They asked him whether he’d ever contemplated suicide. They speculated on whether he should leave New England. They reduced a fine baseball career to one brief tarnished moment, the moment when Mookie Wilson’s ground ball rolled through his legs. The error wasn’t even decisive for that 1986 World Series: It occurred in the sixth game, and only tied the Series 3-3. It was the seventh game that ended the Boston’s World Championship hopes, again. But as the media presented it, over and over again, it was the decisive moment of Bill Buckner’s career.
Twenty-one and one-half years after that awful moment, Bill Buckner returned once more to Fenway Park, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at today’s home opener, after the team received their 2007 World Series rings. He seemed like he didn’t know what to expect, but the crowd loved it, standing and cheering him loudly as he threw a strike to his former teammate Dwight Evans. “It was hard to do, for me,” he said later, and he welled up when he spoke about coming to “forgive … the media for what they put me and my family through”.
“One play shouldn’t make a career or someone think of you differently. It was an unfortunate act, but I’m so glad that this is past now. We can forget about it. He was a great player and an even greater person,” said former Boston Celtics player John Havlicek.
Oh, and the Red Sox won. Welcome back, Bill Buckner.