Sadly, the video accompanying national stories on Bill Buckner’s passing Monday in Boise went right to the lowest common denominator. ESPN and NBC Nightly News, for example. They shared one play from the 1986 World Series that needs no further elaboration. How many times does Buckner’s career legacy have to be driven home? The 22 seasons, the .289 career average and 1980 National League batting title during a difficult era for hitters, and the 2,715 career hits. Buckner’s treatment in New England following his retirement became uncomfortable enough that he moved his family to Boise, a place he always enjoyed when he visited his brother Bob. It was here that Buckner found peace and purpose.
Buckner moved to Boise in 1994. Ten years later, the Boston Red Sox were getting ready for the World Series and would ultimately win their first championship in 86 years. Boston media contacted Buckner and asked if he might be attending Game 1 in Fenway Park. He politely replied that he already had plans—Boise State was hosting Fresno State that night on the blue turf. Buckner was a big-time Bronco football and basketball fan, and at that time it took precedence over the bad New England memories he had escaped. It was 3½ more years before the Boston reconciliation took place, and it was something. On Opening Day at Fenway in 2008, he emerged through an outfield door and walked across the field to a two-minute standing ovation before throwing out the first pitch. Goosebumps.
In the Treasure Valley, Buckner became a regular at community events, and Bill Buckner autographed caps, balls, bats and jerseys became common fare in silent auctions. He also got back into baseball and was the hitting coach for the Boise Hawks in 2012 and 2013. Buckner was respected by the young Cubs minor leaguers—and he obviously struck a chord, as the Hawks led the Northwest League in batting each season. Boise State baseball coach Gary Van Tol was the Hawks manager during Buckner’s second season and released an emotional statement yesterday. Included was this: “He had a following wherever we went. People waited for him before we arrived to the stadium and stayed around well after the game to shake his hand, get his autograph or take a picture. He always made time for others.”
GRIDIRON DREAMS CAMPERS IN FOR A TREAT
Founder Alex Guerrero has his coaching lineup set for the 10th annual Gridiron Dreams Football Academy this Friday and Saturday at the Caven-Williams Sports Complex. He’s got himself an all-star team. Here are the former Boise State Broncos Guerrero has confirmed (in no particular order): Jarrell Root, Jabril Frazier, Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Marty Tadman, Kyle Wilson, Cedrick Wilson, Legedu Naanee, Jerard Rabb, Aaron Tevis, Brian Smith, Jared Zabransky, Rees Odhiambo, Ryan Clady, Ian Johnson, Jeremy Avery and Gabe Linehan. How ‘bout them apples? Two current Broncos are also helping at Gridiron Dreams: Kekaula Kaniho and Jaylon Henderson.
VALLEY HARDWARE IN TRACK AND FIELD
Allie Ostrander is back on the yellow brick road to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships next week in Austin. For the third straight year, Boise State’s superstar runner qualified in two events over the weekend in the NCAA West Preliminaries. Ostrander, the two-time defending national champion in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, recorded the nation’s top time in winning her heat in Sacramento. She followed that with the West Region’s top performance in the 5,000-meters. Ostrander will be joined at nationals by Bronco teammates Kristie Schoffield, who posted the second-fastest time in the 800 at Prelims, and Alexis Fuller in the 1500.
Jake Knight’s college athletic career wrapped up with an All-America honor in the sport he started with. Knight, the Rocky Mountain grad and one-time Boise State tight end, finished fifth for Northwest Nazarene in the discus at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Championships in Kingsville, TX. NNU’s Ellie Logan came within one throw of winning the D-II women’s javelin title, settling for second. Memorial Day weekend began with College of Idaho’s Molly Vitale-Sullivan recording her eighth all-time All-America award, placing fourth overall in the 10,000-meters at the NAIA Championships in Gulf Shores, AL.
ONE OF BILLY BUCK’S PRIZE PUPILS CRUSHES ONE
Back to Buckner—he was the driving force behind the development of a young Daniel Vogelbach with the Hawks in 2012. Maybe it’s fitting that Vogelbach became only the third player ever to blast a rightfield third-deck home run for Seattle last night at T-Mobile Park. The ball was hit so high that it went over the top of the foul pole and had to be reviewed. The woebegone Mariners certainly needed Vogelbach’s two-run bomb, having lost 30 of their previous 40 games, and they went on to beat Texas 6-2. It was Vogelbach’s 15th homer of the season. While being tutored by Buckner seven years ago, he batted .322 and hit 10 homers in just 37 games.
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May 28, 1957: Many will never forgive them, but Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley and Giants owner Horace Stoneham receive unanimous approval from the National League to move from New York City to the West Coast. Both had long complained of dwindling attendance, outdated ballparks and lack of parking space. The following April, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants became major league baseball’s first franchises in California.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)