Bill Buckner played 22 years in the Major Leagues, primarily for the Chicago Cubs and Boston Reds Sox. He had a lifetime batting average of .289 with 2,715 hits, 174 home runs, 498 doubles and 1,208 RBI’s. He won one batting title and was named an All-Star in 1981. He is one of a small number of players who had 200 hit-seasons in both leagues and played in four decades.
Buckner grew up in Napa, CA, and was drafted out of high school in the 2nd round of the MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. His first manager was Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda.
Lasorda would later manage the Dodgers, but even as a minor league skipper, he had a way with players. Lasorda had his young players believing they were ready for the majors. One of Lasorda’s exercises was to have his players write letters to the Los Angeles starters to let them know they were coming. Buckner wrote his letter to Dodgers first baseman Wes Parker. “I wrote a letter to Wes Parker and told him I was going to take his job,” Buckner said.
Buckner first made it to the majors with the Dodgers in 1969 at the age of 19 and was hitless in his one at-bat. He won a permanent starting job in 1971. He split time in the outfield and at first base, hitting .271 with 5 HR and 41RBI. One interesting side note regarding Buckner’s time with the Dodgers is that he was playing leftfield when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record on April 8, 1974.
In a five-player deal in 1977, Buckner and Ivan DeJesus were traded to the Cubs for Rick Monday. The move also saw Buckner shift primarily to first base. Buckner enjoyed success with the Cubs, winning the National League batting title in 1980 after hitting .324 and playing in the 1981 All-Star game. He also led the league in doubles twice in 1981 and 1983.
In 1984, the Cubs traded Buckner to the Red Sox for pitchers Dennis Eckersley and Mike Brumley. Buckner immediately became the starting first baseman.
In 1985, Buckner tied a Major League record by playing in 162 games at first base. He also broke the Major League record with 184 assists and also had 110 RBI’s. In 1986, Buckner had 102 RBI’s and 18 home runs in helping the Red Sox reach the World Series, where they lost to the New York Mets in seven games. Over the next few years Buckner played for the California Angels, Kansas City Royals and again with the Red Sox, with whom he retired in 1990.
After retiring, Buckner stayed involved in baseball, coaching six years for the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox. He and his family moved to Idaho, where Buckner also got involved in real estate and other business dealings. Among his hobbies are golf, fishing and hunting.
In 2011, Buckner got back involved in baseball by being named manager of the Independent Cam-Am League Brockton Rox.