Album: Volume 2: High and Inside
It takes a whole team to lose a game. Very rarely is any single play – even Bill Buckner letting the ball go through his legs – the only reason a team loses. But, of course, scapegoating exists. And what makes “Buckner’s Bolero” maybe the best baseball song ever written is that it calls bullshit on scapegoating.
If the Red Sox had had a better playoff 4th starter
Instead, Nipper served up a big fat slider to Carter
What would Seaver have done if not for his bum knee?
Would he have taken the ball
And exacted revenge on his old team?
Like many Baseball Project songs, it’s basically a list in song form: in this case, over a song that starts as stately as Wayne Manor and ends with a wail of squealing Steve Wynn guitars, Scott McCaughey sings a list of all of the other things that had to go wrong for Buckner to even be in position to not field that ground ball. The point: sure that play was his fault, but there was a whole shitload of bad decisions and back luck that day
Bob Stanley picked a pretty bad time
To uncork a wild pitch
And I’m sure he’s still thinking
That you could have blocked it, Rich
Then the tying run might have not been
Tallied by Mitch
If one play killed the Sox
Can you please tell me which?
But then, remarkably, McCaughey starts musing on maybe the only thing keeping Buckner – a pretty good player, but nothing special – from fading into obscurity is that one time he let the ball go through his legs:
Now some kinda fame lies in being a scapegoat
And if not that, then just a historical footnote
And your 22 years playing ball might be forgotten
Maybe Bill Buckner was lucky his luck was so rotten
I’m not sure a better meditation on the nature of sports fame, and the weird kind of fame that comes with a single, heart-breaking fuckup, exists.