The recent Brian Urlacher situation was a reminder that I have moved past having too strong of an emotional tie to any one player.
It reminds me of the famous Seinfeld episode where Jerry realizes that he ultimately “Cheers for laundry”. Sure, I will miss Brian Urlacher, I got to know him personally and he was everything you want in a Chicago Bear.
Most sports fans learn at one time or another that you have to cut ties and move on, even if it is a player you love. The last time I remember feeling down about a player moving on was Bill Buckner back in 1984.
Buckner was my first real attachment in sports. He quickly became my favorite Cub when I began watching the team on a daily basis in the ’81 season. He was a hard nosed, smart, and (like me) left-handed hitting player.
I remember vividly being upset at first reading that Buckner was involved in trade rumors back in the offseason of 1983. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It turns out that Dallas Green was in a hurry to move Buckner. Green apparently thought Buckner was kind of a pain in the ass in the clubhouse, and the team wanted to move the young and promising Leon Durham back to his natural position.
There was the hot and heavy pursuit of Steve Garvey by the Cubs that would have moved Buckner even before then. After that attempt failed Buckner was rumored to be going to New York for Willie Randolph, or to San Francisco in a package for Bill Laskey and Chili Davis. These would all be smart trades at the time but I wanted no part of it. I wanted the “Mr. Cub” at the time to stay put. I was young, but I already knew the kind of player I liked.
When the ’84 season began and Buckner held up his inclusion in the Garry Matthews/Bobby Dernier Phillies trade, team management was none too happy. Durham was the opening day first baseman and my first favorite player had to play sparingly in left field. I’ll never forger sitting behind him in the bleachers, it just didn’t look right.
Finally, when Buckner was dealt to Boston for Dennis Eckersley I was not surprised but still upset. A family friend at the time consoled me with a good scouting report on Eckersley. It immediately cheered me up, and besides the Cubs were winning.
They now had another needed pitcher and I moved on rather quickly it turns out. It was a lesson learned and one I didn’t forget. Ryne Sandberg coincidentally was becoming my new favorite anyway. I always did root for Buckner in Boston and it still sucks how his legacy will be written.
John told me a funny story about the whole thing.
Turns out John had a friend that was also a big Buckner guy. He chided John after the infamous ball went through Durham's legs in Game 5 on the ’84 NLCS by saying: “That would have never happened with Buckner playing first base”.
That is a whole other lesson.
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