You never notice them until something crazy happens, but equipment managers are an extremely important part of any team. An example of something crazy: Years ago Darren O’Day pitched his first game as a Texas Ranger wearing the uniform top of Kason Gabbard. O’Day had been acquired so late in the day during a road trip that there was no jersey made with his name on it.
The broadcasters had fun with it; Ron Washington even had a funny comment about it during his post-game press conference.
But this was not funny to the equipment manager. When the team returned home I saw him and joked about it and realized that he was devastated. He told me he had issued written apologies to everyone from the owner of the team on down.
A major league equipment manager takes the job very seriously and does not want to be noticed.
Since 1973 the Dallas Cowboys equipment manager has been polishing helmets, snapping chin straps and making sure that all the names and numbers are correct. Actually, Bucky Buchanan has only been employed by the team since 1994. Buck Buchanan, Bucky’s dad, was hired by the Cowboys in 1973, and in those days there was no money in the budget for an assistant equipment manager.
He went with his dad to work after school and on weekends and learned the business of equipping a team.
Bucky was in the sixth grade when he started with the Cowboys. He was 11 years old when his father began the process of “teaching me everything he knew,” Bucky says.
His dad was a beloved employee of the Dallas Cowboys who lost a battle with Polymyositis in 2015. At the time of his father’s death Bucky was interviewed by Dallas Cowboys dot com. He said, “I really don’t know if my dad ever made anybody mad. Nobody ever said a bad word about my father.”
He’s right about that.
I started covering the Cowboys in 1990, and all of my memories of Buck are great. My first memory of Buck is seeing him at training camp in Austin. With his blue coaches shorts, white shirt and receding hairline, I thought he resembled the great Tom Landry himself. The more I got to know Buck, the more I realized that he had learned a lot from Landry. Buck carried himself with the same dignity and class that coach Landry did. He also wore a bowler hat with his suit on road trips.
Speaking of road trips, the equipment manager is responsible to get all of the gear needed to the visiting city. It is a job that Buck did with aplomb. It is a job that Bucky has been doing for 29 years.
These days, players are much more demanding and needy than they were in the ‘70s. Whereas Buck might have been able to tell a player to, “rub some dirt on it,” Bucky must come prepared to “put a pad on it.”
He must prepare for every eventuality, and he must know the personality and the needs of all 53 men on the roster. Like his dad, Bucky handles all of this pressure with a smile and a wink. He is confident he will not be caught unawares. That confidence comes from a very good source.
“Checklists and organization,” Bucky says. “Those are two of the most important things I learned from my dad.”
As the Cowboys embark on another season in Arlington, you can feel confident that they will have all of the right equipment. Bucky has obviously inherited a keen attention to detail from his father.
You know what else Bucky has?
He has kids, and maybe one of them will follow in his footsteps. We have had a Buchanan at the helm of the Cowboys equipment for almost 50 years.
Why not 50 more?