Ed Bouchee (TRADING CARD DB)

Ed Bouchee

This article was written by Russ Walsh

Ed Bouchee (TRADING CARD DB)By the end of the 1957 major-league season, Ed Bouchee had made good on all his early athletic promise with a fine rookie season as the first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. His slash line was .293/.394/470, with 17 home runs and 76 RBIs. The 24-year-old Bouchee, a former high school sports hero from Spokane, Washington, was the Sporting News 1957 Rookie Player of the Year and was named to the All-Rookie team. He even received some Most Valuable Player votes.

Back home in Spokane for the off-season, Bouchee settled in with his wife, Joanne, and his son Chris. He had just received word that a second child was on the way.

All was not well, however. On January 17, 1958 Bouchee’s personal life and baseball career were permanently altered by his arrest on what in those days was euphemistically called a “morals charge.” Bouchee returned to baseball six months later, but the shadow cast by that criminal charge, and his subsequent guilty plea, would trail him for the remainder of his playing career.

Edward Francis Bouchee was born in Livingston, Montana on March 7, 1933 to Harry Edward Bouchee, a boilermaker for the railroad, and his wife Luella (née Clopton). Ed was the middle of three boys in the family that included older brother Harry Louis and younger brother Rodney.1 Ed’s grandfather had emigrated to Montana from Canada in the 1890s, become a naturalized U.S. citizen, and married Mary Palmer Bouchee, in 1902. Harry Bouchee moved the family to the rapidly growing city of Spokane during World War II.

From 1947 to 1951, Ed Bouchee starred in football, basketball, and baseball at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane. Named as an “all-city everything” by one local paper2, Bouchee’s name was constantly in the news. The burly (six feet even and 200 pounds) Bouchee played fullback on the football team, was frequently called on to be the team’s passer, and served as the placekicker. On the basketball team he played guard and forward. In his senior year he was named All-City in both sports. It was in baseball, however, that he really stood out. Bouchee paired with his friend and future Phillies teammate, pitcher Jack Spring3, to lead Lewis and Clark to the first undefeated baseball season in Spokane high school baseball history. Bouchee was particularly noted for his long-ball power. He was named to the All-State baseball team.4

After graduation from high school, Bouchee and his good buddy Spring spent the summer playing for a local city team, the City Boosters. In September they joined the Troy, Montana team in the American Baseball Congress tournament, leading Troy to the championship finals, where they fell to the Kalamazoo, Michigan team.5 That fall, Bouchee and Spring enrolled at Washington State College (now Washington State University), in Pullman. Both had outstanding freshman years for coach Buck Bailey in the spring of 1952. Bouchee led the Cougars with 15 runs batted in and Spring struck out 53 batters to lead the Northern Division of the Pacific Coast Conference.6

On May 17, 1952, Bouchee married Joanne Meredith Brand in a ceremony at the First Presbyterian Church in Spokane. Bouchee’s brother, Harry, served as best man, while teammate Spring was an usher.7 Three weeks later, Bouchee signed a professional contract to play for the Spokane Indians of the Western International League. Spring signed with the Indians the next day.

Bouchee was immediately inserted into the Indians lineup by manager Don Osborn, and played spectacularly. After a month he was hitting .444. He cooled off but still finished at a very respectable .319, with seven home runs, in 98 games. Bouchee seemed to be on the fast track to the major leagues. But before the next season could begin, he was drafted and spent the next two years working for Uncle Sam.

While Bouchee was serving his country, the Spokane team entered into a working agreement with the Philadelphia Phillies which gave them the rights to Spokane players including Bouchee and Spring. But by the time Bouchee got out of the Army in 1955, the Spokane franchise had folded. The Phillies assigned Bouchee to their Class A affiliate in Schenectady, New York, where he was reunited with his Spokane manager, Don Osborn.

Bouchee had spent his final year in the service as a cook and his weight had ballooned to 245. But he worked his way back into shape and eventually had a strong year with Schenectady, hitting .313 with 22 home runs. Weight issues would continue to plague Bouchee throughout his career.

Indeed, weight was the topic of the first feature on Bouchee to appear in the Philadelphia Inquirer as spring training began for the Phillies in 1956. Bouchee was reported to be working hard to control his weight and drew praise from manager Mayo Smith. “Anybody that works that hard has got a chance,” Smith said of Bouchee, who had reported to camp at 225 pounds and gone up rapidly to 233. “He just needs to get down to 202-205.”8 Phils trainer Frank Wiechec put Bouchee on a high-protein diet and Bouchee doubled his workouts. Bouchee did not have much of a spring, however, getting only one hit in 12 at-bats. He was sent down to the Phillies Triple-A affiliate in Miami. The Phillies sent Bouchee’s buddy, Jack Spring, to Miami on the same day.

Bouchee had a solid season at Miami, hitting .294 with 17 home runs. He made news on June 19 when he hit a blast over the scoreboard in Miami, a feat only previously accomplished by Ted Williams and Luke Easter. Bouchee was voted the best hitting prospect in the International League.9 The Phillies called him up in mid-September.

Bouchee made his first major-league appearance at Connie Mack Stadium on September 19 against the Cincinnati Reds’ Johnny Klippstein, and drew a walk. His first start came two days later against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. In that game he got his first major league hit, a ninth inning RBI double off lefty Johnny Antonelli.

Bouchee reported to spring training in Clearwater, Florida in 1957 looking “positively svelt [sic].”10 He was down to 200 pounds and ready to compete for the starting position at first base. The Phillies were ready for him to step up and Bouchee knew it. “[I]t’s now or never for me,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Allen Lewis. “This is my big chance and I know I can do the job. I just hope I don’t try too hard and mess myself up.”11 Bouchee led the Phillies in spring training with five home runs and 15 runs batted in to win the starting first base job.

The 1957 Phillies surprised baseball by getting off to a fast start, and their rookie first baseman was right in the middle of it. On April 20, Bouchee went 4 for 4 with a home run, a double, three runs scored, and two RBIs as the Phillies beat the Giants 6-5. The home run, a solo shot off Max Surkont, was the first of Bouchee’s major-league career. His batting average hovered around the .300 mark in the early part of the season, until he hit a slump in June and fell to the .260s. The Phillies remained competitive, and despite the slump, the home runs and RBIs kept coming for Bouchee. On July 6, he hit a three-run home run off Don Drysdale of the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, helping the Phillies to a 9-4 victory. By July 15, Philadelphia was in a virtual tie for first place with the St. Louis Cardinals.

After mid-July, Bouchee’s average began a steady climb back toward .300. Unfortunately, the Phillies quickly fell out of contention, finishing a distant fifth behind to the pennant winning Milwaukee Braves. As noted, Bouchee ended his rookie campaign with a .293 batting average, 17 home runs and 76 RBIs. He showed a good eye, drawing 84 walks, and six of those were intentional, a sign that his bat engendered respect. He finished behind his teammate, pitcher Jack Sanford, for Rookie of the Year honors. It would be his best year in the major leagues.

Everything changed during the off season. On January 17, 1958, the Spokane Daily Chronicle carried a shocking headline on its front page: “Ed Bouchee Held in Morals Case.”12 For weeks, Spokane police had been receiving reports that a man in a station wagon had offered several young girls rides or shown them lewd pictures. The car was linked to Bouchee when at least one girl recorded the license number. Denying any wrongdoing, Bouchee voluntarily went to the police station to discuss the matter and was arrested after he was identified in a lineup. He was charged with indecently exposing himself to a six-year-old girl.13

Spokane Police Lieutenant George P. Berg described Bouchee as “very remorseful,” adding that the ballplayer “said he hoped for a long time that he would be picked up.”14 Eventually, a second count of indecent exposure, this one involving a 10-year-old girl, was added to the indictment. Bouchee pled guilty to the two counts at his arraignment in February. He faced a possible 20-year prison term. At his March trial Judge Ralph P. Edgerton, saying the issue was “more medical than criminal,”15 sentenced Bouchee to three years’ probation provided he submitted to continued medical treatment for what a doctor said was “compulsive exhibitionism.”16

From their training camp in Clearwater, Florida, the Phillies announced that Bouchee would enter the Institute for Living in Hartford, Connecticut, where he would be under the care of the Institute’s chief psychiatrist, Dr. Frank Braceland.17 Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick indicated that Bouchee would not be eligible to return to baseball until he was cleared by all medical and legal authorities. Phillies general manager Roy Hamey said, “As far as Bouchee’s playing again is concerned, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. We do not know at this time how long a period of treatment he will have to undergo.”18

In early June Bouchee returned to Philadelphia to continue treatment and begin working out with the team. His wife stayed in Spokane awaiting the birth of their second child but was scheduled to join him in Philadelphia later in the season. Dr. Braceland determined that his rehabilitation would be hastened by being around family and friends. Team owner Bob Carpenter, noting that Bouchee was 10-12 pounds overweight, hired two pitchers to throw to Bouchee to help him get in shape. He said, “We have no idea when Bouchee will be able to resume playing. That is entirely up to his doctors.”19

By mid-June, Bouchee declared himself ready to be reinstated. Asked about how he would react to the expected heckling he would get from the fans, he responded, “The psychiatrists have well fortified me against just that type of thing. The doctors tell me I am mentally ready to play ball again.”20 Commissioner Frick had one condition, though. Bouchee must be required to room with Phillies star pitcher and famously upright citizen, Robin Roberts.

As Roberts tells the story, Carpenter called him into his office during the season and asked, “Would you like to have Ed Bouchee back?” “Sure, Bob,” Roberts replied. “Ed’s a good ballplayer. I hope he can work out his problems and come back.” “Well, we can get him back,” Carpenter said. “Ford Frick’s wife said the only way he can come back is to room with you.”21 Roberts agreed, and Bouchee roomed with the legendary right-hander the rest of the year.

Bouchee was reinstated by Commissioner Frick on July 1 and returned to the lineup at Milwaukee County Stadium on July 3 against the Braves. When he came to bat in the top of the first inning, the crowd of 17,624 greeted him with a smattering of applause. He was called out on strikes. The polite applause turned to cheers in the eighth inning, when Bouchee followed a Solly Hemus solo home run with a home run of his own, giving Roberts a 3-1 lead that he would not relinquish.

“I’m glad that’s over,” said Bouchee. “That was the tough one. I was nervous kneeling in the on-deck circle waiting to hit the first time. I didn’t know how it would be or what the fan reaction would be. I was so nervous I didn’t even swing the bat. That home run helped a lot. I relaxed after that. I didn’t hear anything. I wouldn’t hear anything anyway. I haven’t got rabbit ears.”22

The next day, July 4, featured a doubleheader. Bouchee went 5-for-7 as the Phillies swept the Braves. On July 30, he celebrated the birth of his second son with a double, as the Phillies beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-1.

For the remainder of the season, however, Bouchee’s on-field performance did not measure up to that of his rookie season. He occasionally showed the power of the previous year, but his overall numbers were disappointing: a .257/.355/.425 slash line with nine homers. Philadelphia plunged to the National League cellar.

Both the Phillies and Bouchee hoped that a full spring training would bring him back to form in 1959. For the most part, it did. Bouchee had a solid campaign, hitting .285 with 15 home runs and 74 RBIs for a Phillies team that again finished in the National League basement. In his career to that point, Bouchee had never hit more than one home run in a game, but on July 12 at Connie Mack Stadium, he hit two homers in back-to-back at bats on the same day. In the opener of a doubleheader with the Chicago Cubs, he connected off Bill Henry in the eighth inning of a 7-6 Phillies loss. In his next at bat, in the first inning of the afternoon’s next game, he hit a two-run homer off Moe Drabowsky to provide pitcher Ray Semproch all the runs he needed in an eventual 4-1 victory.

On May 13, 1960, Bouchee was traded, along with pitcher Don Cardwell, to the Chicago Cubs for second baseman Tony Taylor and journeyman catcher Cal Neeman. This allowed the big Cuban Pancho Herrera to become the Phillies’ regular at first.

Two days after the trade, Cardwell pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. Bouchee made a fine stop of a Leon Wagner ground ball in the eighth inning to help preserve Cardwell’s no-no. However, Bouchee struggled at the plate the entire season, and by August he was relegated to pinch-hitting duty with only occasional starts. For the Cubs, he hit just .237 with five home runs. The Chicago Tribune judged that Bouchee had “flopped at first base.”23

After dropping a reported 35 pounds in the off-season, there was slight improvement in 1961, when he hit .248 with 12 homers in 112 games.

Unable to establish himself fully in Chicago, Bouchee was left exposed in the major-league expansion draft that was held at the end of the season. The fledgling New York Mets made him their 30th pick. Bouchee hoped to win the starting first base job, but former Brooklyn Dodger hero Gil Hodges got the nod. “They picked up all these over-the-hill guys because they had name recognition,” he said decades later.24 “They had Hodges at first and he couldn’t even run. [Manager] Casey [Stengel had his favorites. I really believe he was getting senile.”25

Opening the 1962 season on the bench, Bouchee crushed a three-run home run as a pinch-hitter in a 15-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on April 18. That hit earned him a few starts. He did not hit consistently, however, and was soon relegated mainly to pinch-hitting as the Mets set a record for losses in a season (120). On June 5 they sent him down to their Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs. After hitting well in the minors, he was recalled briefly in July, but by then the Mets had committed to “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry at first base. Bouchee made his final major-league appearance on July 29, grounding out as a pinch hitter.

Bouchee spent all of 1963 with Buffalo and then had an opportunity to play in Japan. The Mets refused to give him his release, however, so (in his own words) he “quit.”26 “I hired on in the winter of 1964 with General Motors, AC Delco Corp., right here in Des Plaines [Illinois], where I live. I worked there [as a warehouse supervisor] for 29½ years, same building, same everything.”27 After retiring from General Motors in 1993, Bouchee could often be found on the golf course. “I try to play as many golf tournaments as I can. It’s good for me to get out and gives me some exercise.”28 He also participated in old-timers’ games.

Bouchee and his wife, Joanne, raised three sons and a daughter. His eldest son, Chris Bouchee, an outfielder, played two seasons in the Phillies organization in the late ’70s. The family eventually relocated to Gilbert, Arizona, where Bouchee could play golf year-round. He died there of complications of diabetes at age 79 in January 2013.

Interviewed for Bouchee’s obituary, his old friend Jack Spring said, “To my mind he’s in a category with Bud Roffler29, Ryne Sandberg, and Mark Rypien30 among Spokane’s greatest all-around athletes.”31

 

Acknowledgments

This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Joe DeSantis and fact-checked by John Watkins.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes below, the author used baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org.

 

Notes

1 United States Census, 1940.

2 “Ed Bouchee, Glenn Meinke Named to All-State Team,” The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), June 25, 1951: 27.

3 Jack Spring had an eight-year major league career, mostly as a relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels. He was a part of the infamous 1964 trade that sent Lou Brock from the Cubs to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio.

4 “Ed Bouchee, Glenn Meinke Named to All-State Team.”

5 “Troy, Kalamazoo Battle in Final ABC Diamond Tourney Game Tonight,” The Spokesman-Review, September 26, 1951: 10.

6 Roffler’s .318 Tops ND Hitting,” The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), June 1, 1952: 46.

7 “Presbyterian Church Scene for Wedding,” The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), May 25, 1952: 49.

8 Art Morrow,” Phils’ Rookie Bunyan-Like, Winning Battle with Beef,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 19, 1956: 73.

9 Norris Anderson, “Sports Today,” Miami Daily News, August 24, 1956: 10.

10 Art Morrow, “Streamlined Bouchee Pops Phils’ Optics,” The Sporting News, February 20, 1957: 18.

11 Allen Lewis, “Blaylock’s Shift Will Give Bouchee Chance at First,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 4, 1957: 22.

12 “Ed Bouchee Held in Morals Case.” Spokane Daily Chronicle, January 17, 1958: 1.

13 “Baseball Star Released on Bond in Morals Case,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, January 18, 1958: 5.

14 “Bouchee Faces Morals Charge,” The Spokesman-Review, January 18, 1958: 1.

15 “Compulsive exhibitionism” is a neurosis growing out of emotional illness. The disorder is often treated through cognitive therapy and support groups. “Exhibitionism,” Exhibitionism | Psychology Today accessed on January 20, 2022.

16 “Bouchee Given 3 Yrs. Probation.” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1958: 38.

17 Dr. Braceland was a native Philadelphian. He was a graduate of LaSalle University and Jefferson University Medical School. He later served as clinical director of mental and nervous diseases at Pennsylvania Hospital.

18 “Bouchee Given 3 Yrs. Probation.”

19 “Bouchee Coming Here for More Treatment,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 1958: 15.

20 “Bouchee Says He’s Ready to Play Again,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 17, 1958: 12.

21 Robin Roberts with C. Paul Rogers, Throwing Hard Easy. Lincoln: Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. 2014.

22 “Tough One Over – Ed,” The Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA) July 4, 1958: 8.

23 Edward Prell, “Baseball Charts New Courses in Daffy Year of Surprises, Thrills,” Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1960: 74.

24 Chuck Greenwood, “Stengel, ’52 Mets weren’t Bouchee’s favorites,” Sports Collectors Digest, April 16, 1997: 70.

25 Greenwood.

26 “Ed Bouchee: Livingston Slugger.”

27 Greenwood.

28 Greenwood.

29 Roffler was a multi-sport star at Washington State and a member of that institution’s Hall of Fame.

30 Rypien starred at Quarterback for Washington State and in the National Football League.

31 Jim Price, “Bouchee Dies at 79,” The Spokesman Review, January 25, 2013. B1.

Full Name

Edward Francis Bouchee

Born

March 7, 1933 at Livingston, MT (USA)

Died

January 23, 2013 at Phoenix, AZ (USA)

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