Some Items Pertaining to the Mookie Wilson Grounder to Bill Buckner in October 1986

One of the things I’ve come back to in getting material to post here is Bill Buckner and that Mookie Wilson grounder. On October 14, 1986, a profile of Billy Buck by Ross Newhan noted how well he’d done in 1985, and along the way he “also set a big league record for assists by a first baseman with 184.”

But there was a heavy long-term impact from “April 18, 1975, when he slid into second base in a Dodger Stadium game against the San Francisco Giants and suffered a severe strain to the left ankle.”

Buckner: “I’d have stolen 50 bases a year and won more than just one batting title. I’d have 200 to 300 more hits and could be certain of getting 3,000.

“Considering that everything else has been fine, I could have counted on playing until I was 42 or 43, so it will probably shorten my career by a few years.

“I also don’t think I would have been traded by the Dodgers (in a 1977 six-player deal with the Cubs that sent Rick Monday to Los Angeles). I’d probably still be in Los Angeles, which means it cost me a few championships and a chance to play my entire career in good weather.

“On the other hand, not too many guys have played as long as I have or been as productive. And in some ways it has made me a better hitter.

“I came up to the Dodgers as a guy who would choke up and punch the ball to left field. Once I hurt the ankle I had to become more of a power and RBI man with the capability of pulling the ball.

“On the other hand, not too many guys have played as long as I have or been as productive. And in some ways it has made me a better hitter.

“I came up to the Dodgers as a guy who would choke up and punch the ball to left field. Once I hurt the ankle I had to become more of a power and RBI man with the capability of pulling the ball.

“I mean, if you can’t run, you better be able to hit.”

Newhan said that since the injury Buckner had “undergone three operations and will have a fourth for removal of the spurs when this postseason tournament ends.

He uses ice daily and has used acupuncture, ointments and just about every other remedy in a struggle to cope with the pain.

This season, he has had four cortisone injections in the ankle. He also has had two in his left elbow and two more in his left knee.

That’s a total of eight, a career record.”

John McNamara: “Buck reminds me of a rodeo cowboy limping off to his pickup truck, throwing his saddle in the back and driving off to his next performance. He gives you 100% of whatever he’s got. He’s one of the finest competitors I’ve ever been around.”

Buckner had aggravated the ankle injury in a stolen base attempt and went 1-15 at the end of the regular season, then 3-24 in his first postseason games. A quote: “It’s just not there. Ever since I hurt my back and ankle a couple of weeks ago, I really haven’t gotten going.”

Still, at the time Buckner was happy to be a Red Sox. He said this happened when he got to Fenway: “I completely changed my style and reached my potential as a hitter. I was basically an upper-body hitter who used his arms to generate power. Now I do it with my legs. I have more leverage, more drive, which is why I’m getting more RBIs and extra-base hits.

“When you consider the caliber of hitters we have here and the fact that I’ve just about driven in more runs than any of them (in the last two years), that’s a pretty good feeling. If I could have had a good first half this year I’d have driven in 130 runs. The last two months have probably been the best two months of my career.”

In mid-September, Buckner had a very good week indeed. Here’s the text of a UPI article on September 16, 1986, recording Bill Buckner being named A.L. player of the week:

Boston’s Bill Buckner, who hit .438 with a 1.031 slugging percentage last week, was named the American League’s Player of the Week.

Buckner pounded six home runs and a double while going 14 for 32 with 33 total bases. He scored 11 times and drove in 13 runs, including two game-winning RBI. Including three walks, Buckner had a .486 on-base percentage.

Buckner was the only player named on the ballots despite other outstanding performances. New York’s Don Mattingly hit .520 for the week and teammate Dan Pasqua .545. Milwaukee’s Ted Higuera went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA.

Finally, a while ago I noticed that Bill Buckner had 183 steals in his career, including 31 in 1974 and 28 in 1976 with the Dodgers, and then 18 in 1985 with Boston, just a year before that infamous image of him failing to bend his creaky knees to get to that grounder in game 6 of the ’86 World Series. In fact, Billy Buck even had six steals in ’86. I doubt this will change the overwhelming image of him having the grounder go through his legs, but here is the year-by-year chart of his steals totals, including seven years in the double digits.

1969 0
1970 0
1971 4
1972 10
1973 12
1974 31
1975 8
1976 28
1977 7
1978 7
1979 9
1980 1
1981 5
1982 15
1983 12
1984 2
1985 18
1986 6
1987 2
1988 5
1989 1
1990 0

At the end of the 1986 spring training,  the Chicago Sun-Times noted that Buckner “has been slowed this spring by a hamstring injury, but he’s still putting in extra hours before games running sprints and taking extra infield practice.” Buckner himself said: “I run the hill [outside the ballpark in Winter Haven] to strengthen my ankle and my whole leg, but the ankle doesn’t bother me anymore. Now it’s a bone spur in my left foot.

“It went away in the winter, and I didn’t want surgery. I’m leery of surgery because I had such a bad time last time. But this spring when the pain came back, I had it X-rayed and had a cortisone shot, and I was excited by how good it felt.”

Published in: on September 30, 2009 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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