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Two notable deaths this weekend in the sports world…

• Bart Starr, the iconic Green Bay Packers quarterback who led the team to five championships, has passed away at age 85. He has suffered a series of strokes and a heart attack in recent years.

In its coverage, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that Starr “served as the extension of coach Vince Lombardi on the field during the Packers’ glory days of the 1960s.” That dynasty, the story says, “remains the most successful seven-year stretch in NFL history with five titles, including wins in the first two Super Bowls.”

As for Starr, the Journal Sentinel writes, “He is most famous for leading the legendary drive and scoring the touchdown on the iconic play in Packers history, the quarterback sneak against Dallas that won the Ice Bowl in 1967. The Ice Bowl drive and sneak were the culmination of the Lombardi-era Packers’ will to win, toughness and discipline that Starr embodied as quarterback of those teams.”

• Bill Buckner, a former All Star and batting champion who over his career had more hits than either Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams, has passed away at age 69 from Lewy body dementia.

While Buckner was an excellent player who spent most of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, he is perhaps best known for a play he didn’t make - in game six of the 1986 World Series, while playing first base for the Sox, he was unable to field a ground ball hit by the New York Mets’ Mookie Wilson, which was part of an overall collapse by the Sox that led to the Mets winning the series in the seventh game of the series.

In a touching appreciation in the Boston Globe, writer Dan Shaughnessy notes that Buckner “played 22 seasons in the majors and twice made it to the World Series. He was a good teammate and a solid family man. He aged better than most retired athletes and always looked like he could still give you a couple of innings when he’d return to Fenway Park tanned and fit.

“But for the final 33 years of his life, Buckner was best known as the guy who missed the ground ball. For many fans and media members, it defined him. And it was unfair.”

Shaughnessy writes that Buckner eventually found peace. “Allowing himself to be the butt of the joke, he filmed a Nike commercial with Spike Lee and Willie Mays. He did autograph shows with Mookie Wilson, signing photographs of the play. He appeared with Larry David in an episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ In ‘Curb,’ Buckner’s error is the running joke. Buckner ultimately saves the day at the end of the episode, catching an infant thrown from a burning building.

“There was even ultimate forgiveness at Fenway, much of it owed to the Red Sox’ new image as champions. In April of 2008, on the day the 2007 world champion Red Sox received their rings, Buckner received a standing ovation before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.”
KC's View:
One other note - over a 22-season career, Buckner never struck out three times in a single game, and never struck out more than 39 times in a season. He was a great player, possessed of an uncommon grace.