite the negativity, he always remained positive.

“There could be somebody in my shoes who would think that life sucks,” Buckner said after his playing days, according to The New York Times. “I chose to look at it that life is great. You can make those choices. Everyone in life has things that don’t go according to plan.”

He also said his error is tough to forget because it’s always brought up.

“You can never really forget it because it comes up all the time,” he told The New York Times in 2011. “I’m a competitive guy, so it’s something I didn’t enjoy. But for some reason, the stars were all lined up just right for the Mets that year, and here we are, 25 years later, still talking about it.”

Buckner, who died in 2019, had a great MLB career overshadowed by one error

Buckner played in the MLB in four different decades, beginning with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1969. He capped his 22-year career in 1990 with a second stint with the Red Sox. He played for five different teams. Buckner played eight seasons with the Dodgers and eight more with the Chicago Cubs.

He was a National League All-Star in 1981 when he hit .311 with the Cubs and led the league in doubles with 35. In 1980, Buckner led the NL in batting with a .324 average.

For his career, Buckner collected 2,715 hits and finished with a .289 batting average. Despite the big numbers, mention Buckner’s name these days, and his ’86 error unfairly pops up.

Buckner died on May 27, 2019. He was 69 and had Lewy body dementia.

Buckner’s error came during a time when the Red Sox hadn’t won the World Series since 1918. Many felt the team was cursed. The team finally ended their World Series drought in 2004. They won it again in 2007.

The following season, Buckner returned to Fenway Park to throw out the first pitch in the team’s home opener. He received a standing ovation. It was a well-deserving one for a man who had himself quite a big-league career.

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