ONE LITTLE MISTAKE

by David Sisler

It is one of my favorite movies, and one of my favorite scenes. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Admiral James T. Kirk, Dr. Leonard McCoy, and Dr. Gillian Taylor must save Pavel Chekov from "the hands of 20th Century medicine." Chekov is a prisoner in a hospital ward, having suffered a sub-dural haematoma in a fall while trying to steal photons to recharge the warp engines of the H.M.S. Bounty, the gallant crew's captured Klingon vessel a vehicle pressed into service after Kirk blows up the U.S.S. Enterprise (if you've seen it, you don't need the explanation, and if you have not, I apologize if you are confused rent it).

Gillian jumps onto a hospital gurney. Kirk and McCoy cover her with a sheet, and push her into the operating theater saying she has "post-prandial upper abdominal distention" (cramps). The trio rescues Chekov, puts him on the gurney and pushes him out past the police guards.

"Hey, didn't you go in there with a girl?" one cop asks.

"One little mistake," Kirk mutters, and one of the best chase scenes in the movies is off and running.

One little mistake. Little? Ask Bill Buckner and Chipper Jones.

In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, a routine ground ball rolled between the legs of Boston Red Sox first baseman, Bill Buckner, and Boston, leading the Series three games to two, lost the game. The next day, they lost the World Series, and Buckner was the instant goat. For one miscue in a career that spanned 22 seasons, Bill Buckner's name became a synonym for choking.

The Red Sox got out to a three run lead in the final game, but then, without Bill Buckner's help, lost the World Series. They led 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, when starter Bruce Hurst, pitching on three day's rest, gave up the tying run. Red Sox manager John McNamara brought in Calvin Schiraldi who watched the Mets' Ray Knight drive the winning run over the left field wall, and Boston's championship dearth continued.

No one remembers that back in Game Six, Boston pitcher Bob Stanley, just before the Buckner error, threw a wild pitch that allowed the Mets to tie the game.

No one remembers that back in Game Six, John McNamara kept Buckner, playing on two injured ankles, in the game on defense with a world championship on the line. McNamara kept defensive specialist Dave Stapleton who was called on in similar situations on the bench.

But some how, the loss of the 1986 World Series is all Bill Buckner's fault?

Fast forward to the end of the millennium.

The Atlanta Braves finished the 2000 season winning 95 games and losing 67. Chipper Jones remembers one of those losses.

The AP article a few days ago said, "Once and for all, Chipper Jones would like to apologize for his two-out, ninth-inning error that cost the Atlanta Braves home-field advantage in the playoffs" (emphasis added).

In the final regular-season game, the Braves were leading Colorado 5-3 and needed just one more out to begin the playoffs at home. Then, Jeff Cirillo's grounder skipped off Jones' glove, allowing one run to score. By the time Atlanta finally got the third out, the Rockies had scored six more unearned runs and won 10-5. Instead of opening the playoffs at Turner Field, the Braves traveled to St. Louis to start a best-of-5 series. They were swept by the Cardinals, and made their earliest postseason exit in a decade.

"It bothered me throughout the rest of the season," Jones admitted. "We've all made errors. Unfortunately, mine came at a really, really bad time."

Two facts need to be noted by your faithful scribe, a life-long Pittsburgh Pirate fan who still has not gotten over the 1991 and 1992 seasons and losses to the Atlanta Braves which kept the Bucs out of the World Series those years.

First, the Braves lost 67 games during the 2000 campaign. Chipper's boot was a key misplay in the one mentioned above. He also committed a ninth inning game loser in Cincinnati. The rest of the team lost another 65. If the TEAM wins three of those, they earn the coveted home field advantage.

Second, one of baseball's oft-quoted cliches is, "That's why we play 162 games." In the case of the playoffs in St. Louis, the Braves had five opportunities to win, the same as the Cardinals. To blame Chipper for the Braves failure to play in the Fall Classic is as stupid, and illogical, as blaming Bill Buckner for the Red Sox loss in 1986.

One little mistake.

How would you like to be remembered for one "error," one incident in your life that you cannot change? Maybe your "errors" are nothing so trivial as a baseball game. Maybe they were all played out where there were no video cameras, no hidden microphones, but they happened nevertheless. Maybe it was not, "one little mistake." Maybe it was a lie you told which saved your professional hide, but cost someone else theirs. Maybe it was shady deals which were never exposed. Maybe it was the girl you got pregnant and abandoned. Maybe it was the baby you aborted.

For the Atlanta Braves, spring training 2001 began with Chipper Jones answering questions about that final Sunday last year. "I screwed up. I'm sorry. I'll try not to do it again," he apologized.

Bill Buckner has been constantly reminded of that one single play for fifteen years. How does he deal with it? Mark Stewart, his pastor said, "The Lord helps him out on this thing."

Personal faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to be certain that your past does not continue to be your future.

-30-


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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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