April 9, 2008

History And Bill Buckner

I have memories of Bill Buckner receiving a standing ovation from Red Sox fans at Fenway Park on Opening Day in 1987. Yet no sportswriter mentioned that in his or her coverage of yesterday's events.

Is everyone unaware of Buckner's post-1986 history with Boston's fans? Would mentioning that 1987 reception ruin their storylines of redemption finally arriving in the wake of two World Series titles?

The Herald's Steve Buckley correctly stated that
there's some revisionist history going on with Buckner, that people around here never really hated him, and that, um, hello, he came back to play for the Red Sox in 1990 and got a standing ovation then.
But Buckley fails to mention 1987.

Art Martone mentioned 1990's return -- "when the fans gave him an ovation similar to today's" -- but many writers didn't even bother mentioning that event.

Jeff Goldberg, Courant:
... one of the oldest wounds in Red Sox history was finally closed. ... For the first time in 11 years, Bill Buckner appeared at Fenway. For the first time in 22 years, Buckner found peace there. ... Buckner returned to the Red Sox in 1987 and 1990 as a player, but the constant reminders about Game 6 drove Buckner all the way to Idaho.
Michael Silverman, Herald:
a welcome-home embrace of a too-long exiled Bill Buckner
Dan Ventura, Herald:
One of the symbols of Red Sox Nation's past frustrations was welcomed back with open arms yesterday.
Mike Petraglia, MLB.com:
a sellout crowd welcomed Buckner back with a long and rousing standing ovation. ... Red Sox fans showed their appreciation after all these years, profoundly and loudly, with their unconditional applause ...
Amalie Benjamin, Globe, mentioned that Buckner returned to the club in 1987, but did not mention his positive reception. She noted that, since Buckner's departure in 1990, "there has been healing in Red Sox Nation ... with two championships in the meantime, the hurt has subsided."

Dan Shaughnessy, who owes much of his bank account to his exploitation of Buckner's gaffe, noted that Buckner had been "long harpooned as the goat of the crushing 1986 World Series defeat". Yet CHB failed to mention this telling Buckner quote:
I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but I would have to say in my heart I had to forgive the media. For what they put me and my family through. So, you know, I've done that and I'm over that.
The Red Sox's 1987 home opener was Friday, April 10; Bruce Hurst pitched a two-hit shutout of Toronto. I'd love to see some of the coverage from the Globe (CHB in particular) and the Herald in their April 11 editions.


Jack Marshall said...

Revisionist history is right...thank you, thank you, thank you for trying to correct the sloppy journalism at work here. You really do a great job, Redsock. Remind me to tell you that regularly.

Buckner didn't last long in his return, but long enough to hit an inside-the-park Fenway home run despite his ruined legs. And the fans were good to him. It was the constant TV replays of the old error after he left the Sox for good, and the harping of jerks like Shaunessey, that turned Buckner into the undeserved symbol of the imaginary "curse." That, combined with Bill James' relentless use of him (along with Rice) to illustrate how hitters could be less valuable than their stats seemed to show conspired to minimize Buckner's considerable talents and accomplishments. (He was also terrific at digging throws out of the dirt---unlike his "caddy," Dave Stapleton).

As far as getting the bat on the ball goes, he was right up there with Boggs and Ichiro as among the best I've ever seen---and the ONLY player I've ever seen quick thinking and swinging enough to actually go after a wild pitch intentionally so he could get to first on a strike-out. That was truly amazing.

allan said...

SoSHer curly2: "It's well-known that he not only got huge ovations on Opening Day in 1987 and 1990, but also the City Hall rally in October 1986."

Which was only a few days after the end of Game 7 at Shea.

It seems that Red Sox fans were forgiving immediately, but then the local and national sports media picked up on the error as the defining moment of the Series -- which was very easy and maybe natural to do -- and the new symbol of Red Sox Loserdom, and then fans began making Buckner's life a living hell.

Re the 1987 coverage: I need a Lexis/Nexis subscription.

Jake of All Trades said...

Quick Google News search for excerpts shows these, though you have to pay for the full articles:

Boston Globe:

[Apr 13, 1987]: Even Bill Buckner legged out a triple as part of a four-run rally that broke a 2-2 tie in the third inning. The Fenway Faithful gave him a standing ovation as he crashed headfirst into third base, and got a run batted in to boot."

Also this from the Washington Post in February:

[Feb 15, 1987] "Buck's going to come out okay," said Sambito, remembering the ovations for him on parade day. "Fans sympathized with him all Series long. ...

And this from Sports Illustrated:

[1986] In 1986, Sports Illustrated reported that the crowd that greeted the Red Sox after they lost the Series to the Mets gave a special ovation for Bill Buckner. Instead of blaming him for blowing the Series, they saluted him for his part in getting the team as far as it did. To me, that's class.

wardo said...

Even if Bill knew it wasn't the fans who harbored any resentment all these years, it must have still felt nice to be reminded how the fans really felt about him.

It was especially nice to see the ceremony on a big screen in a bar near a few Yankee fans who, thankfully, were at a loss for words.

laura k said...

Can it be merely sloppy journalism when everyone does it? Or does one person report it incorrectly, then everyone else use that as a source and fail to check it on their own?

It seems to me if we remember it happening in 1987, someone else would, too.

It seems that Red Sox fans were forgiving immediately, but then the local and national sports media picked up on the error as the defining moment of the Series -- which was very easy and maybe natural to do -- and the new symbol of Red Sox Loserdom, and then fans began making Buckner's life a living hell.

I disagree. My memories of '86 is that Red Sox I knew were not at all forgiving, and that includes you. That was my first inside view of fans hating their own players - the first of many, but because it was new, it sticks in my mind.

Some fans (i.e., you, Ray) were disgusted at that 1987 standing ovation at Fenway. Your hatred wasn't media generated. It was heartbreak-generated, and it was very real, and it lasted a long time.

Not as intense as Jimy and he-who-shall-not-be-named, but still, intense.

laura k said...

Perhaps all the love and good feeling from 04 and 07 has dulled your collective memories of all that bitterness and bile. That's a positive development, but don't sugar-coat how much bitter there really was. Maybe Jack didn't experience it the same way, but man, Allan sure hated Buckner.

Beth said...

I appreciate what you're saying, and it's ridiculous that professional journalists wouldn't learn their background.

At the same time, I do think there's a difference between those other returns and this one. Those other times, he came back to Fenway as a player, so there was playing time, money, etc. in it for him to do so. He absolutely didn't have to come back for this appearance--it was a totally elective thing and, I think, more a gesture of reconciliation not just with the Boston fans but with the media and Sox zeitgeist overall that's treated him unfairly. While I agree that the history should be recounted accurately, I do think there was some significance to yesterday's first pitch over and above what came before.

plus, while maybe even the majority of fans have had their heads on straight about buckner, there are plenty, plenty more who made his life miserable. shaughnessy didn't singlehandedly run him off to idaho, after all.

for him to come back the way he did was to accept and forgive all of that. he deserves immense credit for doing that. i don't know that i'd make the same choice in his position.

allan said...

Some fans (i.e., you, Ray) were disgusted at that 1987 standing ovation at Fenway. Your hatred wasn't media generated. It was heartbreak-generated, and it was very real, and it lasted a long time. ... Allan sure hated Buckner.

All that is true. I don't think I would have cheered had I been there that day, and I admit to letting the media guide my feelings for a few years after that. Buckner is certainly not blameless, but I hate McNamara and Blister Boy too. And the play remains a potent image and symbol of the series loss.

We went to Fenway on May 10, 1987, and Buckner played, but I don't recall anything about it/him.

Jack Marshall said...

No maybe about it, Laura. I wanted that game more than anything---my life was going to shit (my wife and I commenced a separation the next day, I was out of work, and I remember thinking, if the Sox can win the Series, everything will be OK somehow. I stood, holding my wife, waiting for the game to be over. I screamed at Mac for bringing in Schiraldi to close; I screamed at Gedman, but I just felt bad for Buckner---it never occurred to me to blame him for anything (I still think Mookie would have beaten Stanley to the bag)except playing when most players would have been on crutches---like he did that whole season.

allan said...

Buckner to SI in 1990:
"The fans have always been great to me in Boston. The media made more of the error than the fans did."

9casey said...

I think the special thing about this time was that he was moved by the event as well.....And so were the fans.....

If Billy Buckner doesn't make that error....and we still lose .....do Red Sox fans even remember Billy Buckner???

I think he let it eat him up inside for years and thats why it was so emotional for him yesterday....

buckfan said...

Bill himself said in the press conference that his two best memories in Baseball where in Fenway. 1990 when he retired and this last Tuesday with the first pitch.

Clearly Bill knows where the fans are and have been with this.

The other is that he was ran off to Idaho. Bill owned a ranch there before he was ever traded to Boston. His brother ran it and his Mom has lived there since Bill was drafted by the Dodgers. He always planned to retire there.

My hats off to the Boston fans. They really put a dagger to the lie about their relationship with Bill and I'm sure this bond will grow. Great move by the management team to get this behind everyone.

I should have known you guys are to knowledagable of baseball fans to think that one play would lose a game or a series. That was a team collapse that fell to one of the few guys on this planet strong enough to take the heat for that team.