SWEARING IS prohibited at Bucky Dent's Baseball School in Delray Beach, Fla., so even the Red Sox fans among its sweet-swinging student body are technically forbidden from uttering the makeshift middle name that the school's co-owner earned 30 years ago this October. But school rules weren't the only reason the language stayed clean among the nine boys who surrounded Dent on a recent Tuesday afternoon. Though each was dressed in head-to-toe Sox gear, most didn't seem particularly familiar with the story of Bucky (Effin') Dent.
"When did Bucky Dent die?" asked one of the eight-to-10-year-olds who lounged on the outfield grass beneath pulsing clouds of gnats that had emerged after a thundershower.
"He hasn't died," said Dent, 56. "You're talking to him." (Many kids, Dent later observed, seem to think a person must be deceased to have something named for them.)
"Did you play with Babe Ruth?" asked another camper.
"No," said Dent. "He was a little before my time. But I was the shortstop in a great infield—Chambliss at first, Randolph at second, Nettles at third, Munson behind the plate." The campers appeared nonplussed.
"How many home runs did you hit?" asked another, a Yankees fan who said he was forced on this day to wear his Little League team's Red Sox uniform because his mom had his New York stuff in the wash.
"I hit 40," said Dent.
"In a season?"
"No. I wasn't really a home run hitter."
Of course, Dent, as the more senior members of Red Sox Nation still impolitely remind him whenever he crosses their paths, was a home run hitter when it mattered most: On Oct. 2, 1978, the Red Sox, who hadn't won the World Series since 1918, faced the Yankees in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park to decide the American League East title. That season the Sox, behind such stars as Dennis Eckersley, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice and Luis Tiant, had built a 14-game lead in the division by July 19. Then it started unraveling, and the Yankees—assisted by a devastating four-game sweep at Fenway in early September—came back to tie at season's end.