I was watching the MLB network over the summer and they were doing the show where Bob Costas looks at Classic Baseball games by showing key moments and interviewing the players in those moments. There is something about the Game 6 episode of the 1986 World Series that keeps replaying in my head that I wanted to put down for posterity.
A lot of things went right for the Mets in the bottom of the 9th, but they key moment that history remembers is Buckner booting the Mookie Wilson grounder. Buckner has had to live with that his whole life and it overshadowed his 2700 career hits. To his credit he doesn't avoid the subject and his honesty about it reminds people that there are things more important than baseball and people who are better men than fielders.
But this episode also revealed the shortcomings of then Boston manager, John McNamara. Despite the fact that Mac subbed Dave Stapleton for Buckner in the late innings all through the season and playoffs, his explanation for Buckner in the game at that point was ridiculous. It’s not hard to speculate that Mac wanted to allow Buckner to be on the field for the final out, but Mac’s explanation (pre-recorded) was that Stapleton was a horrible fielder with the nickname of “shaky.” The players in the studio were incredulous. They had never heard Stapleton called that. And it doesn't explain why Stapleton subbed for Buckner so many times before that. Whereas Bucker has always taken responsibility and still feels guilty over it, McNamara invents pejorative names for Dave Stapleton. The contrast between the two is so great that I haven’t been able to forget it since.
The witticism “Sports do not build character, they reveal it” was never so well demonstrated than in the person of John McNamara.