NEW YORK — Mookie Wilson’s ground ball in the bottom of the 10th inning that skipped through first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs and into the outfield during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run, has been called a lot of things.
It’s been called legendary. It’s been called amazing. Just don’t call it divine intervention if you’re asking Wilson about it.
“God always presents situations, but I don’t think God puts people in position to be criticized to benefit another,” Wilson said.
The Mets would go on to win the next game and World Series that fall. Wilson didn’t know it at the time, but years later he would foster a lifelong friendship with Buckner, who would go on to endure taunting and even death threats for years.
“Even after ’86, it would be four years before we ever talked,” Wilson recalled, saying the encounter happened during the 1989 season when Buckner was playing for the Kansas City Royals and he’d been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Wilson, now 67, said he spotted Buckner at the ballpark at then-Royals Stadium, but had tried to avoid him. Since Buckner had been the subject of death threats because of that bobbled play, Wilson said he feared the first baseman would take it out on him.
“He stood over me with the bat and he said, ‘Hey Mookie.’ I said, yes. He said, ‘You want to hit me some ground balls?’ That’s how we became the best of friends.”
Wilson said Buckner, who died in 2019 at age 69, was a practicing Catholic. Wilson, a Baptist and an ordained minister since 2014, said faith and love for Jesus ultimately brought them together. They become unlikely friends, often doing speaking engagements together and appearing at baseball card shows to sign autographs.
“He would call me late at night sometimes and ask me for Bible verses,” Wilson recalled during a recent appearance at New York’s Sheen Center as part of “Faith: The Competitive Edge” speaker series. “He was a man with a big faith.”
If not for that now-famous play, the two would never have become friends.
“I do think things happen for a reason,” he said. “I would never have met Bill Buckner.”