Baseball Legend Bill Buckner Dies At 69: 'He Was A Great Competitor'

George Ofman
May 27, 2019 - 2:25 pm

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Veteran baseball champion Bill Buckner has passed away today at the age of 69 from Lewy Body Dementia. 

Buckner, who played for five MLB teams during his career of over 22 years, was a first baseman and left fielder originally from California. He played eight seasons each with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs and played five seasons with the Boston Red Sox from 1984 to 1987. Later played with the California Angels and Kansas City Royals for two seasons each. 

During his time with the Chicago Cubs from 1977 to 1983, Buckner — whose nickname was Billy Buck — he played 974 games and in 1980 he won the National League batting title with a .324 average and finished 14th in the NL MVP voting. 

Buckner is most infamous for letting a ball slip between his legs while he was the first baseman on the Boston Red Sox. In the 10th inning of Game 6 against the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series, his miss allowed the winning run to score. The Mets went on to win Game 7 and extend the Red Sox's infamous title drought dating back to 1918.

Former teammate Barry Foote, who played with Buckner for the Cubs from 1979 to 1981, was shocked to hear the news of Buckner's passing. Foote, who ended his career in 1982 with the New York Yankees, told WBBM Buckner could have been a hall of fame player if he had not broken his ankle.

"Nobody realized how hard it was for Buckner to get on the field every day," Foote said. "He was a borderline hall of fame hitter."

Foote recounted the arduous preparation Buckner went through before practice and games to ensure his ankle was ready to play on. He would come early for practice to ice his ankle and despite that, was a strong professional player, Foote said.  

He enjoyed playing with Buckner and called his Boston game a "mishap (that) hung around his neck for many years."

His death was surprising to Foote, who remembered Buckner as a healthy man who took care of his health.

Fellow former Cubs teammate Larry Bowa also expressed his shock about Buckner's death, saying he did not know he was sick. The last time he heard from him was after he made amends after the Boston error.

"He was a great competitor," Bowa told WBBM. "I was fortunate to play with him at the Cubs."

Like Foote, Bowa echoed Buckner's talents and said he was close to being a hall of famer, based on his numbers. He added that was even more impressive because of his faulty ankle. 

"He played on one leg, basically," Bowa said. "This guy posted up every day. You could see the pain on his face but when the umpire said, 'Play ball,' he was out there and gave you everything he had."

Bowa said he will remember Buck as an outstanding player who was much more than his Boston error. There was plenty more he did as a first basemen that people should remember, he said.  

"There is not too much he could not do on a baseball field," Bowa said. ​