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Few moments epitomize the spirit of a sports curse like Bill Buckner’s error in game six of the 1986 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets. At the worst possible time, the bottom of the tenth inning with the game tied at 5-5, Boston first baseman Buckner let through a groundball ball from Mookie Wilson.
The Red Sox had come within one strike of winning the World Series two times, but Bill Buckner’s fumble meant that the Curse of the Bambino continued haunting Boston.
Buckner would carry the stigma for supposedly losing the Sox the World Series for the rest of his life.
Lead-up to Bill Buckner’s Error
Bill Buckner had joined the Red Sox at the beginning of the 1984 season and had been in formidable form for the next three seasons. In 1986 he scored 100 runs for the second time in a row in addition to his 18 homeruns, helping the Red Sox to win the American league Pennant by 5 games. Meanwhile, the Red Sox were without a world series win since 1918, bogged down under the weight of the Bambino Curse.
The Sox opened the series with a 1-0 win in game one and then took game two by a 9-3 score line. The Mets won game three and game four to leave the series tied at 2-2 before Boston won game five, meaning that they only needed to win game six to win the series.
The Sox started game six with two RBI hits from Dwight Evans and Mart Barrett to assume a 2-0 lead. The Mets hit back through Ray Knight and Danny Heep in the fifth inning to even the scores but an error by Knight in the seventh inning allowed the Sox to restore their lead. Red Sox starter Roger Clemens had been in excellent form allowing just two runs but had to withdraw from the game after injuring his finger.
The Mets equalized in the eighth inning after Clemens’s replacement Calvin Schiraldi allowed a run, to send the two teams into the ninth inning tied at 3-3. Both teams were unable to score in the ninth inning, sending the game into an extra inning. A homerun from Dave Henderson sent the Sox 5-3 up in the top of the tenth inning, getting to within touching distance of a historic win.
However, the Mets had other ideas as they hit two singles in the bottom of the inning to tie the game once more. A Mookie Wilson hit from the Sox’s tenth pitch that was made by Bob Stanley flew down to first base where Buckner was unable to catch the ball as it passed under his glove and through his legs and into the grateful hands of Ray Knight who scored from second base.
The Aftermath of Bill Buckner’s Error
The Mets’ comeback was so unexpected during the game that the visitor’s locker room had already been decorated in preparation of a Red Sox celebration. The scoreboard in Shea Stadium had even accidentally displayed a message that congratulated the Sox on winning the World Series. In game seven of the series the Mets prevailed 8-5 meaning the Red Sox had to wait longer to vanquish the curse of the Bambino. That wait turned out to be a further 18 years, as the Red Sox only won the World Series in 2004.
Buckner, despite being one of the top performers for Boston and the fact that he was nursing a leg injury during the game, bore the brunt for the World Series loss. He was booed and heckled at subsequent games by Boston fans and even received death threats. He was released by the Sox in July 1987 and went on to have short stints with the California angels and the Kansas City Royals. In 1990, he returned as a free agent to the Red Sox, where he received a standing ovation, apparently a sign that all was forgiven. He stayed on for barely two months before retiring.
He served as a coach for a few years but quit due to what he termed as irritation over the constant questions from the press about his unfortunate outing in the 1986 World Series. He moved his family to Idaho where he is involved in real estate business. In 2012 the ball that went passed through Buckner’s legs was auctioned for more than $400,000.