“I realized for the first time that the ultimate joy is not in the clubhouse, spraying champagne … the biggest thrill is on the field, joining teammates in the competition to achieve one common goal,” said Seaver. “That day I understood that the process in itself is the reward. It was a lesson in maturity, a moment of personal growth. That is why as long as I live, whatever I accomplish, I will always be a ’69 Met.”
Bill Buckner had 2,715 hits over his 22-year major league career and, like Seaver, he will always be a 1986 Boston Red Sox.
“Some murderers didn’t face as much criticism as I did,” Buckner said. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s like I did nothing in my career except commit that error.”
Two years ago, on the 25th Anniversary of the New York Mets-Boston Red Sox World Series, Buckner told ESPN-New York he’s moved on.
“It’s been so long ago and so many things have happened and things have changed. Life goes on,” he said. “Obviously, I don’t enjoy looking at it, but it’s not something that really bothers me.”
My hope is Buckner is telling the truth, my experience suggests otherwise. I witnessed the historic play on a small television set in Plattsburgh, New York. In that moment, my world exploded, and so did Buckner’s. My memories are joyous and dream-like, Buckner’s are filled with death threats, hate mais, taunts — a living nightmare.
Then, in 2008, it appeared Red Sox Nation was ready to forgive Buckner. The team had snapped their near century long “curse” of failure, winning their second World Series ring in four years. The team decided it was time to bury the Buckner memory b y inviting him back to Fenway Park on Opening Day 2008 to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The fans offered a standing ovation. Buckner cried. Game 6 of the 1986 was now a moment in sports history. The tension lifted, the play forgiven and we all live happily ever after.
Wrong. The skeleton’s were ceremoniously extracted this past week, the 25th anniversary of the now infamous Buckner play.
We should all move on. But, as sports fans (and the media), we haven’t, and we don’t, and we won’t — ever.
Like Mitch Williams or Joe Carter in ’93, Sid Bream in ’91, Bobby Thomson in ’51 or Aaron Boone in ’03, despite years of success, Buckner is tied to one game, one moment, one play. Like Seaver, Buckner will always be a ’86 Red Sox.