Yesterday, just before the start of the Cubs' marquee series with the juggernaut Houston Astros, word began to trickle throughout social media that former All-Star first baseman, Bill Buckner, had suddenly passed away at the age of 69. Apparently, the 22-year Major League veteran had been undergoing a previously unannounced battle with Lewy Body Dementia, a debilitating disease which attacks both the mind and the body at the same time. It would have been nice for the Cubbies to go out and win one for one of their all-time great first-sackers; however, that was not meant to be.
Buckner's career was one of just a handful to span from the 1960's through the 1990's and thus made an impact on multiple generations of baseball fans. To some, including our vaunted Night Owl, Buck will forever be the slow-footed, corner outfielder on some powerhouse Dodger teams, making a World Series appearance in 1974 and a futile attempt to climb the fence and catch Hank Aaron's 715th homer. To other people, he'll be the poor, unfortunate soul who had a momentary lapse in concentration, which lead to perhaps the most famous misplay in the game's history, as a Red Sox. To still others, he'll be remembered for his legendary plate discipline - the guy NEVER struck out three times in a single game. How unfathomable is that, especially looking back today? But, regardless, due to his ability and longevity, Bill left a mark on our favorite pastime's legacy that will never be forgotten.
To me, while I wasn't to enter into this realm of existence until half a decade after his being traded away, Mr. Buckner will always be a Cub. After all, during his eight years in the Windy City, the man won himself the 1980 National League batting title (.324), made his only All-Star appearance (1981), hit an even .300 in blue pinstripes, and made a cameo appearance on the franchise's first playoff-bound club, as Steve Goodman once penned, "since we dropped the bomb on Japan." Billy Buck was so tied to the team that during the press conference to announce his trade to Boston, the usually stoic ballplayer shed a few tears while speaking into the microphone. As part of a franchise with a strong lineage of first baseman, from Cap Anson to Anthony Rizzo, Buckner was one of the all-time standouts at the position.
As part of this tribute, I originally planned to include a countdown of my favorite Bucky cards. Unfortunately, except for those appearing in this post, I was unable to find any of them... which is quite odd because I know I have ton of his singles, owing to the fact that he was a semi-star who played throughout the "junk wax era." That being said, at least the exception happens to be an exceptional car:
This 2012 Topps Archives Fan Favorites autograph admirably serves as Bill's representation in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection. The clean and powerful follow through on what was likely a well-swatted double, the blue ink signature, the powder blue, "pajama" uniform kit, Buck's glorious mustache and the personal favorite 1982 Topps design are all factors that add up to an A+ grade in my eyes. This is certainly a special card that I will now treasure all the more.
This piece of cardboard gold was a generous gift from Matthew, of the now sadly dormant Bob Walk The Plank blog, that blew me out of the water when I first found it in my mailbox in the summer of 2016 and continues to do so as we enter into the summer of 2019. Thank you once again, Matthew, for what will now serve as a wonderful connection to the excellent Chicago Cubs first baseman.
Rest in peace, Bill Buckner. Thank you for bringing joy to baseball fans for so many decades and for always being a classy professional, even when the waters were unjustly rough.