In the roughly 24 hours since Bill Buckner’s passing, sports columnists and pundits have told us his career should not be defined by one play, before talking almost exclusively about that one play. So we will not do that in this space.
Instead, we will talk about perhaps Buckner’s most impressive feat, especially in comparison with today’s all-or-nothing hitters. Buckner never struck out three times in a game over the course of his career, and he played in 2,517 of them. Overall, Buckner only struck out 453 times, meaning he fanned in just 4.5 percent of his plate appearances.
For comparison’s sake, hitters this season are striking out 22.9 percent of the time. There are 181 active players with more career strikeouts than Buckner, who averaged 22 strikeouts per season, and never K’d more than 39 times in a single campaign. On Sunday alone, 16 players struck out at least three times.
When looking back at Buckner’s legacy, that is what stands out most. The one-time All-Star and batting champion possessed a skill set –– putting the ball in play –– that is almost entirely absent from the current game. He also only walked on 450 occasions, meaning he was looking to earn his way onto the base paths.
And Buckner did that quite frequently. He amassed 2,715 hits in his career. Only two active players, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, have more.