Markusen: Bill Buckner, another view

From SABR member Bruce Markusen at The Hardball Times on June 14, 2019:

For me, Bill Buckner was the Burt Reynolds of baseball. First, he always reminded me of Reynolds physically, with that thick mustache and that jet black hair. (Of course, Burt relied on a toupee, while Buckner’s hair was real.) Buckner was also like Reynolds in another sense. They were both much criticized and vilified: Reynolds for failing to live up to the promise of his early career, and Buckner for both his error in Game Six of the ‘86 World Series and for his inability to draw walks or hit with much power. (For example, a recent article by THT’s Steven Goldman concluded that Buckner was not a very good player.) Within their industries, neither man seemed to have the respect they could have had, or should have had.

Both Reynolds and Buckner deserved better. Reynolds was an excellent actor who made three classic films from three different genres: Deliverance (horror/thriller), The Longest Yard (comedy), and Boogie Nights (drama). He also starred in Smokey and the Bandit, a frivolous but fun film that made a ton of money for folks in Hollywood, and in Sharky’s Machine, an underrated movie about quirky members of a vice squad pursuing a killer.

Similarly, Buckner was a good player. He never won an MVP or played on a world championship team, but did assemble a long and productive career, one that lasted 22 seasons. It’s hard to stick around that long if you’re simply a utilityman or a backup outfielder or a subpar regular, and Buckner was more than any of those things. While not close to being a Hall of Famer, the Buckner of his prime was a player you could win with, as the 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers and ‘86 Boston Red Sox could attest.

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Originally published: June 20, 2019. Last Updated: June 20, 2019.