Our coach (manager) in baseball once told us – his teenage players – that he would make every effort to place us in positions where we may have the best chance to succeed as individuals and as a team. Managers are supposed to do that and in 1986 John McNamara failed in a decisive game six of the World Series.
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Bill Buckner was on his last legs and I do mean last. The pins were shot. The wheels were stuck. A gifted fielder who was now a liability thanks the erosion of his ankles and Achilles. McNamara would replace Buckner with Dave Stapleton late in games for the very obvious reason – defense.
Stapleton had already replaced Buckner in games one, three and five so this was the logical and expected move. In addition, Buckner was hitting under .200 for the series when Mac allowed him to remain in the game and become one and quite possibly the most dramatic blunder in World Series history.
"“If the Red Sox couldn’t win their first World Series in 68 years after leading … by two runs … with two out … and the bases empty in the bottom of the 10th inning of Saturday’s sixth game, well, maybe it’s impossible after all.” – Kevin Modesti, L.A. Daily News"
I would recount the painful play, but I tragically remember the earlier congratulations posted on the Mets scoreboard for the Red Sox winning the series – prior to the moment of pain. Bruce Hurst was even named MVP. Again – the rest is baseball PTSD for Red Sox fans.
Buckner became a “goat” for the series, but those horns belong firmly on Johnny Mac. The years drifted by and Buckner had to live with his moment of baseball infamy that forever tainted. What should be remembered is 22 years at the MLB level, a slash of .289/.321/.408 and 2,715 career hits.
After 2004 an epiphany took place and Buckner was returned to the good graces of RSN. The years of championships have diluted that moment.
Sources: Baseball-Reference/Baseball Almanac/Baseball Prospectus/ A Summer To Remember: Bill Veeck, Lou Boudreau, Bob Feller, and the 1948 Cleveland Indians