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Who Is The Cardinals' Buckner?

Posted on April 9, 2008 at 10:06 AM
Filed Under: Baseball | St. Louis Cardinals
With all the hoopla around Bill Buckner's return to Fenway yesterday, it got me thinking about who, if anyone, would hold a similar place in Cardinal Nation.

For the most part, players are held in pretty high regard.  I don't think that's really limited to St. Louis, as if you try to do a "most-hated former player" list for many teams off the top of your head, you'd probably draw blanks.  Philadelphia's not going to have Scott Rolen Day anytime soon, of course.  (You could add J.D. Drew, but since he was never technically a Phillie, he doesn't count.)  Other than that, I'm can't think of anyone real quickly that has drawn the never-ending ire of the hometown faithful.

Don't get me wrong, there are players that aren't liked or, at best, have an apathetic reaction from the fans.  Mike Maroth, Kip Wells, any number of middle relievers--they aren't going to be written about years later in glowing terms, but they can appear in public in St. Louis without things being thrown at them.

My theory is that, to be that despised, you really probably have to be a position players.  Pitchers aren't in there everyday, so unless you blew a huge game in your last outing, it's probably going to blow over between starts or appearances.  (I don't know what Phillie fans think of someone like Mitch Williams, but you never hear too much about that hatred if it is there.)  To that end, I looked over the Baseball Reference positional chart and skimmed for some names.  There are a couple that get close, but I think only one would get anywhere close to Buckner level.

  • Edgar Renteria.  There was a lot more distaste for Renteria immediately following his jumping from the Cardinals to the Red Sox after the 2004 Series.  The hatred was not all directed at Edgar, though.  Some thought he was a mercenary turncoat who left the vanquished for the victors over a couple of million.  Others harangued management for not upping the ante to keep him.  Even with all that, though, his contributions were appreciated and he got a warm welcome when he returned as a member of the Braves in 2006.  I think Renteria will have his reputation brightened by the passing of time and would be welcome at Old-Timer Games and other events by most people.
  • Tino Martinez.  The Tino experiment was doomed to start with.  First off, he was replacing an icon not only in St. Louis, but in baseball in general.  It was only 3 years after the Grand Home Run Race, which ending with Mark McGwire hitting 70 home runs.  The goodwill generated from that wouldn't subside in large part until McGwire's disastrous Capitol Hill appearance, which was too late to do Martinez any good.  Secondly, management overpaid for him, which saddled him not only with the burden of living up to McGwire but also living up to his contract.  More people would have been OK with him if the financial compensation had been more in line with his expected performance instead of his post-season heroics.  And, lastly, Tino never really seemed to want to be here.  His heart was always in New York, it seemed, and that's never going to sit well with the fans.  So, while Martinez might get some polite golf claps and some minor boos, the odds of him doing much in St. Louis instead of the Yankee pinstripes are pretty slim.
  • Garry Templeton.  When your last remembered action in the uniform is giving the fans the finger, it's not likely that you are going to be asked back for a party.  Templeton had some good years in St. Louis, but his attitude (summed up in his famous All-Star quote of "If I ain't startin', I ain't departin'") and perceived lack of hustle late in his Cardinal stay turned the fans against him, all the more so when the player received for him in trade becomes a fan favorite and Hall of Famer.
So, if I had to label anyone the St. Louis version of Bill Buckner (pre-2004, of course), it'd be Templeton.  Thankfully, there's a lot more players--from HOFs like Brock and Gibson, to stars ranging from Pujols to Mike Matheny, to scrubs like Bo Hart and Joe McEwing--that are adored and welcomed with open arms than there are those that are kept away by scorn.


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7 Comments

7 Comments | Leave a comment

I don't think I would put Edgar Renteria up there, as he hasn't been the first to leave for the money and certainly won't be the last. There's probably more animosity towards ownership for not locking him in, and they deserve it.

I have a feeling that Daric Barton will become the most hated player in a few years. Not for anything he did to us, but because he could've been ours.

I don't know, at the time there was a lot of spite toward Renteria for leaving for what appeared to be just $1 million more. I think that's shrunk over time and people have gotten over it, but there was a discussion when he first returned to St. Louis over what kind of reception he would get.

I think it's going to be hard to hate Barton because he's in the other league. If he was killing us nightly, maybe. But even then, the hatred would probably be spent on Mulder or Jocketty.

The closest thing the Cardinals have to what Bill Buckner was to the Red Sox was Curt Flood.
Like Buckner, Flood was a popular player who was well thought of in his hometown.
And they both screwed up plays they usually easily made at a pivotal time in the World Series. Buckner let a grounder go between his legs while Flood let a fly ball get over his head.
The difference is that Red Sox fans freaked out because they hadn't won a series for 50 years at the time and the Cardinals were the defending champs.

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Keith Hernandez

Both Flood and Hernandez were before my time following the players. Were they really reviled while in St. Louis? I know there still is some coolness between Hernandez and the fans. I didn't know that Flood had that kind of "following", if you will.

Nice topic!

J.D. Drew sounds like a good one to me.

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Hernandez more for his drug use as a Cardinal that forced the trade, and then his later apologizing to the Mets fans for using drugs. He and Templeton were the most booed opposing team players in St. Louis for years.

Templeton was probably the St. Louis player that was booed in St. Louis the most - but he wasn't here much after "signing" his personal feelings towards the fans.

At least ones that weren't booed out of respect.

I don't remember Curt Flood being booed while in St. Louis to any large extent. I wasn't going to a lot of games back then, but Flood didn't get as mistreated for his mistake as Buckner did. The difference between St. Louis and Boston.

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