Bucky Fucking Dent

You’re going to hear the name Bucky Dent mentioned a lot today. That’s because the Boston Red Sox play the New York Yankees in a single elimination play-in game to see who advances into the playoffs and more fittingly, who goes home.

This game is eerily reminiscent of one of Major League Baseball’s most famous games, played between the two teams that constitute baseball’s most historic rivalry.

It is that one game that ushered in one a phrase most commonly associated with this rivalry.  A phrase that one fan base loves and another makes cringe: Bucky Fucking Dent. 

It is also the night when I first learned the true agony of being a sports fan.  I guess I should have quit while I was ahead.

I watched this infamous game with my father in October 1978.  I had just turned ten years old.  My dad lived in an apartment on the Upper West Side of New York City.  Just like every young New Yorker of that era, baseball meant everything to me.  There was no runner-up.

My father was an unconscionable Yankees fan, as was most everyone living in the five boroughs at the time.  Theirs was a phenomenal team, a lineup fraught with danger and winners of back-to-back World Series.  If you were living in the city and not wearing a Yankees cap, you were definitely in the minority.  The Evil Empire reigned in all its nauseating, pin-striped glory.  It was unbearable to anyone rooting against them because not only were they going to win, they were going to tell you about it afterwards.

The Bombers had come back from fourteen games down that season to narrow the gap in the American League East within a month’s time, or something like that.  It was one of the more epic collapses in sports history, one that haunted Red Sox fans for years to come, until they finally got the monkey off their backs some twenty-five years later.  Up until that point, however, and especially in 1978, the Red Sox were known for one thing:  falling short and even worse, finding all new and disappointing ways to do so.  This was Buckner long before Buckner, a prelude to Bucker if you will and it was equally as painful.

Having briefly moved to Rhode Island during some formative years, and naturally having a hatred for all things Yankees, I had become an avid Red Sox fan.  Despite being a native New Yorker (and far more of a Mets fan than a Yankees fan), I had to pick a side.  Boston was that side.

My father and I watched that game together at 31 W. 95th St.  His was a studio apartment on the top floor of a three-story building.  It couldn’t have been any bigger than 600 square feet, but still big enough for a tiny, long-haired ten-year-old to prance around in.  He lived there for years.  The apartment suited his needs at the time, a romanticized getaway for a kid yearning for the love of his dad who, thanks to a pretty heinous divorce, he only got to see every once in a while.  It had a pull-out sofa, an armoire, a bathroom, a kitchen and a pretty frightening balcony that leaned far too unsafely over the neighborhood below it.  To call his place minimalist would be pretty spot on.

The television we watched the game on that night couldn’t have been any bigger than the laptop screen I’m staring at right now with I’m pretty sure considerably less color.  Looking back at the replays of that game, I’m instantly brought back to that time.  The people in the stands wore clothes now passe but once stylish.  It was the 1970s and we lived in New York City.  Culturally speaking, little else could match.

The Red Sox were winning that game early.  I was elated.  Carl Yastrzemski, my hero, had hit a second-inning home run to give the Red Sox the lead.  But still, dad taunted, warning what was coming.  It was almost as if he knew.  That just made it worse.

And then, it happened.  Bucky fucking Dent.  Rarely a good sport, always a trash-talker, my father jumped for joy at the home run that broke my heart.  I cried endlessly to the point that even my dad realized it was too much.  It would be the first of many heartbreaks I’d experience over the years, some that had to do with sport, many that didn’t.

When Yastrzemski popped out to end the game, giving the Yankees a once unfathomable win, it all but erased the home run Yaz had hit earlier.  It was devastating.  I’m pretty sure I cried myself to sleep that night.  Dent’s three-run home run is a moment that remained burned in my soul.  It literally took decades to get over.

In a way, that game introduced me to heartbreak in more ways that I could, and probably still can’t understand.  After years of an on again/off again relationship with my father, the details of which I will not bore you, we are once again no longer speaking. 

It is a pain far more heartbreaking than any season-clinching home run or fourteen-game collapse.

Sometimes I think back to that tiny little apartment and that night in particular.  It’s a shame what happened, over forty years ago.  When I think of Yankees-Red Sox play-off games, I can’t help but be reminded of the rivalry, for it serves as a backdrop to the evolution, and far more unfortunate devolution, of our relationship ever since.  Despite the outcome, it still brings me back to a fonder time, which is ironic for it was the night where I first learned that heartbreak can far too often, last a lifetime.

11 thoughts on “Bucky Fucking Dent

  1. Should be a great game tonight. Looking forward to playing the winner
    Go Rays ! ! !

  2. Guess it’s a good thing that there are people in your life that counteract all this heartbreak you speak of…not to mention, I also hate the Yankees.

  3. Steve Ur…

    Glad to see you changed your tune to “Go Rays!” as soon as we started playing Boston.

    Game One was a hoot live. Stay tuned for pics and details.

  4. I cherish our memories of a Giant/Buc game w Simon n JJ, shrimpfests while watching all four Bolt Stanley Cup home games and last week’s awesome Game One Rays win… which will hopefully lead us to our first World Series victory!

    Of course the games are fun (when we win) but the memories I hold dearest are those of us just hanging together, chowing down, or singing car karaoke to classic 70s songs together.

    I know I can’t, and would never try, to replace your blood dad, but always know that this “bonus-dad” (a term of endearment mine used as related to his step-daughter) is always here for you !

    Xxoo PJD

  5. And PS. I too grew up a Yanks fan. My Grandpa took me to the old stadium in the 1960s to see an aging but still amazing Mickey Mantle!

    But now, this Tampeno has seen the light, or the Rays of light … and cheers for our local boys of summer!

  6. PJD…

    Another solid outing the other night, thanks again. Good seats too, wink wink.

    Thanks as always for the kind words and immeasurable support.

    By the way, was that 70s song Boston or Kansas?

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