“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us… – Hebrews 12:1
It is sadly ironic that one of the most famous calls in baseball history marked the worst moment in one man’s life. It was Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. The Red Sox hadn’t won the World Series since 1918. They were up 3 games to 2 in the series.
The man calling the game on TV was Vin Scully, the now 90-year-old legendary broadcaster who recently retired after 67 seasons of calling Dodgers’ games.
In the bottom of the 10th inning, with the game tied, the Mets’ Mookie Wilson came to the plate. Ray Knight was on second base. Wilson hit a slow ground ball to Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner. It looked like an easy out. Here’s how Scully called the play:
“Little roller up along first… behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”
Somehow, the ball slipped past Buckner’s glove and through his legs. The Mets won Game 6, and then won Game 7 the next night. Say the words “1986 World Series” to any Red Sox fan, and they’ll mutter one word: “Buckner.” Soon after that mistake, Bill Buckner began receiving death threats. He was heckled by fans, even at home games. The Red Sox got rid of him.
Vin Scully’s voice is forever imprinted on that infamous play, but he showed great compassion for Buckner in an interview:
“It must have been a terrible cross for him to carry all these years. I think carrying that cross made (Buckner) more admirable, really, in many ways, than… Mookie Wilson, who had hit the ground ball.”
Many fans publicly “forgave” Buckner when the Red Sox finally won a World Series in 2004. But the real forgiveness happened four years later. Bill Buckner finally accepted an offer from the Red Sox to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the 2008 season. He received a standing ovation for the ages. Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis said, “I wanted to shake his hand because that’s a true man.”
After the ceremony, Buckner said:
“I really had to forgive, not the fans of Boston, per se, but… in my heart, I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through. So… I’ve done that and I’m over that… I just try to think of the positive. The happy things.”
Bill Buckner changed his legacy in Boston by laying aside the crushing weight of that one split second in 1986. He forgave himself, forgave his critics, and changed the only game that really matters – the game of life.
Ed Doney, Staff Writer