February 14, 2006

A Tale of Two Bruces

You know when you look at something or someone and you see that thing or that person as pretty much non-descript, and then all of a sudden you see them in a totally new and different light? Well, I was going through some cards last night and came across two guys that were always totally non-descript until I figured out that one of them looks like one of those rubbery, toothless Popeye faces you stick your fingertips in and manipulate. The player’s name is Bruce Bochy, and his is a face that sunk a thousand ships.

The other player is Bruce Bochte, who, with his killer aviator eyeglasses, is either Dave Collins’ alter ego that Topps thought would be fun to create or he’s Stephen King’s illegitimate brother. Anyway, he’s pretty much normal looking and there’s really not much of a connection between the two players, though yes, their names are almost identical, which is definitely kind of funny.

The real reason I wanted to write about this was because on the back of Bochte’s card it says he did not play in 1983, and this coming off four decent campaigns with the bottom-feeder Mariners. (By the way, didn’t you love the way the early Topps cards worded player notes on the backs of cards? I really like the use of the word ‘campaign.’ I’m going to start using it at work and in my daily home life. But anyway…) It’s almost as if Bochte got sick of frittering away his youth earning hundreds of thousands of dollars as a not really even half-way decent star of a glorified double A team and tried his hand at something else for a year.

What do you suppose he did? Peter Gammons, in his fantastic Beyond the Sixth Game, uses the descriptive term ‘plumbing executive’ on more than one occasion to describe players’ off-season occupations, but that doesn’t seem glamorous enough for Bochte. Maybe he was a chimney sweep (though his card lists him at 6’3”, so his campaign as a chimney sweep probably ended badly), or fed penguins at the zoo or joined the WCW under the alias ‘Cujo’ after his illegitimate brother’s famous book, or maybe he wrote a syndicated gossip column or drove a school bus. And then every day nervous fathers and mothers would pause just one extra second at the bus stop, their hands firmly clutching the shoulders of their sons and daughters, trying to pass a little parental warmth and love to their unwitting children heading off to school in the bus driven by Cujo, that old WCW wrestler who looks just enough like Stephen King that it’s totally creepy.


Bill D said...

When I was eleven, I lived near Rochester New York and attended a game between the Rochester Red Wings and the Tidewater Tides. Boche was playing with the Tides and I recognized him from having his baseball card when he was with the Astros.

My parents used to let me hang around after the games and get the players' autographs and I recognized Boche when he came out. I ran over to him and called out "Mr. Boche," and he looked surprised that I recognized him. After getting his autograph, I said, "You used to play for the Astros, didn't you?" He said that he did and asked how I knew that. We started talking and I asked him about catching for Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard, and Joe Niekro. He sat there for about ten or fifteen minutes and talked about calling a game for each of them as well as a few others. One of the greatest thrills of my childhood. I always pull for the Padres to do well now that he has become manager because he had been such a good gut that day.

Evan Kessler said...

You know, I had both of those cards and still thought they were interchangeable people. Like if you were to tell me you had opened a pack of 87 Topps to find Bruce Bochte staring you in the face I would've assumed it was Bruce Bochy and vice versa. I didn't believe that two people with such similar names could be playing in the same league at the same time. It was like whichever one I was currently looking at cancelled out the other's existence. Which one ended up being a manager? My money's on Bruce Bochte, or wait maybe that was Bruce Bochy

Anonymous said...

Given I've never met a person named Bochte or Bochy in my entire life, it seems fairly amazing that there were two guys with the same first name and nearly the same last name in the majors simulataneously...

Which makes the fact that this occured two years in a row even more insane....Billy Beane and Bill Bene were both in 86 Donruss set (I think).

I believe Bene who later announced he is gay is wearing a navy blue shirt and has a mustache.

The other guy is just an overrated prick that wouldn't let Rickey Henderson retire in an Oakland uniform.

Eric B. said...

I always thought that Bruce Bochy looked like Pops Racer (you know, Speed's dad from the cartoon). D'oh!