BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Bill Buckner, who went down in Boston Red Sox history for the error that ended Game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets but received warm welcomes at Fenway Park in his later years died Monday. He was 69 years old.
ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap tweeted Monday that Buckner’s widow Jody told him that the former first baseman died of Lewy Body Dementia.
Buckner played for the Red Sox from 1984 to 1987, and then again in 1990. The team held a moment of silence for him ahead of their game against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park on Monday afternoon.
The Red Sox released a statement marking the passing of Buckner:
The Boston Red Sox mourn the loss of Bill Buckner, who passed away today at the age of 69. A member of Boston’s 1986 American League pennant-winning team, Buckner recorded 2,715 hits as part of a 22-year major league career, appearing in 504 games with the Red Sox from 1984-87 and another 22 for Boston during his final season in 1990.
Buckner’s wife, Jodi, shared the following: “After battling the disease of Lewy body dementia, Bill Buckner passed away early the morning of May 27 surrounded by his family. Bill fought with courage and grit as he did all things in life. Our hearts are broken but we are at peace knowing he is in the arms of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
“We are proud that Bill Buckner wore a Red Sox jersey during the course of a terrific career that spanned more than two decades,” said Red Sox principal owner John Henry. “His life was defined by perseverance, resilience and an insatiable will to win. Those are the traits for which he will be most remembered. We join the baseball world in sending our condolences and our love to Jodi and the entire Buckner family.”
“Bill Buckner personified toughness and grit, and his determination to play through pain defines him far more than any single play ever could,” said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. “The standing ovations our fans gave him on his visits back to Fenway Park, most notably when he threw out the first pitch before our opener in 2008, illustrate the respect and admiration we all had for Billy Buck. We mourn his loss and offer condolences to his family and many friends.”
With the Red Sox and Mets tied in the 10th inning in Game 6 of the 1986 Fall Classic (after the Mets had tied it up on a wild pitch by Bob Stanley), Buckner couldn’t pull in a soft ground ball to first base off the bat of Mookie Wilson, scoring the game-winning run for New York to tie the series 3-3.
“My thought after we lost the sixth game, we lost momentum, things weren’t looking good,” Buckner told reporters in 2016. “But when I was walking off the field my first thought was, ‘I get to play in the seventh game of the World Series. How cool is that?’”
The Mets won Game 7 in New York two nights later to win the series. It was a painful moment for Sox fans, and the Boston media unnecessarily put much of the blame on Buckner.
“I was 14 years old watching it at home. I think I was in shock when it happened,” said Red Sox fan Jim Sampson. “He went through a lot of bad times because of that one play. That is really unfair to him.”
“It takes a whole team and everybody knows that, so he got a bad rap,” said Red Sox fan Pam D’Ambrosio.
But as the years went on and Boston broke their World Series drought in 2004, Buckner received warm welcomes when returning to Fenway. He was given a standing ovation from Boston fans when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a game in 2008.
“That was as emotional as it could get,” Buckner said of the ovation, fighting back tears.
The error in the 1986 World Series overshadowed a stellar 22-year career for Buckner, who also played for the L.A. Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, California Angels and Kansas City Royals. He was the National League batting champ in 1980, hitting .324 with the Cubs, and an NL All-Star in 1981. For his career, Buckner finished with a .289 average, 2,715 hits, and 174 home runs.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)