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Sunday, July 19, 2015

I never thought I'd be cheering for Billy Buckner

"So the winning run is at second base, with two outs, three and two to Mookie Wilson. [A] little roller up along first... behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!" -- Vin Scully, October 25, 1986.

Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, played in Shea Stadium. The Mets were down 3 games to 2, had to win that night to stay alive and force a 7th game.

The Red Sox scored twice in the top of the 10th inning, taking a 5-3 lead.

Bottom of the 10th, 2 outs, and the Red Sox could practically taste the champagne. Then Ray Knight came to bat and started a Mets rally. With Knight and Kevin Mitchell in scoring position, Mookie Wilson came up to bat. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I watched Game 6 with Drew and Marc, in the basement of Drew's parents' house. The three of us had gone out somewhere that day, and wound up at Drew's house for the game. When the Mets rally started, we found ourselves getting out of our chairs, standing within inches of the television screen, and cheering almost as loudly as the fans at Shea. When that ball rolled between Bill Buckner's legs, we went nuts.

So why am I thinking about the '86 Mets?

On Friday night, Drew and I went to Bethpage Ballpark to see the Ducks play the Somerset Patriots. It was YMCA night, so instead of a single ceremonial "first pitch", representatives of each of the YMCA's on Long Island had the chance to throw a "first pitch" to Bud Harrelson.

Yes, THAT Bud Harrelson. He's a co-owner of the Ducks as well as their first base coach.

And pitching for the Ducks that night? Billy Buckner.

I looked him up. He's had a modest career playing for several MLB teams and their minor league affiliates, including the Diamondbacks, the Rockies, the Angels, as yes, the Red Sox. But no, he's not related to the famed Bill Buckner who lost Game 6.

So, despite the "unfortunate name" here in Mets country, Billy Buckner wears the orange jersey of a Long Island Duck, and of course we cheered for him. In fact, the Ducks beat the Patriots that night, and Buckner was the winning pitcher.


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