It was "a routine ground ball … the kind he might ordinarily have gloved blindfolded." Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner instead watched horrified as the ball rolled through his legs, allowing the New York Mets to snag what would've been the Red Sox's first World Series win in 68 years. From that night, Oct. 25, 1986, to beyond his death Monday, Buckner has been known as "the guy who made the error"—and what a shame, writes Mike Downey at CNN. "The death knell caused the clarion call. Suddenly it was insignificant—no, unfair—to let one bad play be Buckner's legacy," writes the columnist, arguing Buckner should instead be recalled "for what he was, an outstanding athlete, a well-liked teammate, a standup guy who accepted his bad break."
Buckner certainly had skills. He batted .319 as a 22-year-old during the 1972 MLB season, eventually amassing 2,715 hits—more than stars such as Reggie Jackson and David Ortiz. He also won the 1980 National League batting title and twice led the MLB in doubles while battling a bad ankle injury, according to a 2016 biography published in the journal Society for American Baseball Research. He never did win a World Series and received just 2.1% of the vote when he appeared on the 1996 Hall of Fame ballot—so he was no "immortal." But "he was a great ballplayer and, by most accounts, a great guy," considering that he never tried to skirt blame, Downey writes. "A lot of us would gladly settle for that." As for the error, "it could have happened to anybody." Read the full column here. (Read more Bill Buckner stories.)