LA Angels News

Former Angels First Baseman Bill Buckner Passes Away

By Mark Wilkens
OCT 1986: BOSTON RED SOX BATTER BILL BUCKNER SWINGS AT A PITCH DURING THE RED SOX 4-3 LOSS TO THE NEW YORK METS IN GAME 5 OF THE WORLD SERIES AT SHEA STADIUM IN NEW YORK, NEW YORK. Mandatory Credit: Allsport/ALLSPORT
OCT 1986: BOSTON RED SOX BATTER BILL BUCKNER SWINGS AT A PITCH DURING THE RED SOX 4-3 LOSS TO THE NEW YORK METS IN GAME 5 OF THE WORLD SERIES AT SHEA STADIUM IN NEW YORK, NEW YORK. Mandatory Credit: Allsport/ALLSPORT /
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Former National League batting champion and All Star Bill Buckner, a star for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, returned to Southern California late in his career to play for the California Angels. 

The sad news broke this morning from Jody Buckner that her husband, long-time star player and LA Angels first baseman Bill Buckner, had passed away at the age of 69, after a battle with Lewy Body Dementia.

Buckner, who swatted 2,715 hits along with 174 home runs in a career which spanned  four decades, debuted in 1969 at the age of 19 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and would play until 1990, ending his career with a second stint in Boston at the age of 40.

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Buckner was drafted by the Dodgers in 1968 after starring as a two-sport star at Napa High School in Northern California.

As a farm hand in a stacked Dodgers system, teammates included Steve Garvey and Bobby Valentine. While working his way to the majors, Buckner attended Arizona State University and the University of Southern California.

It was a trade following the 1976 season to the Cubs that made Buckner a star. In eight seasons on the North Side, Buckner would be an All Star in 1981, a year after winning the National League’s batting title at a .324 clip.

Buckner would leave the Cubs with a .300 average for the club, belting 81 of his 174 career home runs in blue pinstripes. The next stop in his career would be the Boston Red Sox, where he would unfortunately be on the wrong side of one of the most infamous plays in World Series history, when in Game 6 of the 1986 series, Buckner was left at first base, rather than his usual late game defensive substitute, Dave Stapleton. Buckner would misplay a Mookie Wilson roller, allowing the Mets to tie a game they would eventually win.

After his infamous first stint in Boston, Bill Buckner became a California Angel, batting a respectable .288 with 3 home runs in 76 games spread over the 1987 and 1988 seasons. Buckner primarily served as Designated Hitter when Brian Downing started in left field.

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Bill Buckner is remembered as a star player, a fierce competitor, the embodiment of toughness, as ankle injuries sapped his foot speed and caused him agonizing pain.   Family, friends, and teammates alike have chosen to remember Bill Buckner, as Bobby Valentine has:  as more than one play in 1986.

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