Bill Buckner — one of my all time favorite players — THREW OUT THE FIRST PITCH AT THE RED SOX HOME OPENER!
I had tears in my eyes listening to the ovation he received from the fans.
I loved Buckner when he was with the Cubs and when he was with the Red Sox. (I didn’t love him when he was with the Dodgers. I hate the Dodgers.) He was a great hitter even after his ankles became so damaged that it hurt me to watch him run. People who would like to blame him for the Sox infamous collapse in 1986 are idiots. That game was lost by a series of actions that started well before John McNamara came up with the brilliant idea of putting in the very vulnerable Buckner as a late-inning defensive replacement. Collateral Damage Sr. is a die-hard Mets fan and this is how he described it: “If the Mets were such a great team how come God had to give them the Series?”
The Buckner moment that I will never forget and that best shows the player he was came in Billy Bucks little remembered 2nd tour of duty with the Sox on April 25, 1990.
During a game against the Angels, Buckner hit a line drive to right that bounced out of Claudell Washington’s glove. The ball stayed in the park, which was more than could be said of Washington. He tumbled head-first into the right field seats. The tumble stunned him and he had trouble getting up and getting to the ball. The whole time this is going on Buckner is running head down as hard and as fast as he can — one incredibly painful step at a time. If he was surprised at getting to second, he didn’t even question it when the third base coach waved him home. When he crossed the plate I remember laughing and cheering and crying all at once.
I’m doing the same thing now. Welcome home again, Billy Bucks.
ADDENDUM: Forgot to mention that yesterday I met Tony Conigliaro’s uncle. So it was a big day for heart-tugging Sox moments. (If you don’t know the Tony C. story go here and read it. and prepare to sniffle.) I was adult accompaniment on a field trip with CollateralDamage Jr.’s class. We went to a place called Conigliaro Industries to see the recycling operation and when the very nice guy who showed us around asked if there were any questions I raised my hand and said “Any connection to …?” Turns out it’s run by Tony C’s cousin. While we were being shown around the owner’s father came by (also named Tony Conigliaro) and said hello. He designs a lot of the machines they use in recycling, including a very cool one that pulls apart all the pieces of a mattress. I didn’t ask him about his nephew.
I was shocked because I was the only on on the field trip who knew who Tony C. was. That suggests A) Bunch of damn furriners at the kid’s school, and B) I’ve done a poor job on educating CDjr. on the important historical facts about Boston.