Former Boston Red Sox player Bill Buckner is introduced during a 1986 20-year team reunion before a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies on May 25, 2016, at Fenway Park in Boston.(Billie Weiss / Getty Images)
Boston Red Sox Bill Buckner boots a ball against the New York Mets in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series on Oct. 25 in New York.(Stan Grossfeld / Boston Globe)
Dodger outfielder Bill Buckner slams a pitch by Jim “Catfish” Hunter of the Athletics for a home run over the right field wall in the eighth inning of the World Series at the Coliseum in Oakland on Oct. 15, 1974.(Associated Press)
Bill Buckner, outfielder of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Vero Beach, Fla., in 1971.(Jim Kerlin / Associated Press)
Newly acquired Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner helped burst the Kansas City Royals’ bubble with a fourth-inning home run at Fenway Park in Boston, on May 28, 1984, then blew a bubble of his own when he took the field in the fifth. Boston beat Kansas City, 6-0.(Ted Gartland / Associated Press)
Newly signed first baseman Bill Buckner, right, is congratulated by teammates Ned Bergert, left, and Ruppert Jones, center, after Buckner scored during the second inning at the Oakland Coliseum on July 28, 1987.(Bill Beattie / Associated Press)
Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner raises his arm while standing on second base during sixth inning action against the California Angels during the American League Championship Series in Anaheim Stadium on Oct. 11, 1986.(Douglas P. Pizac / Associated Press)
Boston Red Sox Bill Buckner slides headfirst into home plate to score the second run of the game on a single by Dwight Evans in the third inning of the fifth game of the World Series at Boston’s Fenway Park on Oct. 23, 1986.(Peter Southwick / Associated Press)
Bill Buckner of the Chicago Cubs slides across a base during a game in the 1980 season at Wrigley Field in Chicago.(Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)
Former Boston Red Sox player Bill Buckner acknowledges the cheers from the crowd before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the MLB baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers on April 8, 2008, at Fenway Park in Boston.(Getty Images)
Bill Buckner, a longtime major leaguer and batting champion whose error for the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series would go down as one of the most infamous plays in baseball history, died Monday. He was 69.
“After battling the disease of Lewy Body Dementia Bill Buckner passed away early the morning of May 27th surrounded by his family,” the family said in a statement provided to ESPN. “Bill fought with courage and grit as he did all things in life. Our hearts are broken but we are at peace knowing he is in the arms of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Buckner played 22 major league seasons, including eight with the Dodgers and parts of two seasons with the Angels. He was an All-Star selection in 1981 and the National League batting champion in 1980 during his time with the Chicago Cubs.
However, his costly error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series prevented Boston from ending its long-running championship drought. The fielding error on a hit by Mookie Wilson in the 10th inning allowed Ray Knight to score the winning run in a stunning 6-5 win. The Mets went on to win the Series after beating the Red Sox in Game 7.
Born in Vallejo, Calif., on Dec. 14, 1949, Buckner was picked by the Dodgers in the second round of the 1968 major league draft. In 1969, he made his major league debut with the team at the age of 19. Buckner played primarily in left field during his time in Los Angeles, batting .289 with 38 home runs in 773 games before being traded to the Cubs in 1977.
During Buckner’s time in Chicago, he batted .300 four times and led the National League with a .324 batting average in 1980. Buckner’s reputation as one of the major leagues’ best hitters made him a huge asset for the Red Sox after they traded for him in 1984. He immediately made an impact and played a big role in transforming the team into a World Series contender.
After Boston’s World Series loss to the Mets, however, Buckner received death threats and was often heckled by fans at Fenway Park the following season. The Red Sox released him in July 1987. He signed with the Angels a short time later and then played a season with the Kansas City Royals in 1989 before returning to Boston.
Buckner was greeted with a standing ovation during Boston’s 1990 home opener. His Red Sox return, however, lasted only two months before he retired.
Buckner threw out the first pitch during Boston’s 2007 World Series celebration and took part in a 2016 ceremony at Fenway Park honoring the 1986 Red Sox.