BOSTON, MA – The Boston Red Sox mourn the loss of Bill Buckner, who passed away today at the age of 69. A member of Boston’s 1986 American League pennant-winning team, Buckner recorded 2,715 hits as part of a 22-year major league career, appearing in 504 games with the Red Sox from 1984-87 and another 22 for Boston during his final season in 1990.
Buckner’s wife, Jody, shared the following: “After battling the disease of Lewy Body Dementia, Bill Buckner passed away early the morning of May 27 surrounded by his family. Bill fought with courage and grit as he did all things in life. Our hearts are broken but we are at peace knowing he is in the arms of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
“We are proud that Bill Buckner wore a Red Sox jersey during the course of a terrific career that spanned more than two decades,” said Red Sox principal owner John Henry. “His life was defined by perseverance, resilience and an insatiable will to win. Those are the traits for which he will be most remembered. We join the baseball world in sending our condolences and our love to Jody and the entire Buckner family.”
“Bill Buckner personified toughness and grit, and his determination to play through pain defines him far more than any single play ever could,” said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner. “The standing ovations our fans gave him on his visits back to Fenway Park, most notably when he threw out the first pitch before our opener in 2008, illustrate the respect and admiration we all had for Billy Buck. We mourn his loss and offer condolences to his family and many friends.”
Born on December 14, 1949, Buckner was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 1968 June Draft and went on to appear in 2,517 games with the Dodgers (1969-76), Cubs (1977-84), Red Sox (1984-87, ’90), Angels (1987-88), and Royals (1988-89). A left-handed hitter, Buckner had a lifetime batting average of .289 (2,715-for-9,397) with 498 doubles, 49 triples, and 174 home runs. He had 1,208 RBI, 1,077 runs scored, and 183 stolen bases, recording only three more strikeouts (453) than walks (450).
Buckner was named an All-Star with the Cubs in 1981 and finished in the top 25 in Most Valuable Player voting five times, including back-to-back 10th-place finishes in 1981 and 1982. He batted .300 or higher seven times, including a career-best .324 mark that led the National League in 1980. Buckner also led the NL in doubles in 1981 (35) and 1983 (38) and recorded a career-best 201 hits in both 1982 and 1985. He was part of two teams that won pennants, reaching the 1974 World Series with the Dodgers and the 1986 Fall Classic with the Red Sox.
During the 15-year stretch from 1973-87, Buckner’s 2,364 hits ranked second in the majors behind only Steve Garvey (2,443), while his 448 doubles in that time ranked second behind only Hal McRae (449). Among players who had at least 5,000 at-bats during those 15 years, Buckner had the best strikeout rate in the majors, averaging one every 22.5 plate appearances. In the last 75 years (1945-2019), he is one of only 45 players to record at least 2,700 hits; among that group, the only players with fewer than 600 strikeouts are Buckner (453) and Tony Gwynn (434).
Buckner came to Boston from the Chicago Cubs on May 25, 1984, in a trade for pitcher Dennis Eckersley and infielder Mike Brumley. Buckner appeared in all 162 of Boston’s games in 1985 and 153 games in 1986, driving in more than 100 runs in both seasons despite ankle and Achilles tendon injuries. A key member of the 1986 American League championship team, the severely hobbled Buckner singled, reached on an error and scored a run in Game 5 of the 1986 World Series, a 4-2 victory over the New York Mets. In the 10th inning of Game 6, he misplayed a ground ball by Mookie Wilson at first base, an error that fueled the Mets’ comeback from a two-run deficit. The Red Sox lost Game 7, and the Buckner misplay took its place among the most remembered in baseball history. Teammates long argued that Buckner was unfairly maligned, and before the 2008 home opener, in an emotional pregame ceremony, Red Sox fans accorded Buckner a long and heartfelt ovation when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.