Whenever people speak of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series they inevitably refer to the ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs. This game will forever be considered the game that Buckner gave to the New York Mets. So much so that the name Bill Buckner is for many in Boston on par with some of the most hated names in sports history. What many people never seem to address is that despite the fact that the Mets won the game on the play that saw the ball go through his legs the loss of game 6 was actually not Bill Buckner’s fault.
When the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets faced off in the 1986 World Series, the Red Sox were looking for their first championship since 1918. They had seen heartbreak many times before this series and many in Boston and throughout the baseball world truly believed that the curse of the Babe, (the Red Sox actually sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees), had credibility. However, in 1986 the Red Sox had built up a 3-2 lead in the series and although Game 6 and Game 7 (if necessary) were scheduled to be played in New York, it looked very much like this might be the year that Boston would celebrate its first World Series victory in 68 years. That belief would reach peak levels when the Red Sox took a 2 run lead in the top of the 10th inning and subsequently got the first 2 outs against the Mets in the bottom of the 10th.
So if the Red Sox did not actually lose Game 6 because of Bill Buckner, what was the reason and who was responsible? Before assigning blame allow me to give credit where credit is due. What is often overlooked in the discussion is what was possibly as good of an “at bat” by any player in baseball history. With everything on the line, Mookie Wilson fouled off pitch after pitch, and created the scenario that would lead to a Mets victory. It can easily be said that without Bill Buckner the Red Sox may very well have still lost the game, but without Mookie Wilson the Mets would not have won the game. And before an injured Bill Buckner who should never been there in the first place ever had an opportunity to make his famous blunder, there was already plenty of blame to go around.
It starts with the 1986 Red Sox manager John McNamara. He started by bringing reliever Calvin Schiraldi in for a 3rd inning of work, something he was not accustomed to doing. After getting the first 2 outs and bringing the Red Sox within 1 out of bliss, the Mets would get 3 straight hits against Schiraldi. Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell, and Ray Knight would all get singles against Schiraldi while McNamara sat on the bench watching and hoping. With Mets now within 1 and the tying run on 3rd and the potential winning run on 1st, McNamara finally made a move and brought in Bob Stanley. Up to plate comes Mookie Wilson who fouled off pitch after pitch, and on a 2-2 count jumped out of the way of a pitch at his feet allowing the ball to skip to the backstop and bring home the tying run. So before Bill Buckner’s name is ever mentioned in the discussion, the Mets had tied a game they had no business tying. With poor management by McNamara, Schiraldi not getting the job done, and Stanley’s wild pitch, Mookie Wilson makes contact one more time as the infamous “little roller up along first” starts its journey that would end up between a hobbling Bill Buckner’s legs and a Mets Game 6 victory. The Mets would go on to win Game 7 and once again there would be heartbreak in Beantown. Heartbreak unfairly credited to Bill Buckner.