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Bill Buckner's career has alway been marked by one play in the history of the World Series. In Game 6 of the 1986 series, Buckner, hampered by leg problems, was unable to stop a Mookie Wilson groundball. The play allowed the winning run to cross the plate.
However, Buckner had a long career and earned a reputation as a workhorse.
Despite the made an impression at an early age. He was drafted into the Dodgers organization straight out of high school. His first manager in professional baseball was Tommy Lasorda.
Lasorda would later become the Dodgers' manager, but even as a minor league manager, he had a way with players. Buckner says Lasorda had his young players feeling they would be ready for the majors any day. One of Lasorda's exercises was to have his players write letters to the Los Angeles starters to let them know they were coming. Buckner wrote his letter to the Dodgers' first baseman Wes Parker.
"I wrote a letter to Wes Parker and told him I was going to take his job," Buckner said. He said Parker later gave him a hard time about writing the letter.
Buckner made it to the Dodgers in 1969 at the age of 19 and was hitless in his one at-bat. His first regular action in the majors came in 1971. He split time in the outfield and at first base, hitting .271 with 5 HR and 41RBI. For most of his career with the Dodgers, he played more as an outfield.
In a five-player deal in 1977, Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus went to the Chicago Cubs for Rick Monday. The move also saw Buckner shift to spending the majority of his time at first base. In his first season with the Cubs in Buckner won the National League batting title in 1980 when he hit .324. He also led the league in doubles twice -- 1981 and 1983.
Buckner made his only appearance in an All-Star game during the 1981 series. The Cubs decided they wanted Leon Durham playing first in 1984 and sent Buckner to the bench. On May 25, the Cubs sent Buckner to the Red Sox for pitchers Dennis Eckersly and Mike Brumley. Buckner immediately became the starting first baseman for the Red Sox.
In 1985, Buckner tied a Major League record by playing in 162 games at first base. He also broke the Major League record for assists when he tallied 184. Buckner had tied the record in 1983. He also drove in 110 runs that season.
The year that will always be a part of Buckner's legacy came in 1986. He drove in 102 runs and added 18 home runs to help the Red Sox get to the playoffs.
In the AL Championship series, the Red Sox came back from a 5-2 deficit and two outs in the ninth inning to beat the Angels in the deciding game. Dave Henderson's two-run homer capped the comeback.
"I remember running out on the field and lifting him up at home plate," Buckner recalls.
The Red Sox moved on to face the Mets in the World Series. Buckner's had been hobbled by leg injuries entering the series. Five games into the series, the Red Sox held a 3-2 advantage and were on the verge of a World Championship.
Then came Game 6. The Red Sox and Mets were tied after nine at 3-3 and the game went in to extra innings. Red Sox starter Roger Clemens had allowed just 2 runs over 7 innings. However, he developed a blister on his finger and he was replaced by reliever Calvin Schiraldi. Schiraldi allowed a run in the eighth inning to allow the Mets to tie the game.
The Red Sox went up 5-3 in the top of the 10th off a home run by Dave Henderson and an additional run. In the bottom of the 10th, Schiraldi gave up singles to Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell and Ray Knight. Carter scored to bring the game to 5-4. Schiraldi was replaced with Bob Stanley. Stanley threw a wild pitch, allowing the tying run to score.
Mookie Wilson then hit a rolling single down the first base line that went underneath the glove and through the legs of Buckner. It allowed the Mets to score the winning run.
"I thought, what is going on," Buckner recalls. "I turned around to go after the ball and I realized the game was over."
The Mets went on to win Game 7 and the series and Buckner became a part of the lore of the game.
Buckner was traded to California midway through the next season. In 1988, the Angels traded Buckner to the Royals. Buckner returned to Boston in 1990 and was greeted by a standing ovation in his first home game.
He retired from baseball that season. He worked as a coach for a couple of years, but says he grew tired of the constant questions from the press about the 1986 Series.
After leaving the game, Buckner and his family moved to Idaho where Buckner is involved in a number of businesses. He has developed malls and housing developments in Idaho including one called Fenway Park.