This past Christmas Day, in between reaching out to family and friends, walking Taylor, writing, painting and watching movies, I settled into watching MLB’s 20 Greatest Games, #3 1986 World Series, Game 6 Boston Red Sox at New York Mets with Bob Costas & Tom Verducci hosting and Bob Ojeda & Mookie Blaylock of the Mets and Bill Buckner of the Bosox as guests.
If you don’t know the story, Buckner let a grounder go thru his legs on a weak grounder slapped by Mookie, which lost them the game and, if you ask a Red Sox fan, the series. The miscue played into the Curse of the Bambino which gave rise to the tragic proportions to which the Red Sox would lose at the baseball summit crushing their fans. People in Boston old enough to remember can tell you about the Summer of ’49 losing the American League title to the New York Yankees in the final day of the season, losing the 1975 World Series in seven games to the Cincinnati Reds (in what is generally considered greatest World Series ever, with game 6 being the greatest game ever played), Bucky “f-cking” Dent in 1978 losing the one game playoff against the Yankees for the AL East title after they had led the division by as much as 14 games, and Aaron “f-cking” Boone in 2003 whose homerun on the Yankees final at bat would once again send them home from the World Series. They would go 86 years before the curse would be broken, when they came back from 3-0 to the New York Yankees in 2004 to win four games then beat the Cardinals four straight to win the World Series. But 1986 was something different altogether, and the Red Sox let down the fans like they had done so many times before.
The important point to note is to recognize how a person can choose happiness, how one can choose to live the narrative you create instead of one that is created for you. When Buckner misplayed that ball, there were so many Boston fans that came for Buckner’s head, sending him vile threats, running him and his family out of Boston as far away as possible to Idaho.
Or so I thought.
“Sometimes things happen to us not for our benefit, but for the benefit of others… And God puts us in those positions because He knows we can handle it.”
Buckner was asked about the pressure on him, as he walked back to the dugout after that play and what was going through his head. He said matter-of-factly, “Wow, I get to play in Game 7.” I’ve known of and followed Buckner for years before this game. He was a really good player, amassing over 2700 hits, a perrenial .300 hitter with one batting title. I remember when he played for my childhood team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. I remember when he played for the Chicago Cubs (years and years before I moved there and I adopted them as the team more than any other, including my own, for which I wanted a World Series title), and later my other team (I had one National League team and one American League team), the Boston Red Sox.
His comment seemed to me such a positive sentiment. Here’s a man who made a play late in the the game that would cost his team the game, but instead of thinking along those lines, he thought of the opportunity that laid before him. “I get to play” another game! Bad things happen to everyone. Bad things happen to good people all the time. Unfortunately, having bad things happen, going through heartache, does not make us special. How we react to it, how we pick ourselves up, what our perspective is – now that makes us special indeed!! I’ve believed in that for years, and it’s the central theme to my blog. Buckner’s perspective I also believe is telling, “…and God puts us in those positions because He knows we can handle it.”
When asked about pressure, he responded, “We play a game. And get paid lots of money for it. Pressure is going through stuff and having to pay the mortgage. Making a car payment.”
“We play a game.” I love that.
He went onto continue that he’s met so many people afterwards that said what he went through afterwards and the backlash gave them strength that if he could persevere with an entire region hating him and still be happy and positive about his own life, that they could handle the things that they were dealing with. “Sometimes things happen to us not for our benefit, but for the benefit of others.” Buckner was helping others. I thought to myself, what do I do that helps others? How can I help those around me more? How can I help the less fortunate more?
Buckner went onto say the Boston fans were actually incredible. The few that weren’t unfortunately were the ones that was given notoriety. He left Boston cos he actually wanted to realize a dream and own a ranch in Idaho. (To further strengthen the “no ill will on both sides” argument, Buckner currently manages a farm team 25 miles away from Boston.)
I remember that game like it was yesterday. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I am left with how positive Bill Buckner was, and his perspective that he would not let one moment define his baseball career or his personal life. “Why do we fall, Bruce? …So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” On this Christmas Day, those are great thoughts to think of… How can I help (more)?
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