by David Sisler

Making an appearance on Saturday Night Live, William Shatner, portrayer of Captain James T. Kirk, uttered one of the most famous lines in Star Trek lore. It was one for which Trekkies almost refused to forgive him. At the conclusion of a parody of the ubiquitous program, Mr. Shatner yelled, "Get a life! It's only a TV show!"

Maybe Bill Buckner should yell, "Get a life! It's only a game!"

Baseball fans everywhere, except those who cheer for the New York Yankees, are waiting for next year. The 1998 season is over, but as television replays have taught us, baseball is never really over. In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and we were forced to endure it yet again during this year's broadcast 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, Mr. Buckner's name became a synonym for choking. Twelve years after the fact, that play remains one of the most famous miscues in professional sports.

"And," says Wall Street Journal writer, Joshua Harris Prager, "his notoriety has metastasized." To prove his point, Prager points out that the "Buckner ball" was auctioned $93,500, a miserable softball team in Washington, D.C., named itself the Bill Buckner Emulation Society, and Boston rock group "Slide" christened its debut album Forgiving Buckner.

After the game, Buckner said the first thing that went through his mind was, "I should've caught the ball, but I get to play in the seventh game of the World Series."

The Red Sox got out to a three run lead in that 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 68-year 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 Bill Buckner's error in the next-to-the-last game is remembered.

Midway through the 1987 season, Boston cut Buckner, and the California Angels signed him. In Anaheim he teamed up with Donnie Moore, the Angels pitcher who had become that city's goat. Moore gave up a home run in the 1986 playoffs which allowed Boston to beat California and go on to the World Series. Teammates recall that Moore often made a joke about it saying, "It's part of the game.

A year later, the joke ran out. Donnie Moore killed himself. Prager writes that some sports writers blamed Moore's death on the constant heckling.

But it's not just baseball where one incident from the past becomes an individual's future.

You remember good, old Thomas. Stalwart follower of Jesus. One of the original Twelve. Doubting Thomas. You don't remember that he had a twin brother. You don't remember that when Jesus said he was going to Jerusalem and the tide of popularity was running against him Jesus was supported only by Thomas. "Let's go with him," Thomas said, "and die with him." You just remember that one weak moment when he said, "I'll see it for myself, or I won't believe it."

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. The lie you told which saved your hide, but cost someone else theirs. The shady deals which were never exposed. The girl you got pregnant and abandoned. The baby you aborted.

Bill Buckner is constantly reminded of that one single play in 1986. 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.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 11/7/98

Copyright 1998 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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