Routine Moments in Baseball History: Being Bucky Fucking Dent

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Routine Moments in Baseball History: Being Bucky Fucking Dent

Before the home run that gave him his nickname, Bucky Dent was just another shortstop.
August 28, 2014, 6:50pm

Welcome back to Routine Moments in Baseball History, a running weekday feature that looks back at plays that have been ignored by the history books because history books only talk about things that are important or interesting. Today's installment is "Being Bucky Fucking Dent." 

In later years, long after the fame had worn off and he wasn't posing for pin-up calendars or appearing in TV movies, he was just a coach and manager who sat on benches and looked tanned and leathery and tough, a baseball lifer. Even then that nickname followed him around, the story of how he swung the bat that one time and knocked in a three-run home run that won one of the most important games of his life. To the fans whose dream he crushed he was a symbol of bad luck, of a team so snakebitten that they got beat by Bucky Fucking Dent. And who was he, back then when he hit that high, arcing shot over the wall? A pretty boy of a shortstop, a slick fielder but a nothing of a batsman. He shouldn't have nailed that ball the way he did, but he did, and the rest is literally history.

There's an old joke about a guy who walks into a bar in the Scottish highlands and starts putting away whiskey like it's his last night on earth. When he's pretty well and oiled, the bartender asks him what's wrong, and he says: "See that barn over there? I built that fucker with me own two hands—but do they call me Angus the barn builder? Noooo. And would you look at that bridge, the one I patched up all by me lonesome, took me weeks it did—but do they call me Angus the bridge repairman? Ha! There isn't a roof in the village I haven't fixed a leak in, yet not a soul calls me Angus the roofer." He pauses to down another drink. "But you fuck one sheep…"

There's a grain of seriousness is every joke that lasts, and here the lesson is we don't get to pick how we're remembered. Maybe we'll die in an absurd or noteworthy way and instead of being spoken of for our many acts of kindness we're just that dude who got crushed by a grand piano falling from a penthouse or devoured by that particularly sick serial killer. Get photographed sitting on a treadmill watching TV and all of a sudden you're most famous for being one of those people the internet makes fun of. Only the very lucky, like Dent, get singled out for a moment that makes them look like heroes, like underdogs who seize the chances life gives them. But for a hanging breaking ball, he'd be just another major league shortstop—an unusually skilled and graceful fielder, sure, but he'd ultimately be one square jaw in pinstripes among many if he had ended that fateful at-bat with an out.

Pre-home run, you wouldn't have looked twice at him. Or if you did, it would have been because of that disarming smile, those Hollywood extra looks. On August 28, 1974, long before the nickname took hold, he was a 22-year-old prospect on the Chicago White Sox, starting at short, batting ninth, and trying to stay in the majors. He had a few hits against the Boston Red Sox's Luis Tiant, but his glove was what he was going to earn his paycheck with (or so he thought back then). He had a good game out in the field too—in the fifth he scooped up consecutive ground balls and tossed them easily to first baseman Tony Muser. Step to the left, snare the ball in your glove, transfer it into your right hand, grip it, make the throw. Next batter, step to the right, same thing. Two outs, just like that. Dent probably flashed a smile after a fly ball to left ended the inning, running back to the dugout. He was having a good day, even if no one was noticing.

This has been Routine Moments in Baseball History. Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.