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Didja ever notice the evolution of Bill Buckner's reaction?

I have two memories related to Bill Buckner and the aftermath of the 1986 World Series. The first is seeing him on crutches at a National Pastime baseball card show a few weeks after the series concluded. He was there along with Mike Witt and Eric Davis, and while I don't remember getting their autographs (I did on a baseball on which the signatures have since faded away), I do remember the crutches and the sad look on his face.

The other comes from working as a tour guide at Shea Stadium in the summer of 1994. We were gathered as a group in the old Jets locker room when fellow tour guide Lane Luckert tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to a man applying fresh paint to one of the walls.

"Hey look," Lane said, pointing to a man with a bushy mustache and a slight resemblance to a former player. "It's Bill Buckner."

That was a good moment for a few yucks, though I don't think the real Buckner would have laughed at the time. Remember that this was just two years after he claimed, for some bizarre, to have had the ball that rolled through his legs (the ball was auctioned to actor Charlie Sheen. Buckner later acknowledged he was fibbing). Perhaps he could chuckle now though, as he seems to have finally come to terms with his place in baseball history.

A beer company is paying Buckner to serve as a spokesman for its new commercial about second chances and he said all the right things about what happened way back when. He hasn't always been this willing to talk about it. His mood seems to change on a regular basis, so perhaps the next time we hear from him, he won't be as pleasant. Here's a look at what he has said about the error that led to the winning run scoring in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

''The dreams are that you're going to have a great Series and win. The nightmares are that you're going to let the winning run score on a ground ball through your legs."

-- To a Boston TV station prior to Game 1 of the 1986 World Series

"What's up?"

-- First comment to reporters crowded around his locker following Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

"You were there. You saw it."

-- To TV sportscaster Dan Patrick, who didn't actually see the play or know how the game ended when he asked Buckner not long after the game "Bill, can you describe what hapened?"This was relayed in Patrick and Keith Olbermann's book The Big Show.

"I feel lousy the way things happened- but if God had meant it to be, I would have caught it. It was a great game. It was exciting and it was a lot of fun- except for the last inning. I look at it this way: I have never played in a Game 7 of the World Series- and now I will."

-- To reporters after Game 6, noted in Howard Blatt's book, Amazin Mets Memories

"I'm not going to talk to anybody about it. Once I get to spring training, that's it. It's been blown way out of proportion in the first place. This is the last time I'm talking about it, so tell your friends: This is it."I hate to downplay it, but a lot more important things happened than that. Now that I've seen the films, I know that we were not going to get Mookie Wilson at first anyway. (Bob) Stanley was not going to be there (to cover first base). It's just a mistake, and it's still being blown out of proportion."What bothers me the most is the way the media has blown it out of proportion. Other people had a tough time in that Series, too. I won't mention names, but other people had as tough a time as I did."

-- Buckner to reporters, including Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, stories published February 16, 1987

"If it hadn't been for the wild pitch and I had still been holding the runner on first base, it would have been a nice little ground ball."But I was playing off the line against a hitter who normally doesn't pull the ball and that Shea Stadium infield is terrible."I'm not making excuses, but when you miss only five or six ground balls out of 300 or so over the course of a season, it's as if what happened was meant to be."I mean, it wasn't mechanical. I didn't pull my head up. I didn't fail to get my glove down."The glove was down, but the ball skidded toward second base and seemed to go right around (the glove)."

I'm not living in the past. It hurts that we lost and I don't like some of the criticism I've received, but it doesn't still bother me, because in my own mind I don't feel responsible for losing the World Series. It was a 24-man thing."I mean, we had the best pitcher in baseball (Roger Clemens) and the best hitter in baseball (Wade Boggs) and neither did as well as expected."We reached the seventh game of the World Series after being picked to finish fifth. You have to be happy about that. We had a lot of fun. We made a lot of money. You've got to keep things in perspective."Sure, the farther you go, the bigger the fall. But every time I start to feel badly, I think about the Angels. They're the ones who've got reason to feel badly."

--To Ross Newhan, Los Angeles Times, story published March 4, 1987

"This is a new beginning for me. I just want to get it started."

-- To reporters regarding the standing ovation he received in his first game back at Fenway Park after returning to the Red Sox in 1990. He was released in June.

"I mean, they make Mookie Wilson out to be some kind of hero or something, when he really didn't do that much."

"...I mean, it's nice being out here. No one talks about it. In Boston, you spent most of the time talking about it. Somebody does at least a couple of times a week. I've been out here (living in Idaho) two months and this is the first time I've heard it mentioned."

-- To Mike Sowell, One Pitch Away, published in 1995

"Da-da-da Da-da-da."

-- Appearing in one of those goofy SportsCenter commercials, one showing him pretending to field the ground ball years later. I know this occurred, but can't find the date.

"And you'll never hear me say that (Mookie Wilson would have been safe anyway or anything else that would be perceived as an excuse). No excuses. Should have had it."

"I'm not a fielding coach. I'm a hitting coach."

''I can't tell people whether to like me or dislike me. ''They can do whatever they want. I can't control that. A lot of good things happened to me.''

-- To various reporters in his first few days as White Sox hitting coach, Spring Training 1996.

"It's unbelievable. You know what? This is the honest-to-God's truth. My first thought was, 'Oh [expletive], we lost the game.' The second thought was, 'Oh man, we get to play the seventh game of the World Series.' I mean, I was having so much fun. You're trying to win, obviously, but I mean, if we won the game, it was over with. I'm thinking, 'We get to play another game, and we'll win.' There was no doubt in my mind we were going to win the last game..."The whole play was bizarre. Marty Barrett was standing on second base to try and pick off Ray Knight. We had him picked off. I saw Marty move over to second, so I moved way over toward the hole. Normally with Mookie, you would play up with a runner on second base. You play a little deeper because you don't want the ball to go through. So then he dribbled the ball down the first base line. The reason he would've beat it out had nothing to do with Stanley getting over there. It's because I was so far out of position, trying to cover the hole over there. An infield hit still would've had Knight on third base. I had run up a long way, but I don't remember feeling like I was rushed. I didn't feel any kind of tension to catch the ground ball. Usually, when you miss a ground ball, it's because you look up. I didn't look up. The ball hit . . . I'm pretty sure the ball hit something . . . because the ball didn't go underneath my glove. It went to the right of my glove. It took a little bit of a funny hop, bounced to the right a little bit. It wasn't like, you know, you feel rushed and you look up. It took a funny hop. I mean, it's funny. It's funny. What do I chalk it up to? Fate. That's part of the game.

To Stan Grossfeld, Boston Globe, story published October 23, 2003.

"Personally, on my end of it, I'm just a little disappointed with the whole thing. This whole thing about being forgiven and clearing my name, you know, I mean . . . cleared from what? What did I do wrong? It's almost like being in prison for 30 years and then they come up with a DNA test to prove that you weren't guilty."I've gone through a lot of, what I feel, undeserved bad situations for myself and my family over a long period of time, and for someone to come up to me and say, 'Hey, you're forgiven,' I mean, it just kind of brings a really bad taste in my mouth."

-- Appearing on Sporting News Radio, October 28, 2004

"It was a little bit touchy for a couple of years. But it's no big deal now. Life is good."

-- To Fred Mitchell, Chicago Tribune, dated March 22, 2005

For links to the stories on Buckner that ran after he appeared in New York last week, go to this link


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