Los Angeles Dodgers 1969-1976
Chicago Cubs 1977-84
Boston Red Sox 1984-87, 90
California Angels 1987-88
Kansas City Royals
To many Bill Buckner's legacy consists of one play, an unfortunate error.
He was a .289 career hitter that collected over 2,700 hits in his 22 year career, won a batting title, appeared in an All
Star game, and twice led the NL in doubles. Bill Buckner's name will never be forgotten, it lives in infamy throughout New
England, but his great career has been terribly overlooked.
The Los Angeles Dodgers selected Buckner out of high school
in June of 1968, and in just over a year, September 21, 1969, he made his major league debut - a hitless at bat. The prospect
spent 28 games at the big league level in 1970, and by 1971 he was in the majors for good - hitting .277 in 108 games.
mostly in the outfield, the young Buckner was known for his speed in those days, swiping 31 bases in 1974 and 28 in 1976.
A leg injury that occurred while sliding in 1975 began to slow him down, however.
Although he hit .300 twice as a
Dodger, the team decided to deal him with Ivan DeJesus to the Chicago Cubs for OF Rick Monday in 1977. Buckner adjusted quickly
to his new surroundings hitting .323 in 1978. In 1980, the first baseman captured the NL Batting title with a .324 mark.
marked Buckner's lone All Star season, as he hit .311, drove in 75 runs, and led the NL in doubles (35) during the strike
shortened season. Buckner followed up with another strong season in 1982, hitting .306 and driving in 105 runs.
1984 the Cubs management had decided that Leon Durham, not Buckner was their first baseman of the future and dealt the 34
year old to Boston for pitchers Dennis Eckersley and Mike Brumley.
Buckner's high standard of play continued in Boston,
as he tied the major league record by playing all 162 games at first base in 1985 and set the single season record for assists
for the position with 184 - all while hitting .299 with 110 RBI.
Although his average dipped to .267 in 1986, the
gritty veteran still managed to drive in 102 runs while belting 18 home runs - a career high. Buckner's play helped the Red
Sox capture the American League pennant and very nearly win the World Series. Sadly, all of that was forgotten when his error
in the 10th inning of Game 6 allowed the winning run to score. Several other gaffes were made earlier in the inning, however,
which turned a two run lead into a tie game. The Mets, of course, won Game 7 and captured the title.
By July 1987,
because of his Game 6 error, Buckner had worn out his welcome in Boston and was released in favor of hot prospect Sam Horn.
A true baseball warrior, Buckner didn't quit despite his increasingly gimpy ankles. He finished the '87 season with the California
Angels and spent the first part of the 1988 season there before being dealt to Kansas City.
After spending the 1989
season with the Royals, Buckner returned to Boston for the 1990 season and received a standing ovation on opening day. He
would appear in 22 games with the Red Sox before retiring.
Buckner finished his career with 2,715 hits. The consummate
contact hitter, he struck out just 453 times in 9,397 at bats (never more than 39 times in a season). Unable to keep a job
in baseball because of the relentless insults hurled on him by fans and the constant badgering by reporters, Buckner retreated
with his family to Idaho were he has been a part of several successful business ventures.
Bill Buckner was a great
player that played the game with relentless heart and hustle, gaining the respect of all that played with or against him.
It is a shame that he is remembered for that one error.
-David Zingler, November 2002
Buckner @ Baseball-Reference.com
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