William Joseph “Bill” Buckner, whose accomplished, 22-year Major League Baseball career in which he played for five different teams with a solid career batting average of.289 was sadly overshadowed by one single, catastrophic fielding error in the 1986 World Series, died on Monday morning, May 27. According to sportswriter Jeremy Schapp, reporting his conversation with Buckner’s wife Jody via Twitter, said that Buckner’s cause of death was Lewy body dementia.
Born December 14, 1949, in Vallejo, California, Buckner was picked 24th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1968, according to MLB. He made his Major League debut just over a year later, on September 21, 1969, and continued playing until May 30, 1990, playing for the Boston Red Sox, the team for which he made his infamous error.
The play for which Buckner became notorious came late in his career, on October 25, 1986, as ESPN recounts. Bucker was playing first base for the Red Sox after he was traded to Boston from the Chicago Cubs two seasons earlier. The Red Sox led the series over the New York Mets 3-2 as Game 6, played at New York’s Shea Stadium, went into the 10th inning.
With Boston leading 4-3 in the bottom of the 10th and needing to record just one out to win what would have been the club’s first World Series in 68 years, Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson tapped a routine ground ball to Buckner at first base.
Our condolences to the family of Bill Buckner. Vallejo born, Napa High alum, and illustrious MLB standout for more than two decades. pic.twitter.com/7SGXJklzKj— Oakland A's (@Athletics) May 27, 2019
But the 36-year-old Buckner could not get his body low enough to stop it and the ball rolled through his legs, allowing the Mets to score the winning run, as recorded by Baseball Reference. The Mets went on to win Game 7 and the championship, while the Red Sox would take until 2004 — another 18 years —before finally breaking their World Series “curse” at 86 years.
But the error was only one moment in a career that saw Buckner hit 174 home runs, with a.321 on-base percentage and.408 slugging percentage, per BR stats. Buckner played in one other World Series with the Dodgers in 1974, recording five hits in 20 at-bats as Los Angeles lost to the Oakland A’s, four games to one.
Buckner won a National League batting championship in 1980, hitting.324 for the Cubs. He was also named to one All-Star team in 1981.
Buckner was eventually able to laugh at his fateful World Series error, even appearing on a 2011 episode of the HBO comedy program Curb Your Enthusiasm, as AV Club recounts, in which Buckner redeems himself by catching a baby dropped from a window.
Rest In Peace to the legendary Bill Buckner (1949-2019). He played 22 seasons in the MLB for 5 different teams. He also stars in one of the best episodes of Curb your Enthusiasm. pic.twitter.com/OIr8bjf16O— Baseball ???? Movies (@BaseballMovieQ) May 27, 2019
The announced cause of Buckner’s death, Lewy body dementia, is described by The Mayo Clinic as “the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease dementia.” The name of the disease comes from the protein deposits, known as Lewy bodies, that attach themselves to nerve cells in and around the brain, causing impairment of memory, cognition, and body movement.
In addition to the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs, Buckner also played for the Kansas City Royals and California Angels late in his career. In 2008, as The Spun recalled, Buckner returned to Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the season, receiving a prolonged standing ovation from the Red Sox fans.