Farewell, No. 6
BY ART MARTONE
Journal Sports Editor
BOSTON -- Those tears he wiped away were real. Bill Buckner admitted that his suprise appearance today at Fenway Park touched him deeply, and that he was indeed teary-eyed as the fans cheered while he made his way in from left field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
"It was about as emotional as it could get," Buckner told a group of reporters in the Fenway Park interview room immediately after the ceremony. "A lot of things were going through my mind" as he walked in from left field. "Just good things . . . which is a good thing.
"I appreciate all the thought behind [the invitation from the Red Sox organization]. It was hard to do for me."
The emotions stemmed from the ordeal he's beeen through since committing the error in Game Six in the 1986 World Series that came, rightly or wrongly, to symbolize nearly nine decades of frustration for the Boston organization.
"I had to . . . " he began, and then he stopped for a few moments, choking up again. "I had to forgive, not the fans of Boston. In my heart, I had to forgive the media for what they put me and my family through. I've done that, gotten over that, and just thought of the positives, the happy things."
One of the reasons he views the media differently now: His daughter Christen is a television reporter, and was at Fenway covering the event herself.
"It's helped me accept you guys back into the family," he joked.
He said he understood the criticism he received for the error.
"As athletes, we know . . . going in [that failure is part of the package]," he said. "But what message do we want to send our kids? If you don't succeed, don't try?"
But he felt that the criticism, at time, was unjust.
"Some of it was over the line," he said. "The hard part was how it affected my family, my kids."
Buckner said the Red Sox contacted him about a month-and-a-half ago, asking him to part of today's ceremonies, and at first he declined.
"But I prayed about it a little bit," he said, "and now I'm glad I'm came.
"They're such a class organization," he said of the Red Sox. "They do things right, and the players appreciate it."
Nor was he really surprised at the rousing ovation he received.
"I did my best while I was here, played hard, and I know the fans appreciated that," he said. "The fans have been great. It was tough for me at first to understand the mentality of New England sports, but I did after a while and I like it. I love the passion. I don't like apathy, like in Los Angeles where the fans all leave in the seventh inning.
"My two best memories were 1990" -- when the fans gave him an ovation similar to today's when he returned to the Red Sox after 2 1/2 years away -- "and today."
He threw out the first pitch to former teammate Dwight Evans, who was delighted to see Buckner return.
"To see him walk out, I was so happy for him," said Evans. "It was emotional for me, too."