DALLAS — The baseball that broke the hearts of Boston Red Sox fans everywhere and turned Bill Buckner into one of the most famous goats in sports history is up for sale.
The ball that rolled through Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between Boston and the New York Mets will part of an auction Friday in Dallas. Heritage Auctions said the ball is expected to bring in more than $100,000 as the centerpiece of an auction featuring the baseball memorabilia collection of Los Angeles songwriter Seth Swirsky.
“That one ball kind of encapsulates the highest and lowest you can feel in sports at any given moment,” Swirsky said.
Buckner hit .289 with 2,715 hits in 22 years and had more than 100 RBIs in two of his three full seasons with the Red Sox. All of that was overshadowed by his error at Shea Stadium that night when Mookie Wilson’s grounder rolled through Buckner’s legs, allowing the Mets to cap a two-out rally with a victory in the 10th inning. The Mets went on to win the series and Boston’s championship drought — dating to 1918 — continued until 2004.
“I think everybody remembers where they were, even if they were a sports fan or not. Everybody seems to remember that. It’s not just a baseball moment. It’s not just a piece of Mets history or Red Sox history but it seems like it was a cultural moment of the ’80s,” said Swirsky, who co-wrote the hit “Tell It To My Heart” by Taylor Dayne, and has multiple hits with Celine Dion, Olivia Newton-John and Al Green.
After the ball rolled through Buckner’s legs, it was picked up by right field umpire Ed Montague, who put a tiny “x” near a seam to mark it. Montague then gave the ball to Mets executive Arthur Richman. Wilson signed it to Richman, writing: “To Arthur, the ball won it for us, Mookie Wilson, 10/25/86.” As the ball made its way around the clubhouse, someone kissed it, leaving a tobacco stain.
Charlie Sheen bought the famous ball for more than $93,000 in 1992. Swirsky purchased it for nearly $64,000 in 2000.
Swirsky offered the ball up on eBay last October for $1 million but got no takers. He said though that the eBay offering — done on a whim after he realized he could close the bidding on Oct. 25, 2011, the 25th anniversary of Buckner’s famous error — made him realize he would be OK with selling his entire collection.
Other offerings from Swirsky in the auction include: Reggie Jackson’s third home run ball from Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, which earned him the title “Mr. October,” expected to sell for more than $20,000; Babe Ruth’s 136th career home run baseball from 1921, estimated to sell for more than $50,000; and a 1923 letter signed by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis denying reinstatement of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, expected to garner more than $20,000.
Also on the block is the Texas Rangers cap Jose Canseco was wearing in 1993 when a ball hit by Cleveland Indian Carlos Martinez bounced off Canseco’s head and then over the outfield wall for an assisted homer. That’s expected to sell for more than $4,000.
Buckner was traded to the Red Sox by the Chicago Cubs in May 1984 and released in July 1987. He rejoined them in 1990 then retired after 22 games. Four years ago, Buckner returned to Fenway Park for the first time since 1997 when he was batting coach with the Chicago White Sox and was cheered for more than four minutes.
Swirsky, who while growing up on Long Island developed a love for the Mets and New York Yankees, said that he remembers watching the 1986 Game 6 with his father. Since buying the ball, he said, he has also made it his mission to stress that Buckner shouldn’t just be remembered for the Game 6 error, reminding people that Buckner had almost as many hits as Lou Gehrig.
“Buckner was a fantastic player and I will only say good things about him,” he said.