Bill Buckner Taught Red Sox Nation How to Endure

News that Bill Buckner had passed away on May 27th after battling dementia shocked Red Sox Nation. Despite a strong career, many fans remembered Buckner for only one thing: Game Six of the 1986 World Series. Buckner lived with that memory for the rest of his life and was unfairly blamed for losing the World Series for the Sox. If the Red Sox hadn’t gone sixty-eight years without having won a championship, and had to wait another eighteen years to win one, perhaps Buckner would have been remembered more positively. If there’s one thing that Bill Buckner taught Red Sox Nation though it’s how to endure and persevere.

Buckner had quite a distinguished career. He collected over 2700 hits, was an All-Star,bill buckner taught and a batting champion. His career spanned four decades (1969-1990). In over 10,000 at-bats, Buckner only struck out 453 times. That stat in itself is absolutely astounding. It’s no wonder that his name came up in discussions about potential Hall of Famers. So why didn’t his statistics get more recognition? Simple. Mookie Wilson’s grounder that went through Buckner’s legs in Game Six of the 1986 World Series not only made him the butt of jokes for years to come, but became the symbol of the bad luck that had plagued the Red Sox since selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Even though the Red Sox were already in trouble before Wilson even came to the plate, Buckner was still the scape goat.

Despite Wilson’s Grounder, Bill Buckner Taught Fans How to Endure

In this age where one mistake can end entire careers, Buckner stood as a symbol of endurance. He’s an example of how people can recover from what many sports fans might see as a mistake from which there is absolutely no chance of recovery. He didn’t crawl into a hole and hide from the world. Buckner recognized what he did, but he faced the reality of the situation. He didn’t try to blame others. There were no made up excuses. He answered questions about the incident in countless interviews. Buckner even signed photos of the ball going through his legs as Wilson hustled towards first base. Although he was compared to players like Fred Snodgrass and Fred Merkle, Buckner didn’t let it define him. He chose NOT to be play victim.

In time, Red Sox Nation forgave him. Buckner found his redemption (if he was even looking for it. If anything, he forgave Red Sox Nation!). More importantly though, despite the bad hand he was dealt in his career, Buckner went on to prove that one’s life isn’t over in the wake of such a tragedy. There is a chance to recover and find happiness again. We do get a second chance at life; there are do-overs.

I was at Fenway Park when Buckner’s death was announced before the start of the game on Sunday. No one jeered or shouted anything about ’86. No one in my section said anything demeaning. If anything, people shouted “Yeah Buckner! We love you!” Red Sox Nation had clearly learned to move on (though winning four World Series in the last fifteen years has certainly helped heal those wounds). Clearly Bill Buckner taught us that life continues after mistakes, and that they don’t define the way one is remembered if you don’t let them.

Baseball itself is a symbol of second chances. Nine of them, in fact. And no one knew that better than Bill Buckner.

The Red Sox Teach Us a Lot About Defeat

This is not a political post. I’m not here to discuss politics. However, the election made me think about surprise victories and harsh defeats. I then reflected on the Red Sox vast history of victories and defeats. So what can the Red Sox teach us about the two? In many cases, it comes down to luck.

The Red Sox Teach Us About Humility

Let’s start with Ted Williams. In 1946 the Red Sox clinched the pennant and faced the St.Red Sox Teach Louis Cardinals in the World Series. A cocky Ted Williams looked forward to adding a championship title to his list of accolades. Williams, along with the rest of the Red Sox, did not consider what the Cardinals had up their sleeve. The Cardinals instituted The Williams Shift where most of their infield shifted to the right of second base making it awfully difficult for Williams to hit a ball to right field. It worked. Hitting only .200 for the series, Williams called it “the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me.” After the Sox lost, Williams locked himself in his train compartment headed back to Boston. “I just broke down and started crying, and I looked up and there was a whole crowd of people watching me through the window.”

The Red Sox Teach Us That Defeat Can Be Snatched From Victory

The 1946 World Series loss marked the beginning of a string of bad luck for the Red Sox. Favored to win again in 1967, the Red Sox didn’t count on the phenomenal pitching of Bob Gibson, who recorded a 1.12 ERA the following season. The Red Sox gave it their all in 1975 but a victorious and memorable Game 6 left the team too worn to win Game 7. The 1986 World Series, however, is a different story.

Every Red Sox fan knows what happened in Game 6. The words “Behind the bag!” echo harshly in the ear drums of those who dare to remember. While Bill Buckner’s error didn’t exactly blow it for the Red Sox, it’s what everyone remembers. Fortunately, fans have since forgiven Buckner, but not before enduring one more boner before finally clinching victory in 2004.

The Red Sox Teach Us It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Yankee Stadium. The 2003 American League Championship Series. After eight innings, a worn Pedro Martinez said he felt good. So despite manager Grady Little’s concerns, Martinez stayed in Game 7. Their 5-2 lead gave Little the confidence that the game was in the bag. Unfortunately, Martinez quickly went south and the Yankees won. Stunned Red Sox fans could only shake their heads and wait.

A year later, despite being down three games to the Yankees, the Red Sox won four straight to proceed to the World Series. This time they got revenge for the ghosts of 1946 by beating the St. Louis Cardinals. The Curse of the Bambino was finally dead.

When I look at all this history, there’s something Bill Buckner once said that is important to remember, “Baseball is a game of averages, but over a short period of time, to have a little luck going is not a bad thing.” Why is this quote important? Because it shows us that when we feel like we’re just average, there’s nothing keeping us from taking advantage of a little luck. Many of us are trying to move on from recent events, but if the Red Sox teach us one thing, it’s that no matter how dark things look, we’ll always have a chance to take advantage of a little luck when it presents itself.