THE BILL BUCKNER ball is back in play.
The prize souvenir from the 1986 World Series will go on eBay this month with a $1 million price tag, put up for auction by the Grammy-nominated songwriter who once bought it from actor Charlie Sheen.
Seth Swirsky owns the ball, along with a bevy of bats, gloves and other mementos tied to the likes of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Johnny Vander Meer and Eddie Gaedel.
He celebrates the game’s lore, and has written three books based on his letters to and from ballplayers.
“I love my collection. I don’t think I’ve ever sold anything from it,” Swirsky told The Associated Press from his home in Los Angeles.
“But that ball, it’s time to pass it along, to let someone else enjoy it.”
Swirsky plans to begin the online auction on 15 October, and it won’t last long. He intends to close the bidding late on the night of 25 October — at the exact minute of the 25th anniversary of Buckner’s famous error.
Swirsky said he decided to part with a favorite piece while driving around last week, a day after watching Boston collapse on the final night of the regular season.
“The myth of Buckner continues. There he was on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ last month. Everybody knows where they were when that play happened,” he said.
Here’s the Curb clip – warning: contains strong language:
“I wasn’t in a gloating mood. This isn’t about, ‘ha, ha, the Red Sox lost.’ I’m not a Red Sox hater, I’m a baseball history lover.
“If anything, I want people to know how good Buckner was. You really wanted Billy Buck on your team. He got 2,715 hits — almost as many as Lou Gehrig,” Swirsky said.
Buckner, however, is more noted for what happened in Game 6 of the ’86 Series. Playing first base for Boston, he let Mookie Wilson’s grounder roll through his legs, allowing the New York Mets to cap an incredible rally in the 10th inning. The Mets went on to win the title.
The ball was picked up by right field umpire Ed Montague, who put a tiny “x” near a seam to mark the real thing. Montague gave it to Mets executive Arthur Richman, who in turn presented it to Wilson. Then Wilson signed it to Richman — “The ball won it for us,” he wrote — and the souvenir made its way around the clubhouse. Someone left a tobacco stain where he kissed it.
Sheen bought the ball for more than $93,000 in 1992 and Swirsky purchased it for nearly $64,000 in 2000. Auction houses handled those transactions, but Swirsky said he’s going online because the anniversary date is fast approaching.
To Swirsky, the Buckner ball captures the heart of the sport.
“People ask, ‘Why would you have a ball about sorrow?’ To me, it’s encompasses the two emotions of the game. The highs and lows, all encapsulated in one ball.”
Outspoken political commentator Keith Olbermann — an excellent baseball storyteller, too — came in second to Sheen when the ball initially went to auction. Olbermann then was second to Swirsky.
“If I got a call from Keith and he wanted it for a million, I’d do it. He deserves it,”
Swirsky said. “I’d rather have someone who really wants it to have it, y’know?”