Mookie on Buckner: ‘We were good friends’

NEW YORK – Former Mets outfielder, mookie wilsonyou will never forget the call you received on May 28, 2019. You were in Atlanta with a relative, when a reporter told you that bill buckner had passed away. Buckner was 69 years old.

Wilson, 65, didn’t think so. He had only seen Buckner a month ago, as part of an autograph signing event. Wilson knew that Buckner was battling Lewy Body Dementia, but the news of his passing hit him.

“I was one of the first to find out about his diagnosis,” Wilson said. “It took me a couple of days [aceptar que había fallecido]. I didn’t use my phone. I didn’t want to hear anything about it. I felt like I lost a brother. We were that close. You don’t know how close you are to someone until something like this happens. He hit me hard.”

Wilson and Buckner became great friends thanks to an abiding bond that grew out of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

Wilson was the hero. Buckner the villain. In the bottom of the 10th inning, with Red Sox reliever Bob Stanley on the mound, Wilson hit a slow grounder to Buckner at first. The ball went between his legs, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run that tied the series at three wins. It didn’t help that Buckner was playing with an injured ankle.

“I don’t remember the last time I missed a ball like that,” Buckner said after the game, “but I’ll remember this one.”

The Mets ended up winning the World Series two days later; his first title since 1969. For the Red Sox, it didn’t matter that Calvin Schiraldi dropped two games or Oil Can Boyd allowed six runs in his only start, it was Buckner who took the blame for the World Series loss. Something unfair, according to Wilson.

“It was one of those things that just happens,” Wilson said. “It turns out that we were the most and least fortunate of the fact. Let’s move on. As he told me: ‘Let’s take it like this’”.

After seeing their careers end, Buckner and Wilson became great friends, coinciding in postcard collection events.

“We made a pact,” recalls Wilson. “No [participaríamos en ningún evento] Unless we both agree. He was like, ‘Look, I got this job, do you want to do it? They will pay us this… It is our price.’ It’s what we did, as long as we were together. It was a gentlemen’s agreement. It was very simple. To this day, I don’t give interviews because it would make Bill look bad. I turned down a lot of things for that reason.”

Once they became friends, Buckner would sometimes call Wilson in the middle of the night. They weren’t talking about baseball, but about family and plans to go fishing.

“He wanted me to go fishing with him,” notes Wilson. “I told him, ‘Look, we African-Americans are not going to go fishing on any ice. We don’t do those things.’ We had a relationship that people didn’t understand. They said ‘Do you talk to each other?’, why not? That’s how close we were.”

Buckner’s wife, Jody, asked Wilson to come to the funeral service, but Wilson declined.

“I could not do it. I felt like it was a very familiar thing,” Wilson confessed. “She told me how Bill felt about me and our relationship. That made me feel good. She felt that he was close enough to tell Jody. It was one of those situations where she felt like she was on the outside [debido al fallecimiento de Bill]”.

How did that friendship happen?

Wilson and Buckner were first rivals in the National League East. Wilson began his Major League career with the Mets in 1980 and became a popular figure due to his talent and dedication. The only Buckner he knew was Jim; Bill’s younger brother. They were teammates for a year in 1979, when they were both at Triple-A Tidewater.

“They were twins. Jim is the same size and was left-handed. He was running just like Bill,” recalls Wilson.

Bill was one of the Cubs’ veterans and biggest producers. He used to salute Wilson for her relationship with Jim.

On May 25, 1984, Buckner was traded to the Red Sox. Two years later, Buckner led Boston to the World Series against Wilson and the Mets. It was Buckner’s last solid season in the majors. At 36, he finished second on the team with 102 RBIs, second only to Jim Rice’s 110.

Game 6 of the World Series arrived. Boston was one out away from winning its first championship since 1918. In fact, in the bottom of the 10th inning, Shea Stadium’s screen flashed “Congratulations, Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Series Champions.” .

Even Wilson admitted he thought the game was over after Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez were pulled for the first two outs of the inning. The Mets were down 5-3.

“When Wally and Keith retired, the set didn’t look very good,” recalls Wilson. “…to be honest with you, I said, ‘We’re going to throw this away.’ There was nothing exciting in the cave. There was nothing”.

With two out and Schiraldi on the mound, Gary Carter kept the inning alive with a single to left field. Pin-trick Kevin Mitchell followed with another hit to center to put runners on first and second. Ray Knight hit a hit to right-center, which allowed Carter to score and move Mitchell to third base.

Red Sox manager John McNamara made a pitching change and called up Stanley. Wilson was in the on-deck circle when Mitchell scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at five runs.

Wilson was the sixth batter of the inning and began to think that the Mets could win the game. Wilson couldn’t lose it because he was already tied.

Wilson maxed out the count before hitting a slow grounder to first base that went between Buckner’s legs and Knight scored the winning run. Shea Stadium exploded. It’s like the Mets have won the championship. Buckner became the one singled out for allowing the losing run, while Wilson came out the hero.

“I should have hit the pitch better. I said things I shouldn’t have said. You know those words you say when things don’t go your way?” commented Wilson, who didn’t want to reveal what he said as he walked the bases. “I just ran hard. When the ball went between his legs, I said the same thing I did when I hit the ball.”

“I was surprised. He knew Buckner very well. He knew the kind of player he was. He can do that catch in his sleep. Most can. But like I said, these crazy things happen for a reason.”

When the World Series ended, Wilson and Buckner did not see each other again until the 1989 season. Wilson was part of the Blue Jays, while Buckner was on the Royals’ roster. During warmups at Royals Stadium, Buckner saw Wilson and said, ‘Hey, Mookie, you want to hit me a few ground balls?’

“That broke the ice and made me feel comfortable talking to him,” Wilson said. “From that day on, that’s how he started.”

Although Buckner’s career was marked by that play in Game 6 of the 1986 Fall Classic, Wilson, now a Mets ambassador, believes Buckner has a case for the Hall of Fame. Buckner finished his career with a .289 average, 2,715 hits, 1,208 RBIs, but his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is only 15.1 during his 22-year career.

“He was a phenomenal player,” Wilson said. “He did everything extremely well. He has better numbers than some who are in the Hall of Fame. I do not get it”.

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Mookie on Buckner: ‘We were good friends’