Bill Buckner 'excited' for return
"[I don't come back to Fenway] very often," Buckner said. "It'll be enjoyable, I'm excited about it.
"The Red Sox have a great team, and maybe the Cubs can turn it around a little bit."
Buckner played parts of eight seasons with the Cubs, winning the 1980 batting crown. But for many, his career has been defined by his error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, when he played for the Red Sox. That error opened the door for the New York Mets to come back and win the championship.
Buckner, who received death threats after the game, now enjoys a good relationship with the Red Sox faithful. They even cheered him when he returned to Boston as a player in 1990.
The "official" apology to Buckner, though, came on April 8, 2008, with the Red Sox celebrating their 2007 World Series victory. Buckner threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park and received a long standing ovation.
Buckner's error, which prolonged a World Series drought that began in 1918, had helped enhance the Red Sox's reputation as being cursed.
The Cubs obviously have their own history of failure, perceived curses and a manufactured villain. Steve Bartman infamously interfered with a foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs were five outs from going to their first World Series since 1945, but they unraveled after the Bartman incident and lost Games 6 and 7.
Buckner, who laughs at the idea of curses, said blaming Bartman is ridiculous. Buckner believes the injury-prone careers of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood had more to do with the Cubs' lack of success and extending the World Series title drought since 1908.
"It was just a case of [Bartman] being in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "The period when they had a chance to win, when they had Prior and Wood, those two just kept breaking down and that really hurt. If those two guys had played up to their potential and not gotten hurt, they'd have won by now."
Buckner believes a championship will be coming to Wrigley, it's just a matter of when.
"They'll get it right, they've got new ownership [in the Ricketts family] and they want to win," Buckner said. "I still think it's going to happen, hopefully not too far in the future."
Buckner, who served as the hitting coach for the Chicago White Sox in 1996 and 1997, will manage the Brockton Rox of the Can-Am independent league this summer.
He said he's always wanted to manage in the majors, and after the season he'll reevaluate his situation and see if it's something he wants to continue pursuing. But Friday night, he'll be behind the microphone.
"I'm pretty familiar with what's going on with both teams," Buckner said. "It's baseball, it's what I've done my whole life, if I can't talk about baseball then I'm in trouble."
Sahadev Sharma is a regular contributor to ESPNChicago.com.