Five things Bill Buckner should be remembered for instead of the play that defined his MLB career

On Monday, longtime big-league first baseman Bill Buckner died due to complications from dementia. Buckner spent part of 22 seasons in the majors, appearing in games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and others, including, most notably, the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately, Buckner is best known for his fielding mistake in the 1986 World Series that helped the New York Mets rally in Game 6 before capturing the title in Game 7:

Former Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson, who hit the infamous World Series grounder to Buckner, issued a statement Monday saying Buckner's legacy is greater than one play.

Following Wilson's lead, we wanted to honor Buckner by focusing on other, more positive and lesser remembered aspects of his lengthy career.

1. He won a batting title

Did you know Buckner received votes for MVP on five occasions? That included the 1981 season, his best statistical campaign and the one in which he made his only All-Star team. He hit .311/.349/.480 (130 OPS+) that season with 10 homers and more walks than strikeouts. Still, the year folks probably remember best of his was the previous season, when he won the batting title by hitting .324. Batting average being all the rage in the '80s, that's what got you recognized and (often) paid.

2. He never struck out more than two times in a game

In general, Buckner wasn't one for walking or striking out. He did so at equal rates (4.5 percent of his plate appearances), and finished his career with a total of 903 walks and strikeouts. He never fanned more than 39 times in a season. For reference Joey Gallo -- a high-quality hitter -- has struck out 67 times this season in his first 45 games. In fact, Buckner never struck out three times in a game -- never ever.

Buckner literally had more seven RBI games than three-strikeout games:

Buckner also had more World Series appearances (two) than three-strikeout games. Not many can say that.

3. He had impressive longevity

Buckner wasn't a Hall of Fame-caliber player by any means, but he played in parts of 22 seasons, finishing with a 100 OPS+ and 12 defensive runs saved. What's more is he ranks 66th all-time in hits; 50th in career at-bats; 149th in career runs batted in; and 153rd in times on base. He went from being the fourth-youngest player in his league when he debuted to the fifth-oldest when he retired.

4. He was on the field when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's record

Though Buckner is primarily considered a first baseman -- and for good reason, seeing as how he played more than twice as many games there as anywhere else -- he did partake in some corner-outfield play throughout his career, especially early on. For instance, did you know Buckner was the starting left fielder in the game where Hank Aaron hit home run No. 715 to pass Babe Ruth on the all-time home-run list?

Take a close look -- Buckner is the outfielder who scales the wall. 

5. He returned to Boston

Buckner spent another half-season with the Red Sox following the World Series against the Mets before being released. He then had stints with the Kansas City Royals and California Angels before returning to Boston in in 1990. He'd retire in June, but he never sought forgiveness -- and why should or would he? 

Buckner was on hand after the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series, and later received a standing ovation from the crowd as he delivered the first pitch to former teammate Dwight Evans:

May Buckner's life be remembered as more than one play -- he certainly deserves that much.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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