Former Cub Bill Buckner Dies at Age 69

Villanized for his error in game six of the 1986 World Series in a Boston Red Sox uniform, MLB first baseman star Bill Buckner passed away early Monday morning at the age of 69.

Bill Buckner misplays the ball in the 1986 World Series game against the New York Mets. (Photo: Stan Grossfeld/AP)

Bill’s wife Jody released a statement to ESPN’s Jeremy Schapp, explaining that Bill had subcomb to Lewy Body Dementia and that he was surrounded by loved ones at the end.

“Bill fought with courage and grit as he did all things in life,” Jody told Schapp.

During his 22-year professional career, Buckner played for five different teams: the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals and California Angels.

What is Lewy Body Dementia?

Next to Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body Dementia is the second most common type of progressive dementia. According to the Mayo Clinic website, “protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, develop in nerve cells in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory and movement (motor control).”

Symptoms for this progressive disease include visual hallucinations, movement disorders, cognitive problems, sleep difficulties, fluctuating attention, depression, apathy and poor regulation of bodily functions. On average, victims of this disease live for another eight years following their diagnosis.

Bill Buckner during his Chicago Cubs days. (Photo: Wally Fong/AP)

Buckner’s Cub days

Buckner played for the Cubs for eight seasons between 1977–1984. He was acquired form the Dodgers and went on to win the National League batting title in 1980 with a .324 average, followed by an All-Star title in 1981.

Continuing his upward movement with the Cubs organization, he led the NL in doubles (35) in 1981 and tied for the lead in 1983 (38). In all, Buckner hit .300 in 974 games in a Cubs uniform and racked up 1,136 hits.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Bill Buckner, a great ballplayer and beloved member of the Cubs family,” Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said in a press release. “Bill’s remarkable 22-year-career included eight years with the Cubs during which he won a batting title in 1980 and earned an All-Star appearance in 1981.
“After his playing days, Bill served as a valued member of our player development staff and was a fan favorite during his appearances at our Cubs Conventions. On behalf of the Cubs organization, I extend our sympathies to Bill’s family and his many friends.”

The Cubs traded Buckner to the Red Sox in May 1984, and two years later he found himself amidst controversy for his missed play in game six of the 1986 World Series. The Mets would go on to win the title that year.

At the time, the Red Sox had not won a national title since 1918, and Buckner’s play went down in infamy with Sox fans around the country. In 1990, Buckner briefly returned to Fenway, but it wasn’t until his 2008 visit that fans warmly welcomed him to the ballpark. The Sox had since won two national titles and all seemed forgiven.

According to Bleacher Report, Buckner went into real estate after retiring and even coached some independent baseball on the side.

Support from around the league

Since the announcement of his passing, support has been pouring out through Twitter, especially from Buckner’s ex-ball clubs.

At the time of this article, the Boston Red Sox have not yet to release a statement on Twitter about Buckner’s passing.

Jennifer Brugh is a freelance writer, content creator and social media specialist with a Masters in sports journalism. Born and raised in northern Indiana, Jennifer enjoys following the Chicago Cubs through all the ups and downs. She low-key wants to live in a van and travel South America. You can follow her on Twitter here.