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Obituaries

Bill Buckner, former Dodger and a Red Sox legend, dies at 69

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.

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Buckner retired from playing in 1990 after one final season with the Red Sox. He finished his career with 2,715 hits and a .289 batting average.

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.

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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.


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