November 28, 1994 12:00 PM

OCCASIONALLY, very occasionally, somebody recognizes Bill Buckner and politely asks for his autograph. There are no more cruel jokes, though, no pointed remarks about the routine ground ball he didn’t field in the 10th inning of the sixth game of the 1986 World Series, an error that allowed the New York Mets to win the game 6-5. The Mets also won Game 7, snatching the series from the long-suffering Sox.

Buckner, 44, who now lives under the wide skies of Idaho, has more important things to dwell on than one blown play in a distinguished 21-year career with the Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, Angels and Royals. “The actual play didn’t bother me,” he says. “That’s part of the game. But it’s all the stuff that happened after—all the media and the negative b.s.”

Buckner, whose major league career ended in 1990, moved out West last year and is a batting instructor for the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm teams in Knoxville, Tenn., and Syracuse. “I put in a lot of time,” says Buckner, who spends 10 days a month during the regular season with each team. “I try to make the players realize that if they want to get better, they have to work on it. Hitting is a tough business.”

Hitting isn’t Buckner’s only business, though. He has developed two large housing subdivisions in Idaho; one, outside Boise, he named Fenway Park. Buckner and wife Jody, 38, and their children Brittany, 13, Christen, 10, and Bobby, 6, live on a 130-acre ranch. Buckner helps out at home by driving the children to school and gymnastics and spends his free time fishing and hunting. “It’s a nice change,” he says. “You don’t need other people to appreciate what you do—you need to appreciate yourself. As long as you can do that, you’re fine.”

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