For those in their 40s or younger out there, Bill Buckner, who passed away yesterday at 69 years old, doesn't register much.
He made an error. The Red Sox lost the World Series. Whatever.
The Boston sports landscape has changed. Dramatically.
Championships, Duck Boat parades and even some heart-breaking losses in championship games or series are part of it.
Fans of the Patriots (three), Celtics (one) and Bruins (one) all saw probable titles stolen away. But, a little misery with the 12 titles is collateral damage.
Buckner was from a different sports landscape. While he became world famous during one of the most exciting runs in Boston sports history -- Larry Bird & Co. -- we were focused more on the Red Sox.
Not only hadn't they won since 1918, after selling Babe Ruth to pay for a failed Broadway play, but they oftentimes fell hard. And the fact that their biggest rivals, the New York Yankees, won 22 World Series titles through the 1986 season didn't help.
There have been many books written about the 1986 World Series, and Buckner is the focal point of many of them. In Game 6, with the Red Sox leading the series, 3-2, with a two-run lead, two outs and nobody on in the 10th inning, everything fell apart.
The end point that night was Mookie Wilson's overly-spinning grounder rolling under Buckner's glove and the Mets won Game 6 and, of course, won Game 7 two nights later.
Buckner was the culprit.
He returned for the 1987 season, but was released half-way during it. The California Angels signed him for the rest of the season, before releasing him in 1988.
Buckner did another season and a half with the Kansas City Royals before calling it a career after the 1989 season.
I had heard Buckner was making a comeback, at least for one more year, and was working out at Tufts University's indoor facility. Walter Hriniak, his friend and former hitting coach with the Red Sox, was working with him.
I chatted with Buckner and he told me he wanted to give it one more try.
Buckner was going to get a look-see from two legendary Red Sox scouts, Sam Mele and Frank Malzone, at the old Phillips Andover gymnasium on a cold, February morning. Buckner said I could attend and bring a photographer.
He looked good. The line drives were loud. We chatted afterward and he gave me a great story.
A week or so later, Buckner was re-signed.
It was a great story. Buckner, who basically had to be released after the all-star break, despite having a decent season in 1987 (.275, 42 RBI), was going to be "forgiven."
He got a standing ovation on Opening Day in 1990, but there never really was any forgiveness. Buckner didn't hit his weight (.186) and his gimpy ankles had finally given up on him.
The weight of being Bill Buckner and more seasons without a World Series was too much to bear. He was the brunt of too many jokes on local sports radio.
He later moved to Idaho and did come back for some appearances. But it was in and out, and back to Idaho.
It wasn't until 2008 when there was a Bill Buckner Day, which was both sad and special.
It was incredible seeing the fans, now seeing two Red Sox teams win World Series championships, give Buckner the longest ovation of his life.
The sad part was seeing him cry. It was nice seeing Dwight Evans there, as a shoulder to lean on as he came from the left field wall, but it was evident how much pain he carried with him the previous two decades.
He really was a decent guy, a baseball guy through and through. He wasn't pretty. But he seemed to get the job done more than he didn't as is evidenced by his 2,715 hits.
His family still apparently holds grudges with Boston fans, which is sad, too.
Maybe he was overly sensitive. Maybe he took the mocking and the jabs personally. But some of these athletes, who have literally dedicated their lives to their craft, are regular people with regular feelings.
While Boston fans like to think of themselves as the greatest in the world, there is proof that that wasn't always the case. A lot of people let Buckner down over an error.
It's a great lesson. These guys (and gals), with big homes, fast cars and All-American good looks are real people, too.
Bill Buckner deserved better. May he rest in peace.
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.