- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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“A little roller up along first... Behind the bag... It gets through Buckner! Here comes [Ray] Knight, and the Mets win it!” -- Vin Scully, Oct. 25, 1986.
A quarter-century after committing the most infamous error in baseball history, Bill Buckner says he’s long since moved on.
“It’s been so long ago and so many things have happened and things have changed. Life goes on,” Buckner told ESPN New York 1050’s “Ruocco and Lundberg” on Tuesday, the 25th anniversary of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. “Obviously I don’t enjoy looking at it, but it’s not something that really bothers me.”
Buckner, of course, is referring to replays of the gaffe that has come to define his career -- unfairly or not.
With two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, Ray Knight on second base and the score tied at 5, Mookie Wilson grounded a 3-2 pitch from Bob Stanley toward Buckner at first. It was a routine play, a play that should’ve been made by the normally sure-handed fielder.
But the ball somehow scooted under Buckner’s glove and into short right field. Knight game around to score, tying the series at 3 and the Mets won Game 7 to capture the Fall Classic and extend the Curse of Bambino.
“Hopefully after today, 25 years is something that everybody’s talking about,” said Buckner, who received death threats from irate Red Sox fans for years after it occurred. “But hopefully it kind of goes away for a while.”
Wilson, who joined Buckner Tuesday in the radio station’s Manhattan studio, has continued to be linked with him ever since. The ball from the indelible play is currently on EBay for $1 million, although no bids have been made on it.
“I think even though I wasn’t thinking about how Bill would react or how it would affect his life or affect my life, we were just so wrapped up in what we were doing and we weren’t thinking about the consequences of the whole thing,” Wilson said. “I was just happy to get out of that game without losing. I was in a situation where i easily could’ve been the goat, and as it turned out things kind of worked out for me.”
Earlier this year, the two made a cameo appearance on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with Larry David.
“It was a lot of fun, and Larry was a funny guy and I think the intention of the show was to make me look good,” Buckner said. “It was fun and I’m ready to put it all to bed for a while.”
Despite the fact that the singular moment has overshadowed any of their other accomplishments and accolades in the game, Buckner and Wilson have both taken the positive out of it.
“It does get a little annoying,” Wilson said. “But there’s no getting around or denying that it was one of those unbelievable moments, and I was part of it. Of course, it’s easy to say that because we won. But I would like people to think that I had a successful career and that one groundball doesn’t define what Mookie Wilson meant to major league baseball and the organization that he played for.”
In Boston, the Buckner blow has since been softened by a pair of championships and the end of an 86-year title drought. On Opening Day, Apr. 8, 2008, Buckner threw out the first pitch and unfurled the team’s 2007 World Series championship banner. He received a lengthy standing ovation from the soldout crowd at Fenway Park.
“I was happy for them, but personally I didn’t think it affected me,” Buckner said. “It wasn’t my team, but I was happy for them. Being invited to throw out the first pitch, it was a great experience and I appreciate the management and the new ownership of the Red Sox [for giving me the opportunity]. It was a good day for me and my family. My emotions were kind of crazy that day, but overall it was great.”
Buckner always felt he was unfairly criticized for committing the error because it didn’t lose the series for his team. The Red Sox held a two-run lead and were one out from winning the Fall Classic before the Mets staged their dramatic, 10th-inning rally in Game 6. And right before his gaffe, it was Stanley that uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Kevin Mitchell to come home from third with the tying run.
But when asked if he’d like to criticize any of his former teammates, Buckner responded, “I’m all good.”