Are We Really Over Bill Buckner?

1207676235At yesterday’s home opener, I held my breath when Joe Castiglione announced that the ceremonial first pitch would be thrown by former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner. I was a 5-year-old kid growing up in a baseball-free household when the ball rolled through Buckner’s legs, so I don’t have the deep psychological damage that many New Englanders suffered due to that botched play.

Were the fans simply placated by the sparkle of championship rings and the dulcet tones of the Boston Pops when they gave him a standing ovation, or has time dulled our hate of Billy Buckner?

The reaction to Buckner’s latest return was overwhelmingly positive, even after the ceremony was over. The Globe’s Eric Wilbur says real fans moved on years ago.

It all struck me as a little odd, especially considering those who actually remember the whole incident will instead forever place blame on [Red Sox manager] John McNamara’s shoulders. But I guess Buckner is easier to blame because his error was dramatic and tangible evidence of the choke while McNamara’s buffoonery at Shea Stadium was largely ignored.

The Herald’s editorial staff agrees.

Yes, there was the inevitable talk of “redemption” and “forgiveness” when Bill Buckner emerged from a self-imposed exile to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. But Red Sox fans – true fans – have long understood that Buckner’s contributions to the Red Sox were so much more than one notorious ball-through-the-wickets error, now 22 years past.

Even the bloggers were happy to see Buckner get a standing O. Adam Gaffin at Universal Hub rounds up the reaction. Basegirl’s Kristen says if she’d watched Buckner’s appearance live it would have “reduced [her] to a sobbing, hysterical mess.”

But not everyone was so moved by the absolution of one of the Red Sox’s scapegoats. The Soxaholix merely shrugged their shoulders about the whole affair. And some, including WBZ’s Jon Keller, still harbor animosity toward the first baseman.

If you think it’s a character flaw that I can’t forgive Buckner, I plead no contest.

But a broken heart is a broken heart.

And for some of us, 22 years and two World Series wins still isn’t enough healing.

Keller’s remarks incensed his colleague Dan Roche, and the two will debate the topic on the station’s 5:30 newscast.

But perhaps the most compelling argument on why we shouldn’t forgive Bill Buckner was laid out by Boston magazine’s John Wolfson. In an October 2006 report, he detailed Buckner and Mookie Wilson’s scheme to make a buck off of Red Sox Nation’s pain.

Your only legacy in Boston is failure. That’s no knock on you, actually. Plenty of ballplayers a lot better than you spent their entire careers here, only to fail, too. But it seemed to bother them.

But you, Buck—you who committed the error that symbolized the most agonizing moment in all the anguished history of the Boston Red Sox; who played here for just a blink of an eye; who knows nothing of us and seems to care even less—you prance around like Monica Lewinsky at the Republican National Convention, autographing Garcia y Vegas for anybody willing to lay a few dollars on the table. You give it away cheap, Buck. All of it.