Some of you are asking, “Bucky who?” The more senior members of Red Sox Nation know exactly who I am talking about. You may better remember him as Bucky Effin’ Dent. Here is his 15 minutes of fame story that turned into 40 years of nightmare for Sox fans. On Oct. 2, 1978, the Red Sox, who hadn’t won the World Series since 1918, faced the Yankees in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park to decide the American League East title. I was there – well sort of. I and 10,000 fans without tickets stood on newly named Yawkey Way hoping to get tickets. We eventually retreated to a local watering hole to watch the game on television.
That season the Sox built a 14-game lead in the division by the all-star game. As it had happened many times before, the Sox went on their post all-star game slump and then a September collapse. The Yankees, assisted by a four-game sweep at Fenway in early September, came back to tie at season’s end. A coin toss gave the Sox the home field. In the playoff game, Sox hopes were high in the top of the seventh. Behind a masterful pitching performance by Sox starter Mike Torrez, Boston held a 2–0 lead into the seventh inning. The Yankees got two men on base, and with two outs Bucky Dent, the journeyman Yankee’s shortstop, was due up. Dent had been hitting .140 with no homers over his last 20 games. In fact he had only 40 home runs over his entire 12 year career.
Dent, who’d borrowed one of teammate Mickey Rivers’ bats, fouled a 1-and-1 pitch from Torrez off his left leg. As Dent received treatment near the on-deck circle, Rivers, who was up next, yelled to Dent. “Hey, Homey, you have the wrong bat. That one’s cracked.” A batboy brought Dent one of Mickey’s bats. Dent lifted the next pitch into the nets above the Green Monster. After 40 years, the question of whether Dent’s bat was “corked” is still up for debate.
The Yankees went on to win 5–4 and ultimately beat the Dodgers in a six-game World Series. In Boston the Curse of the Bambino would live on for another 26 seasons. Wherever Bucky Dent goes, he is still reminded of his role in prolonging Red Sox Nation’s misery. Those Sox fans old enough to remember will yell “Hey, Bucky Effin’ Dent. You broke my heart!” My two kids, who were born four and eight years later, would get a lecture from me about Red Sox misery. I told them they must always remember two words – Bucky Dent.
40 later years, with three World Series rings and the most single season wins in Red Sox history, I’m excited that the Sox will face the Yankees in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. We fondly remember the results of that series (coming back from a three-game deficit to win in seven games). If we can “reverse the curse” and forgive Bill Buckner, we can move on and retire that Effin’ middle name. Bucky Dent will forever be part of the lore of Red Sox Nation. This year, it’s Sox in five (I hope).