Tuesday, April 08, 2008
AT LAST, PERHAPS, ALL IS FORGIVEN
BUCKNER'S OVATION HIGHLIGHTS MAGICAL DAY AT FENWAY
The Red Sox produced yet another memorable Opening Day celebration at Fenway Park on Tuesday. The festivities were filled with with many nice elements, such as having members of the Celtics, Bruins and Patriots Championship teams in attendance.
Seeing little old Johnny Pesky raise the Championship Flag was a heart-warming experience and brought a tear to my eye. The man is the living embodiment of the Red Sox and lives -- perhaps quite literally -- for the team and his place on it. His presence and participation made for some truly special moments on a truly special afternoon.
Having Bill Buckner throw out the first pitch was a wonderful surprise and another touching moment. In fact, the standing ovation he received was clearly a highlight on a day that was filled with them.
Buckner's life has probably been a living hell for the past 21+ years, and hopefully his appearance -- and the subsequent fan reaction -- finally puts to rest whatever demons may have haunted him all this time. Billy Buck was terrific hitter, who batted .300 or better eight times in his fine career. That is largely forgotten in the shadow of "The Error" in Game 6.
But there was plenty of blame to go around on that evening in late October of 1986; Calvin Shiraldi, Bob Stanley, and Buckner all played critical roles in the great meltdown.
The infamous ground ball that eluded Buckner was so routine; he would have made the play easily on a thousand other occasions. Yes, he should have fielded it cleanly because it was just a "slow roller". That's what left everyone in such a state of disbelief and disappointment. But Buckner was gimpy, on bad ankles -- in high-tops no less! -- and probably shouldn't have been in the game in the crucial late innings anyway.
It can never be forgotten that the Sox were just one strike away from a Championship. Buckner's error was simply the most glaring, and therefore most memorable, mishap.
But that now seems like ancient history, and all has been forgiven -- if not forgotten. Two World Series Championships in four years will induce that sort of amnesia. Perhaps time heals all wounds, but there's no doubt that the World Series trophies and flags have done their part as well. They are a soothing balm for the long-tortured psyches and souls of millions of Red Sox fans old enough to remember the annual heart breaks.
Buckner clearly looked touched by the response of the Fenway crowd, as evidenced by the tears he wiped from his eyes. I don't think anyone watching could help but feel happy for him. It was courageous for him to show up, and a very classy gesture for the organization to have extended the invitation in the first place.
Perhaps the Red Sox World Series tragedy of 1986 is finally over and all has been forgiven. Thank goodness, and good riddance to those ghosts. It's as if an exorcism was performed on the Fenway field nearly 22 years later. Better late than never.
A fitting moment on a day of jubilation, celebration and, perhaps, forgiveness.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.