Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Billy Buck

When the ball rolled thru Graffanino’s legs into center field last night, you knew it was coming. The slow roller, the easy out, the “who’s leading off next inning?,” the grey Boston uniform, the legs. You knew it was coming. Not Tadahito Iguchi’s game winning three-run home run two batters later, although maybe some die-hard Red Sox fans saw that one coming too, but the inevitable Bill Buckner comparison. I suppose baseball announcers just need something to say, that they just need to keep air passing through their vocal cords and whatever shapes of the tongue and lips are most convenient at the moment are created without a second thought. It is unfortunate, though, that almost twenty years later, we must still squeeze the bellows onto this ember whenever it threatens to go out. Young boys watching the game with their fathers will ask, Who’s Bill Buckner? And instead of hearing about a player who collected over 2700 hits over a twenty-two year career, they will hear the old fiction about how Billy Buck blew the Red Sox’ best chance for a Series win in almost 80 years. Of course, the Red Sox finally won it all last year in convincing fashion, robbing the 1986 loss to the Mets of some of its romance. The ghosts of hard luck do not appear in such number as they once did when summoned by the magical words “Bill Buckner.” But we insist on repeating them. Bill Buckner must be the goat. If he is not quite the talisman he once was, he is still the dictionary definition of the word “failure.” But why Bill? Why not Calvin Schiraldi, who threw the ball so straight and steady that the Mets could not help hitting it and that the Cubs could not help immediately signing him after the season was over? What about Bob Stanley, who threw so wildly even though he knew Rich Gedman, perhaps the worst defensive catcher in World Series history, was behind the plate? There are those misguided fools out there who actually have tried to tell me that all Buckner had to do was field the ball and step on first and the Red Sox would have won. For these moments I wish I had a giant loudspeaker so I could play the “strike” sound effect from Family Feud right into their ineffectual, ill-informed ear. For all those who don’t know, I’m going to let you in on a well kept secret: when Buckner let the slow roller off the bat of Mookie Wilson go through his legs, THE GAME WAS ALREADY TIED. An out there would have ended the inning, but there is no earthly way that the Red Sox could have gone on to win that game. Just as there was no earthly way they could have gone on to win the next game. In 1986, the Red Sox waved goodbye to their chance at a Series the very moment that Rich Gedman waved at a ball that a high school catcher wouldn’t have let by him. And still, after all these years, Buckner takes the blame.

That said, HELL YES!!! GO SOX!!! And if you think I mean Red Sox, you are sorely mistaken.

This blog is based on a true story.