Wednesday, April 09, 2008

How does it feel?

Always good to use a Bob Dylan lyric at the start of a item.

But it works in this case.

The Boston Red Sox brought out Bill Buckner for the home opener on Tuesday afternoon. The ex-player is best-known for an error in the 1986 World Series that allowed the winning run to score in Game Six. The Mets went on to win the Series in seven games.

The image of Buckner's error has been replayed constantly over the past 22 years. Well, at least until 2004 when the Red Sox finally won a World Series. Buckner has had an odd reaction to the play over the years. He has been hounded by the media about it, as has his family. On the other hand, he signed photographs with Mookie Wilson, who hit the ball in the first place.

As the last part of the ceremony for the home opener began, Buckner emerged from the Green Monster door and walked slowly to the pitcher's mound to throw out the first pitch. He was greeted with a long standing ovation that left him weepy before he got to the infield, and left observers feeling it was a little dusty even when watching on television. (Check out the video here.)

So, how did it feel? It came off as a nice enough moment, if nothing else showing that these are not your father's Red Sox in the sense that the past is buried. (Just don't expect an ovation for Bucky Dent sometime soon.) But it wasn't your standard roof-raising cheer, which made it a little odd. It wasn't a favorite son returning home. Have there been many sports moments like it?

Hopefully, it wasn't taken by people as an "all is forgiven" cheer. A lot of things went wrong in the final half-inning of Game Six, starting with manager John McNamara not bringing in Dave Stapleton to play first base like he usually did in the late innings. And then there's Calvin Schiraldi's hits allowed and Bob Stanley's wild pitch. The score was already tied when Wilson hit the ground ball; the Red Sox weren't about to win that game even if Buckner made the out. And it was Game Six; Boston still had a chance at Game Seven two days later.

The hope is that it provided a little closure for Buckner, who certainly acted a little tormented by the whole episode, and deservedly so. If it did, maybe the Buffalo Bills can hold a similar ceremony some day for Scott Norwood, someone who was even more unjustly singularly blamed for the mistakes of his whole team.

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