Bruce Bochy

Bruce Bochy

This article was written by Thomas J. Brown Jr.


Bruce Bochy

Bruce Bochy’s baseball career is filled with notable achievements. From being the first European-born manager to reach the World Series when he was with the San Diego Padres to becoming the first manager to call on his son to pitch in a game when he was with the San Francisco Giants, Bochy’s long career has been remarkable and very successful.

Bochy was born on April 16, 1955, in Landes de Bussac, France, where there was a US airbase. His father, Sergeant Major Gus Bochy, was stationed there at the time. Gus Bochy’s father was a West Virginian who worked in the coal mines and died in one. Gus realized that his best opportunity to avoid that fate was to join the military. Bochy’s mother, Melrose, grew up on a North Carolina tobacco farm. She met Bochy’s father when he was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Bruce was the third of Gus and Melrose’s four children. Joe, the oldest son, spent several years as a catcher and later a pitcher in the Twins organization. As of 2018 he was a scout for the Padres. Bochy’s sister, Terry, is retired from the US Customs Service, and was caring for their mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease. Bochy’s youngest brother, Mark, was a chemical engineer living in Mobile, Alabama, in 2018.

Young Bruce “was not one to sit idle at home,” Terry said. “He was always out organizing games, whether it was kickball, dodgeball, football, baseball, basketball, horseshoes, [or] darts. He could make a game out of anything, and he would lose track of time.”1

Bochy developed a love of baseball early. His father was a rabid Cincinnati Reds fan. Bochy remembered that his father always tuned in the games no matter where they lived. When the family was stationed in Panama, Gus Bochy coached the base’s baseball team. Those games “were a big deal,” Bochy recalled.2

Bochy lived in numerous places as he grew up. Besides France, his family spent time living in the Panama Canal Zone, South Carolina, and Northern Virginia. When his father retired, the family moved to Melbourne, Florida. Bochy attended Melbourne High School.

Although Bochy played in high school, he did not begin to excel in baseball until he reached Brevard Community College in Cocoa Beach, Florida. He led the school to a state championship. Jack Kenworthy, his coach, said Bochy was a leader on that team. “I [remember] that players on my team, before they would do anything, would look and see what Boch was doing,” Kenworthy said. “It was nothing he did outwardly. It was just the presence of leadership.”3 By the end of his sophomore year, Bochy had begun dating his future wife, Kim Seib.

Bochy was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the eighth round of the January 1975 draft. He turned down the opportunity to go professional and instead signed a letter of intent to play for Eddie Stanky, the former major-league infielder and manager, who was coaching at South Alabama at the time. But when the Houston Astros drafted him in the first round of the June 1975 draft, he decided to turn professional.

The Astros sent Bochy to the Covington Astros (Appalachian League). He played 37 games during their short season. He had 34 RBIs and a .338 batting average.

In 1976 Bochy split his time between the Class-A Dubuque, Iowa, Packers (Midwest League) and the Double-A Columbus, Georgia, Astros (Southern League). He saw his offensive statistics drop against the higher level of competition. Bochy finished the season with a .234 batting average and 24 RBIs in 99 games. He played the entire 1977 season with the Class-A Cocoa Astros (Florida State League). He had 109 hits in 128 games that year as he played just up the road from his hometown.

Bochy returned to Columbus in 1978 and played in 79 games. Late in the season, the Astros called him up as a backup for Alan Ashby. Bochy made his major-league debut on July 19, 1978, against the New York Mets. He was the starting catcher and collected his first major-league hit in his first at-bat, a single to right field off the Mets’ Craig Swan in the third inning. He hit another single in the Astros 2-1 loss to the Mets. Bochy and Kim Seib were married in 1978.

Bochy remained the Astros backup catcher in 1979 and 1980. He played in 78 games over those two seasons, batting .212.

The Astros made the playoffs in 1980 and Bochy played in the fourth game of the National League Championship Series, replacing Luis Pujols in the eighth inning. The game, against the Philadelphia Phillies, was tied in the 10th. Pete Rose headed for home on Greg Luzinski’s double and Bochy was waiting there for the throw to tag him out. Rose crashed into Bochy and knocked the ball out of his glove. Bochy fell to the ground and was dazed with the “baseball he’d dropped resting alongside him like a period on 97 years of Phillies frustration.”4

The Astros traded Bochy to the Mets on February 11, 1981 for minor leaguers Stan Hough and Randy Rogers.

When Bochy first made it to the majors, he had earned a reputation for having a large head. After he was called up to the Mets, he arrived but his batting helmets did not. At the time, he had custom helmets because his extra-large head size, 8, was so unusual. “When I got called up, the first question wasn’t, ‘How are you?’ but, ‘Did you bring your helmets?’”5

Bochy spent the 1981 season with the Triple-A Tidewater Tides (International League). He also started the 1982 season with the Tides and was called up in August. Bochy played in 17 games in the final two months of the season and batted .306.

The Mets released Bochy in January 1983. A month later he signed with the Padres. Bochy started the 1983 season with the Triple-A Las Vegas Stars (Pacific Coast League). He was batting .303 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs when the Padres called him up to back up Terry Kennedy.

Bochy started 56 games from 1983 to 1985. He accepted his role as reserve, saying, “It might have been harder if I was just getting started but now I know my role and I can handle it. It takes a certain type of ballplayer to be able to come off the bench and do a job.”6 He made his second postseason appearance when he pinch-hit in the final game of the 1984 World Series and had a single in the Padres’ losing effort against the Detroit Tigers.

The Padres traded Kennedy to the Baltimore Orioles at the end of the 1986 season since they were planning to use rookie Benito Santiago as their catcher in 1987. Bochy remained with the Padres, serving as Santiago’s backup. He accepted his role, noting that “[s]ometimes I think you’ve got to work harder than the regulars as a backup. You never know when you’re going to be called on. And you can’t afford to have a bad game because you don’t want to hurt the club when you’re out there.”7

Bochy started 18 games in 1987 and made it into another 20 games but was hitting just .160 when the season ended. He made his last major-league appearance as a player on October 4, 1987, when he grounded out in a 5-3 Padres loss to the Dodgers.

The Padres dropped Bochy from their roster on November 9, 1987. He signed a minor-league contract with the team and was sent to Las Vegas for the 1988 season as a player and coach. He played in 53 games while mentoring Sandy Alomar Jr.

Jack McKeon, the Padres general manager, gave Bochy his first managerial job when he hired him to run the Spokane, Washington, Indians (Low-A Northwest League) in 1989. Bochy started the season as a coach with the Riverside, California, Red Wave (Class-A California League) before getting the call to manage his own team. “He was the perfect guy to have on your ballclub. Great personality, a clubhouse leader even though he wasn’t playing,” said McKeon when asked why he hired Bochy.8 Spokane finished the season with a 41-34 record.

Bochy became Riverside’s manager in 1990. The team struggled to a 64-78 record. It was one of his most challenging seasons as a manager. “The year I managed there, we weren’t very good,” he recalled. “Of all my years, that was probably one of the toughest. We didn’t play very well.”9

But Bochy’s struggles with Riverside helped him to become a better manager. “I think it helped me develop more patience. I realized, ‘Hey, these guys are trying,’” he said. “It doesn’t mean that you ever stop trying to win and trying to hit the right buttons, but you’ve got to understand that you’re going to go through some (tough) times. For me to spend a whole season dealing with that, that helped make me a better manager.”10

When the Riverside club moved to Adelanto, California, in 1991 and became known as the High Desert Mavericks, Bochy remained as their manager. The team improved to 73-63 and won the California League title.

Bochy moved up to the Double-A Wichita, Kansas, Wranglers (Texas League) in 1992. The team finished with a 70-66 record and had the second-highest batting average in the league. The Wranglers were five games out of first place with 14 games left but won 11 straight to clinch the division and went on to win the Texas League championship. Yet Bochy recognized that his role as a minor-league manager was not about winning games, saying: “It’s all about development. Winning’s not my job.”11

The Padres made Bochy their third-base coach in 1993. Jim Riggleman was the manager. When Riggleman became the Cubs manager after the 1994 season, Bochy replaced him. General manager Randy Smith, explaining why he chose Bochy, said: “To me, the two most important factors were continuity, stability, and with the strength of this organization being pitching, someone who can handle a pitching staff. In my mind he’s the best managerial prospect in the game.”12

Bochy became the youngest manager in baseball and the first former Padres player to manage the team. The Padres gave him a one-year contract but Bochy was satisfied since he was finally getting the opportunity to use what he had learned in the Padres organization. “I have confidence in my ability, and Randy and I and the coaching staff, we’re going to … turn this thing around,” he said.13

The Padres went 70-74 in Bochy’s first year at the helm, winning 23 more games than they had in 1994. They improved to 91-71 in 1996 and made the playoffs for the second time in their history. Although the Padres were swept by the St. Louis Cardinals in the Division Series, Bochy was chosen as the National League manager of the year.

The Padres fell to 76-86 in 1997 but the organization maintained confidence in Bochy. Their confidence was vindicated when he led the team to a 98-64 record, the best in Padres history. San Diego returned to the World Series for the second time in their 30-year history. The Sporting News named him the Manager of the Year for the second time in three years.

While Bochy was getting more and more recognition for his work, his brother Joe noted that Bochy was always focused on his team and players rather than himself, saying “[My brother will] never be comfortable going on the Leno show. His ego doesn’t require notoriety. His confidence and fortitude are such that he doesn’t need the spotlight.”14

Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn described Bochy’s influence that season: “He’s not the type to rant and rave or kick over a [food] spread after a game, but the fire comes out. This is a veteran team that generally doesn’t have to be reminded about what’s at stake or what we should be thinking about, but Boch has a very good sense of timing as to when to call a meeting and when not, when to snap and when not.”15

The Padres were swept by the Yankees in the World Series. During the offseason, they cut their payroll and the team had five losing seasons. Bochy managed the team through those difficulties and eventually the Padres returned to their winning ways of the 1990s.

In 2004 Bochy led the Padres to an 87-75 record. The team did not make the playoffs that year but they did in 2005. The team had an 82-80 record, winning the NL West. Once again, they were swept by the Cardinals in the Division Series.

Bochy led the Padres to the division crown for a second time in 2006. It was the first time San Diego played in the postseason in consecutive seasons. Once again the Padres lost to the Cardinals, three games to one.

At the time Bochy was under contract through the 2007 season. When he asked for a contract extension, San Diego CEO Sandy Alderson refused. Alderson believed that Bochy was too loyal to veteran players and wasn’t willing to listen to management. He also felt that Bochy had been outmanaged by the Cardinals’ Tony La Russa in the playoffs. Alderson told him he was free to look for other managing positions.16

The San Francisco Giants interviewed Bochy within days of his release from the Padres and hired him a few days later. They gave him a three-year contract. The Giants were hoping to rebuild from several lackluster seasons and wanted Bochy to help them do it. “I look forward to this challenge,” Bochy said. He said he agreed to sign with the Giants because he wanted to “be with an organization that would be a cultural fit for me, where I would be comfortable and where there was potential to build real chemistry between myself and the front office. It would be a place where I would have a chance to make an impact and a contribution.” 17

The Giants lost at least 90 games during Bochy’s first two seasons as manager. But the team turned things around in 2009. They finished with an 88-74 record. Bochy was in the final year of his contract and knew that he needed to win in order to stay on. The Giants did not make the playoffs that season but definitely seem poised for better days ahead.

The Giants rewarded Bochy with a two-year contract extension shortly after the season, their first winning season in four years. Bochy said later that 2009 was important because the time had come for the Giants to “win games. [I]f you’re making a transformation (to youth), that’s a little bit different. But we’re trying to raise the bar and win games.”18 The team won and the Giants decided that Bochy would stay as manager.

Bochy’s Giants won 92 games in 2010. They clinched the NL Western Division crown on the final day of the season, beating the Padres. After winning the game, 3-0, Bochy said of his team: “It’s a group that coalesced into a team that wants to get there.”19

The Giants marched through the postseason. First they beat the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, three games to one. Then they beat the Phillies, four games to two, for the NL pennant. Bochy described his triumphant team as a “bunch of misfits.”20 The Giants reached the pinnacle when they beat the Texas Rangers in five games in the World Series. It was the franchise’s first Series championship since 1954, when the team was still in New York.

After the World Series, Bochy deflected questions about his genius as a manager, saying: “It’s not me, believe me. It’s these guys. I can’t say enough about how they accepted some roles. I’m not sure they were happy with me. But they stayed ready and they had one thing on their mind and that was to do this.”21

The Giants continued to win under Bochy’s leadership in 2011. They finished 86-76 but lost momentum when Buster Posey, the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, was injured. Bochy described the loss as like “taking Johnny Bench out of the Big Red Machine.”22 The club was confident enough in Bochy’s leadership that they extended his contract at the end of the season.

Bochy showed why they should maintain confidence in him when the Giants won the NL Western Division in 2012, for the second time in three years. After losing the first two games of the Division Series to the Cincinnati Reds, they won three straight games to move to the NLCS. The St. Louis Cardinals took a three-games-to-one lead in the NLCS but the Giants won the final three games to return to the World Series for the second time in three years.

The 2012 World Series was not much of a contest. The Giants swept the Tigers. As Bochy held the championship trophy over his head, he said: “It’s unbelievable what happened here the last two to three weeks. I’m amazed. I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”23

When the Giants held a victory rally several days later, Bochy told the cheering crowd, “In 2010, we characterized the club as misfits that came together and got it done. [T]he tagline of the 2012 Giants was, ‘Never say die.’”24 He wanted the crowd to remember that the Giants came back twice in the postseason to bring the trophy back to San Francisco.

Bochy’s success brought him another contract extension. This time the Giants extended his contract through the 2016 season. General manager Brian Sabean, who was also rewarded with a new contract said of Bochy: “Bruce is a tough SOB, even if he doesn’t come off that way. If you work with him every day, you see how he empowers the players.”25 For his part, Bochy said, “I’m very happy to continue this journey. It’s been an amazing ride these past few years.”

Bochy reached a managing milestone when he got his 1,500th win on July 23, 2013. The Giants beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-3 in front of a home crowd. Bochy became the 21st manager to win that many games. After the game, Bochy was modest about his accomplishment: “I’ll be honest. I don’t know what that number means except the fact I’m fortunate I’ve been doing this as long as I have. I’m very, very thankful to reach this number. To be mentioned with some of these managers is humbling.”26 Although Bochy reached a personal milestone in 2013, it was a disappointing year for the Giants. They finished the year with a 76-94 record, falling into a third-place tie with the Padres.

The Giants rebounded in 2014 to finish the season with an 88-74 record. They entered the postseason as the second wild-card team. After beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-0 in the one-game play-in, the Giants swept the Washington Nationals in the Division Series and beat the Cardinals in five games in the NLCS. It was their third trip to the World Series in five years. Bochy once again remained modest as he credited the Giants organization for the team’s success. “We’ve kept our core players. The thing I love about what’s happening in San Francisco is the continuity that we have, so that allows you to hopefully compete and contend every year.”27

Bochy’s Giants faced the Kansas City Royals. The Royals were hoping to win their first World Series since 1985. Although the Series went to seven games, Bochy’s Giants prevailed and won their third World Series title in five years. He became the 10th manager to win three World Series.

As in past years, Bochy deflected praise from himself and gave it to his players. During the celebration in the Giants locker room, Bochy told reporters: “This group of warriors, they continue to amaze me. To see guys getting their first taste of this, that makes it even more special. I tell ya, these guys were relentless. You’re so blessed to get one title, and now to have three. I’m just amazed at what they did.”28

The Giants rewarded Bochy again by extending his contract through the 2019 season. When Chris Heston threw a no-hitter against the Mets on June 9, 2015, he became the first Giants rookie to accomplish that feat in more than 100 years. The win was Bochy’s 700th as Giants manager. With the 951 games he won in San Diego, he joined an elite group of managers who won more 700 or more games with two different teams. The others were Sparky Anderson, Tony La Russa, and Jim Leyland.29

The Giants finished 84-78 in 2015 and did not make the playoffs but they returned to the postseason in 2016 when they finished with an 87-75 record. After beating the Mets in the wild-card play-in, they fell to the eventual World Series-winning Chicago Cubs in the Division Series.

Bochy achieved another milestone that season when he won his 800th game for the Giants. The win came on June 26, 2016, when the Giants beat the Phillies, 8-7. Bochy noted his achievement in his usual unassertive manner: “As far as the number, I know how lucky I am. I don’t think John McGraw has anything to worry about.”30 He was referring to McGraw’s 2,583 wins, the record for Giants managers.

Bochy also made news that season when he became the first manager since 1976 to deliberately choose to forfeit the designated hitter. The last time that his happened was when pitcher Ken Brett of the White Sox, a good hitter, batted twice in 1976, on May 27 and September 23. Bochy’s star pitcher Madison Bumgarner batted against the Oakland A’s at a game in Oakland on June 30, 2016. He hit a double in the third to spark the 12-6 Giants win. Bochy expressed satisfaction with his decision when he told reporters, “He smoked that ball, and he did it when he got that double. He gives you good at-bats, which he did there.”31

The Giants struggled in 2017, winning just 64 games and finishing with the worst record in the National League. It was just the fourth losing season since Bochy took the helm of the team in 2007. Even as the Giants were struggling, Bochy continued to reach more milestones. On April 10 he won his 841st game as Giants manager, surpassing Dusty Baker to become the team’s second-winningest manager.

Bochy also won his 900th game for the Giants that season when they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 9-2, on September 25, 2017. The win was bittersweet for him since it came at the end of a difficult season. Half in jest, he said, “There’s the old joke they may retire me for health reasons — because they’re sick and tired of me, which I get.32

As of 2018 Bochy and his wife, Kim, lived in Poway, California, near San Diego. They have two sons, Greg and Brett. Greg spent four years playing in the Padres’ minor-league system. Brett was drafted by the Giants in 2010. He was called up to the Giants in 2014. On September 13, 2014, Bochy made the call to the bullpen and handed the ball to Brett with instructions to get the last out of the inning. At the time the Dodgers had the bases loaded. Bochy was the first father to hand the ball to his son in a major-league game.33 (Brett walked the first batter he faced, forcing in a run; the run gave the Dodgers a 15-0 lead in a game they won, 17-0.)

When Brett was asked about his father’s decision, he said: “He has a habit of doing that to me. It was awesome getting out there and it was special that he was there for it.” Bochy saluted his son later, saying, “Here’s your son, and you’re bringing him into the big leagues. It’s a moment that [makes you] nervous, but at the same time, you’re very proud. I was real glad to see him out there.”34

Bochy has experienced several health issues since 2015. He underwent an angioplasty before spring training and was ready for the season. He missed part of the 2017 season when he had a minor heart ablation on April 18, and had another ablation surgery after the season. Afterward he said “I don’t want anyone to think this has an effect on my work, or ability to work.”35

Through the 2017 season, Bochy had 1,853 regular-season wins and 42 playoff victories. Only four other managers have more playoff wins. Three of them (Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, and Tony La Russa) are in the Hall of Fame.

When Bochy was asked about his Hall of Fame chances, he said, “I don’t ever think about it. It’s too humbling to think about. When you think of the Hall of Fame, you think of Willie Mays and great players like that. You don’t look at yourself like that. I feel fortunate that I’ve been doing what I love for as long as I’ve been doing it.”36 With at least two more years on his present contract, Bochy should continue to reach more milestones in his unassuming manner before he considers walking away from the game he loves.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also used the Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Almanac.com, and Retrosheet.org websites for box-score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other pertinent material.

 

Notes

1 Henry Schulman, “Meet Bruce Bochy — New Head Man,” SFGate.com, March 11, 2007.

2 Ibid.

3 Demian Bulwa, “S.F. Giants’ Bruce Bochy Has Humble Approach,” SFGate.com, October 15, 2010.

4 Frank Fitzpatrick, “Giants’ Manager Part of Phillies Lore,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 14, 2010.

5 Lawrie Mifflin, “Bruce Bochy’s Big Problem,” New York Times, September 2, 1982.

6 Dave Distel, “Backing Up Kennedy Is a Role Bochy Accepts,” Los Angeles Times, March 21, 1985.

7 Ibid.

8 John Shea, “Bochy Carving Out Quite a Career,” SF Gate.com, September 29, 2014.

9 “Managing Red Wave Was a Challenge, Learning Experience,” Riverside Press-Enterprise, April 13, 2013.

10 Ibid.

11 Kirk Seminoff, “Once, Twice, Three Times a Champion,” Wichita Eagle, November 7, 2010.

12 “Bochy Named Padre Manager After Riggleman Jumps to Cubs,” Seattle Times, October 22, 1994.

13 Ibid.

14 Ross Newhan, “Still Waters,” Los Angeles Times, June 16, 1998.

15 Ibid.

16 Tom Krasovic, “Bochy an NL West Title Mainstay for Padres,” San Diego Union-Tribune, May 30, 2014.

17 “Bochy Looks Forward to Challenge of Managing Giants,” ESPN.com, October 26, 2006.

18 John Shea, “Bochy Has a Sense of Security in 2010,” SF Gate.com, March 5, 2010.

19 “Jonathan Sanchez Eliminates Padres to Give Giants NL West Title,” ESPN.com, October 4, 2010.

20 Jayson Stark, “Giant Cast of ‘Misfits’ Marches On,” ESPN.com, October 24, 2010.

21 Susan Slusser, “SF Giants Are Champs, Dashing Bochy’s Butterflies,” SF Gate.com, November 2, 2010.

22 Henry Schulman, “Giants’ Chances Ended with Buster Posey’s Injury,” SF Gate.com, September 29, 2011.

23 Henry Schulman, “SF Giants Win World Series,” SF Gate.com, December 27, 2010.

24 “Giants Celebrate with Victory Parade,” ESPN.com, October 31, 2012.

25 Ron Kroichick, “Giants Reward Sabean and Bochy with Contract Extensions.” SF Gate.com, March 28, 2013.

26 Alex Pavlovic, “Bochy Reaches Next Level as Giants Get Unique Win,” San Jose Mercury News, July 24, 2013.

27 Anne Killion, “With 3 Titles, Close Enough to a Dynasty,” SF Gate.com, November 1, 2014.

28 Bruce Jenkins, “Savor It, The Giants Are World Champions Again,” SF Gate.com, October 30, 2014.

29 Andrew Baggarly, “Chris Heston on His No-Hitter: ‘I Still Can’t Believe It Happened,’” San Jose Mercury-News, June 10, 2015.

30 Chris Haft, “Giants Walk Off for NL-Best 49th Victory,” MLB.com, June 26, 2016.

31 Susan Slusser, “Madison Bumgarner Is a Hit in All Ways in Giants’ Win Over A’s,” SF Gate.com, June 30, 2016.

32 Alex Pavlovic, “Bochy on Future: This Is ‘Certainly Not the Way I Want to Go Out,’” NBC Sports.com, September 28, 2017.

33 Ryan Hood, “Bochy Gives Son MLB Debut in Tough Spot,” MLB.com, September 13, 2014.

34 Ibid.

35 Andrew Baggarly, “Giants Manager Bruce Bochy Resting After Heart Procedure,” San Jose Mercury-News, October 13, 2017.

36 John Shea, “Bochy Carving Out Quite a Career,” SF Gate.com, September 29, 2014.

Full Name

Bruce Douglas Bochy

Born

April 16, 1955 at Landes de Bussac, (France)

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