Bill Buckner and the Curse of the Great Bambino - What You Say is What You Get

Being that the World Series is almost here, I thought it was an appropriate time to share a story of a person who actually predicted the future in the 1986 World Series. Most people know of the story of the Boston Red Sox first baseman who allowed a ball through his legs, to which most fans blamed for the Red Sox losing the series. What you don't know is how his very own words came back to haunt him.

William Joseph Buckner, born December 14, 1949, played for five Major League Baseball teams during his career. In 1980, Buckner was the National League batting champion. He also represented the National League in the 1981 All-Star game. Sadly, Buckner is most remembered for his fielding error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets. What happened in that inning was so out of the ordinary, so odd, so unbelievable, it's amazing to know that what happened during that routine groundball had been predicted only 19 days earlier on television. Bill Buckner's own words came back to haunt him, his teammates, and the city of Boston for 18 more years until Boston finally won the Series in 2004.

Born in Vallejo, California, Buckner was a two sport athlete, playing both football and baseball. After graduating from high school, Buckner was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 1968 Major League Baseball Draft. Buckner first played in the Majors in 1969 at the age of 19. He played in one game against the San Francisco Giants on September 21. The following season he was sent back down to the minors. After hitting well in the minors he was called back up to play for the Dodgers in September 1970. His performance in September and October earned him a starting job with the Dodgers in 1971. His most famous moment as a Dodger came when he climbed the fence in an attempt to catch Hank Aaron's record setting 715th home run.

In 1977, Buckner was traded to the Chicago Cubs. He had a lot of personal success while playing for the Cubs. While in Chicago, Buckner was the 1980 and now batting champion and also represented the Cubs in 1981 All-Star game. In 1984, Buckner was traded to the Boston Red Sox. It was in Boston where Bill Buckner would learn that what you say is what you get. He played every game for Boston in 1985. In the 1986 season Buckner was having a great year. In September he hit .340 (That means 34% for you non-baseball fans, which believe it or not is very good in terms of batting percentage. Never mind that if you got a 34% on a test it would be an F.) Buckner also had over 100 RBI’s (Runs Batted In) in 1985 and 1986. Buckner also made the hit to start the ninth inning rally when Boston defeated the California Angels to make it to the World Series. Without that hit by Buckner in the ninth inning, Boston would have been watching the World Series on television.

Bill Buckner’s exact words during an October 6, 1986 interview on WBZ-TV by reporter Don Shane were:

“The dreams are that you’re gonna have a great series and win. The nightmares are that you’re gonna let the winning run score on a ground ball through your legs. Those things happen, you know. I think a lot of it is just fate.”


That fateful day when Bill Buckner’s words would haunt him was October 25, 1986, Game 6 of the World Series, bottom of the 10th inning. Boston had the lead when Mookie Wilson hit a dribbler to Buckner at first base. Buckner, knowing the quick speed of Mookie, tried to rush the play. In doing so, the ball rolled right through his legs and into right field, allowing the winning run to score. All he had to do was make a routine ground ball play, tag first base and the game was over. Boston would have been World Series Champions. That was not to be. Bill Buckner's words spoken just 19 days earlier had come true. What a nightmare.

What You Say is What You Get.

The season following the World Series, Buckner was released by the Boston Red Sox. He went on to play for the California Angels and the Kansas City Royals before being re-signed by Boston in 1990. The Boston fans did give him a standing ovation at the home opener in 1990. Two months later, Bill Buckner retired from Major League Baseball. Buckner didn't return to the Boston Red Sox until the home opener on April 8, 2008, where he threw out the opening pitch, and received a standing ovation from the home crowd. Buckner retired from the sport he loved, and moved to Idaho. He stayed away from the game until 2011 when he managed the Brockton Rox, a member of the Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball. In 2012, Buckner became the hitting instructor for the Boise Hawks, a Cubs affiliate.

If Bill Bunkner could do that interview over again, I bet he never would have said those words. He said in that interview that those things are just “fate.” He put that energy out there in the universe and it only took 19 days to have the stars line up for him and for those fateful words to come true. Boston blamed Buckner and the Curse of the Bambino for Boston losing the World Series. (The Curse of the Bambino was the superstition that explained why after the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1919, that the Red Sox stopped winning titles. Before Babe Ruth was sold, the Red Sox had won 5 titles. After the sale, the Yankees went on to become one of the most successful teams in professional sports history, while the Red Sox hadn’t won another title since. I find it interesting that the curse took 86 years to break [2004-1918=86] and Bill Buckner’s error happened in ’86)

Bill Buckner found out the hard way that, "What You Say Is What You Get."

Sadly, Bill passed away after his long battle with Dementia on May 27th, 2019.

Chris Coltran is the president of C2 Coaching & Training and is available as a keynote speaker, presenter or trainer for conventions, retail, wholesale, manufacturing, distribution, management, affiliate, mlm, executive, real estate, marketing, advertising, banking, direct sales or entrepreneur annual association meetings. Chris is a professional speaker and keynote speaker, author, coach, management trainer, sales trainer, and business development expert.