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Today in Cubs history: Bill Buckner weeps after being traded to the Red Sox

It was an emotional moment in Cubs history.

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When the Cubs acquired Bill Buckner from the Dodgers in January 1977, he wasn’t happy with the deal. He’d come through the Dodger system with Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Steve Garvey and others; they’d won the 1974 NL pennant together and he felt part of that group, “bleeding Dodger blue,” for lack of a better term.

But over his first seven years in a Cubs uniform, 1977-83, he became not only a productive player, but a fan favorite.

In 1984, though, with the Cubs’ acquisition of Gary Matthews to play left field, Leon Durham was forced to move to first base.

That left Buckner, then 34, as not much more than a pinch-hitter. Over the Cubs’ first 40 games of 1984, Buckner started just six of them (after playing 153 or more games for the previous two seasons). Overall he played in just 21 games, going 9-for-43 (.209), all singles.

Dallas Green had begun to look for a taker for Buckner, and on this date, May 25, 1984, he completed a trade to the Red Sox, acquiring Dennis Eckersley and Mike Brumley.

Buckner broke down in tears at a farewell news conference:

‘It’s a very tough moment for me,’ said Buckner, whose voice cracked and eyes teared in making his statement Friday to the media. ‘I’m going to miss everybody. There’s been some tough moments. I think you can tell it’s a pretty emotional time for all of us.’

Buckner recovered most of his previous performance level with the Red Sox, hitting .283/.319/.435 combined in 1985 and 1986, but by ‘86 his defense had become a liability due to multiple knee and ankle injuries. You’re surely familiar with what happened in the 1986 World Series.

Eckersley helped the Cubs to the NL East title with a good year the rest of 1984, and also pitched well in 1985, but had a mediocre year in 1986 and was traded to the Athletics for three minor leaguers, none of whom ever played in the big leagues. Brumley played in 37 games for the Cubs in 1987 and was then traded to the Padres, along Keith Moreland, for Rich Gossage and Ray Hayward. That one didn’t work out too well either.

Bill Buckner passed away in 2019; here’s the obituary I posted at the time, which has some of his career numbers and highlights.

And it was 37 years ago today that he was traded to Boston.