Mariner of the Day: Bruce Bochte

DMZ · January 14, 2008 at 6:17 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Bruce Bochte was a Mariner for the 1978-1982 seasons, when the team went a combines 302-453 and generally stunk up the place. Bochte did as much as he could, though:

In 1979, after a unimpressive first year with the team, he led the Mariners in batting average (.316, 10th in the AL, OBP, SLG, extra-base hits (and sacrifice flies and GIDP). He represented the Mariners in the 1979 All-Star game, played at the Kingdome (brand new and spiffy). About 59,000 people went, and in the bottom half of the sixth they started to chant for Bochte to pinch-hit, and Bob Lemon, managing the AL team, obliged, hitting a single off Gaylord Perry to put the AL ahead and bring joy to the heart of already-oppressed Mariner fans.

It was a rare thrill that year: mid-week, the team was frequently drawing only a few thousand fans despite still having that new-team smell.

Bochte had another good season in 1980. Then in 1981 he didn’t hit well in the strike-that canceled over a third of the season (“Year of the Messed-Up Playoffs”). In 1982, he returned to form and let the team in batting average, OBP, hits, and walks — his .380 OBP was ninth in the AL.

At which point he disappeared for a year. Didn’t play at all in 1983. Just walked off. If you don’t believe me, check out his Baseball-Reference card. At the time, he didn’t say anything about it. Baseball Library offers this:

After hitting .297 in ’82, he abruptly retired, explaining, “I was the Mariners’ player rep for three years and became aware of a cold, impersonal attitude on the part of management, and wanted no part of that.”

The quote’s unsourced, though, so I’m not sure how much stock to put in it.
A year later, he signed with the A’s and played there for a few years.

And what’s he doing now? I refer you to this fine Jim Moore article from July 10, 2001:

For the past decade, Bochte has worked at the Center for the Story of the Universe, a research affiliate of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, which emphasizes higher education for the mind, body and spirit.

Center for the Story of the Universe site.

He studies cosmology, focusing on the origin and evolutionary dynamics of the universe.

He’s also done work with the Bay Institute, as Moore noted, as well as other Bay-area charities.

But check out his cards. He’s a man of expression.

From this ebay auction:

Then in 1982, you get this, which makes him appear like he’s only got one nostril and is missing half his head:

Or check out this one:

And late in his career with Oakland, this classic pic from his 1987 card:

I love those glasses.

Comments

45 Responses to “Mariner of the Day: Bruce Bochte”

  1. Grizz on January 14th, 2008 6:52 pm

    Yeah Bruce Bochte. I remembered that hit too — my grandma had the extended family over for a barbecue. By the time Bochte came up, I was the only left inside the house actually watching the game, which was probably good because I went nuts like the M’s won the World Series.

  2. Dave in Palo Alto on January 14th, 2008 6:54 pm

    Nice piece, Derek.

    I was at the Dome when Bochte hit his little dribbler up the middle. I’ve seen both Seattle All-Star games. Do I get a pin or something?

    Bochte was a rare free agent signing by the Mariners of that era. He was slug slow, and in a sense took advantage of that by occasionally lying down a bunt to astonished third basemen.

    He nust have had a streak of cool guy/hippie. I had thought that he left the Mariners to be part of some type of eco-commune. Apparently he kept at it longer than most. Good for him!

  3. mkale on January 14th, 2008 7:19 pm

    Great post, Derek. It’s nice to dig up fun pieces of M’s history (amid the current streak of bad news). Thanks!

  4. Mr. Egaas on January 14th, 2008 7:59 pm

    Why do I get the feeling a few of the posts in the last week were sponsored by Anchor Steam?

  5. milendriel on January 14th, 2008 8:06 pm

    4- Might be because of sentences like this: “About 59,000 people went, and in the bottom half of the sixth they started to chant for Bochte to pinch-hit, and Bob Lemon, managing the AL team, obliged, hitting a single off Gaylord Perry to put the AL ahead and bring joy to the heart of already-oppressed Mariner fans.”

    I didn’t know Bob Lemon had a hit in that game!

  6. TumwaterMike on January 14th, 2008 8:06 pm

    Bochte was one of my favorites at the time. I was really bummed when he left.

  7. DMZ on January 14th, 2008 8:13 pm

    Oh cut me some slack.

  8. Jim Thomsen on January 14th, 2008 8:16 pm

    On top of being an interesting and thoughtful person, Bochte was a pretty decent player, too. He had good plate discipline (.360 career OBP, 653 career walks, 662 Ks), got his fair share of doubles despite generally low slugging percentages, and, as I recall, not much of a platoon split. He was pretty agile for his size, ran the bases well and played an above-average first base.

    I was at a 1979 game when the M’s whipped up on the Yankees — defending World Champions — 16-1. Bochte had a huge game, with seven or eight RBI.

    I was developing a real taste for geeky tweener players at the time — I was the only kid whose favorite player was Brian Downing — and Bochte fit in for me with those half-great guys like Lee Mazzilli and Steve Kemp and Jason Thompson and Bill Russell and Andre Thornton and Warren Cromartie and Lee Lacy and Joe Rudi.

  9. Jim Thomsen on January 14th, 2008 8:22 pm

    As far as why Bochte walked away, I remember that Bill James wrote a long essay about it in either the 1984 or 1985 Baseball Abstract. I’ll dig it up out of the garage and see if it sheds any new light on Bochte’s thinking at the time.

  10. DMZ on January 14th, 2008 8:24 pm

    If I remember, James was more baffled that Bochte just walked, given his performance and status, since most players retire because they’re forced to. I think he talks about plumbing.

  11. xxtinynickxx on January 14th, 2008 8:54 pm

    Bruce Almighty was one of my favs to watch when i was 6. I can still remember him because many anouncers could not pronounce his last name.

  12. MedicineHat on January 14th, 2008 9:03 pm

    I was nine years old and had tox to that All-Star game…but my grandpa guy stuck at work and couldn’t take me. I still ahve the unused tickets in my memorabilia room.

  13. MedicineHat on January 14th, 2008 9:15 pm

    Bochte also May, or may not, have coined the term “mendoza line” depending on who you believe…

    from Al Pepper at: http://members.tripod.com/~alpepper/mendozaline.html

    ETY Coinage of the term has been credited to George Brett, who has quoted: “The first thing I look for in the Sunday papers is who is below the Mendoza line” (Glen Waggoner & Robert Sklars, Rotisserie League Baseball, 1987. But according to Sports Illustrated (Aug. 20, 1990), the term was coined by Tom Paciorek or Bruce Bochte; broadcaster Mel Proctor (Home Team Sports telecast, Apr. 25, 1996) said Mendoza, while playing for Seattle (1979- 80) was hitting above and below .200 and that teammates Paciorek & Bochte commented on that fact in the interview, and later Brett picked up on it and used the term.

  14. joealb on January 14th, 2008 10:27 pm

    Derek, I’ll cut you some slack when you cut us some slack…. Mr Shlick’s beer! (I bet you don’t remember that one.) Seriously, Thanks for the good memories. Bochte is still one of my favorite M’s. How about a piece on Julio Cruz?

  15. msb on January 15th, 2008 7:57 am

    well, one thing the cards show– he is obviously a deep thinker.

  16. Jimmie the Geek on January 15th, 2008 8:13 am

    From Wikipedia:

    Not to be confused with Bruce Bochy, a former Major League Baseball player and current manager of the San Francisco Giants.

    I admit I did just that.

    Jimmie

  17. Mike Snow on January 15th, 2008 8:31 am

    “already-oppressed Mariner fans”

    True enough – oppressed before the team ever arrived, in fact, and then their oppressor went on to become commissioner of baseball.

  18. Jim Thomsen on January 15th, 2008 8:43 am

    Other Tweener All-Stars of the period included Terry Puhl, Gary Ward, Rance Mulliniks, John Castino, Bruce Benedict, Dave Bergman, Bob Bailor, Ray Knight, Ken Oberkfell, Joe Lefebvre, Larry Herndon and John Lowenstein. There’s probably lots others I’m not thinking of.

    Their patron saint was Bobby Grich.

    Oh, and if you wonder how a team full of Bruce Bochte-level players would do, look no further than the 1984 Cleveland Indians:

    C: Jerry Willard, Chris Bando
    1B: Mike Hargrove
    2B: Tony Bernazard
    SS: Julio Franco
    3B: Brook Jacoby
    OF: George Vukovich, Brett Butler, Pat Tabler
    DH: Andre Thornton

    Hargrove, hitting .267 with 2 HRs near the end of his career, was awful. Butler and Franco were great players. Joe Carter and Mel Hall came up in mid-season to take over two outfield spots. Everybody else, at the time, was neither good nor bad.

    The rotation was led by Bert Blyleven, having a usual brilliant season, and also included Neal Heaton and Rick Sutcliffe. Only Blyleven was any good.

    The bullpen, led by closer Ernie Camacho, was pretty good.

    Feel free to draw whatever present-day parallels you like.

  19. Carson on January 15th, 2008 9:20 am

    18 – Kind of weird to think that one of those guys, grey and fat, managed the Mariners last year. While, another (also grey), was still playing.

  20. Pete Livengood on January 15th, 2008 9:31 am

    I owned glasses like that in the mid to late 80s.

    “He’s a man of expression.”

    ROFLMFAO. An over-used “phrase” in the age of “the Internets” but very appropriate here.

  21. Pete Livengood on January 15th, 2008 9:37 am

    Jim Thomsen wrote:

    “Other Tweener All-Stars of the period included…Gary Ward….

    Whose son, Daryl, has never been accused of being a “‘tweener” in any shape or form of the word.

  22. Grizz on January 15th, 2008 9:40 am

    Come on, Jim. Bobby Grich, while not in Joe Morgan’s class, was one of the elite 2B of his era and a borderline Hall of Fame candidate.

  23. msb on January 15th, 2008 9:43 am

    I have friends who spent many an hour trying to log (as it were) the Bochte ‘spits per game’ ratio. They lost count when it approached the 400 mark several times.

  24. Pete Livengood on January 15th, 2008 9:50 am

    Good to know you are the go-to gal for spit-rate, msb. :)

  25. The Ghost of Spike Owen on January 15th, 2008 10:15 am

    My dad and grandpa went to the ’79 All-Star game. Chance for the PNW to show off our beautiful kingdome to the nation. Nice. Proud day for Seattle baseball.

  26. Dan Evensen on January 15th, 2008 10:34 am

    Jim, see pages 233-234 of the 1985 Bill James Abstract. Bill noted a number of players who took a year off in the middle of their career, specifically noting just how bad their performance was after the break.

    “Bochte said late in or after the 1984 season that he was surprised at how much he had lost by missing a season. This seems to be the almost unanimous experience of players[.]”

    Not sure if that answers the question at hand, however. Maybe it’s time to search around at Paper of Record.

  27. smb on January 15th, 2008 11:00 am

    You had me at Rance Muliniks.

  28. msb on January 15th, 2008 11:12 am

    turns out Finnigan also had a column about Bochte that year

  29. msb on January 15th, 2008 11:48 am

    After hitting .297 in ‘82, he abruptly retired, explaining, “I was the Mariners’ player rep for three years and became aware of a cold, impersonal attitude on the part of management, and wanted no part of that.”

    Bochte mentions Agyros in the Finnigan piece….

  30. Ralph_Malph on January 15th, 2008 11:59 am

    While Bochte might have run well (#8) in 1979, a few years later he was painfully slow. He had these big long legs that flailed around as he ran but he didn’t go anywhere.

    But he was a pretty good hitter.

    There was a point in the early 80′s when he played some LF, after his speed was gone, and he’d make Ibanez look like Ichiro out there. There were some games when the OF was Bochte in LF, Paciorek in CF, and Jeff Burroughs in RF. 3 statues.

    Those were the days.

    My recollection was that walked away from baseball to run a tomato farm on Whidbey Island. But I may be hallucinating that.

  31. msb on January 15th, 2008 12:28 pm

    #30– see the Finnigan piece

  32. _David_ on January 15th, 2008 12:58 pm

    This is the wrong place to ask this, but [then why did you ask it?]

  33. Jeff Nye on January 15th, 2008 1:07 pm

    [ot!]

  34. msb on January 15th, 2008 1:25 pm

    [ot!]

  35. DMZ on January 15th, 2008 1:33 pm

    No respect, even Bochte’s comments get hijacked.

  36. msb on January 15th, 2008 1:40 pm

    um, the Blessed Bochte?

  37. Grizz on January 15th, 2008 1:41 pm

    Derek, there is great potential for a Bruce Bochte book, regardless of whether you write it fiction or nonfiction.

  38. Jeff Nye on January 15th, 2008 1:49 pm

    Oops, I didn’t even notice which thread I was posting in!

  39. galaxieboi on January 15th, 2008 3:33 pm

    Nice Derek. Can we expect more ‘player profiles’? Lesser known M’s of yesteryear perhaps?

  40. et_blankenship on January 15th, 2008 5:05 pm

    Each passing hour the USSM is adorned with the perplexing figurehead of Bruce Botche is an hour of safe passage, free of despair.

    By the way, who knew Bruce Botche’s mug was so versatile?
    Picture #1: Dale Murphy.
    Picture #2: Not sure, but it’s frightening.
    Picture #3: Beau Bridges.
    Picture #4: A carp dressed like Rick Honeycutt for Halloween.

  41. Thom Jimsen on January 15th, 2008 5:36 pm

    I think the last picture looks like Billy Bob Thornton.

  42. shemberry on January 15th, 2008 5:54 pm

    DMZ,

    I really enjoyed this post and agree that Bochte looked a lot like Dale Murphy, something I hadn’t noticed before. Along the lines of this post, if you were going to put together the best team you could, using only Mariners past and present in their appropriate roles(so no Jay Buhner as a 4th OF, or Mark Langston as a set up man for example), who would you have? I think it would be fun to see.

  43. joser on January 15th, 2008 5:58 pm

    How about a piece on Julio Cruz? [close your tags!]

    Heck, ya. My favorite player back when I was young enough to have arbitrary favorite players. I remember this game when Cruz (pinch running for Bruce Bochte!) scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the 14th inning. I also remember him in the thick of another game when the team was down by like four or five runs and everybody got up to leave, only to have the M’s mount a furious comeback (or, more likely, the opposing bullpen imploded) in the bottom of the 9th and win in front of about a dozen people while everyone else listened in the Kingdome parking lot. I wish I could find my original trident M’s cap; I’d track down Cruz when he’s doing a spanish broadcast and get him to autograph it on behalf of my 12-year-old self.

    (Boy, looking up those games in the early years on Retrosheet shows they lost a lot of extra inning games. Even the ones they won often only went to extra innings because they gave up the tying run or runs in the 9th. I wasn’t too cognizant of pitching in those days but clearly their bullpen featured more “openers” than closers).

  44. gps on January 15th, 2008 6:15 pm

    Our nickname for Bochte was “The Iguana,” based both on the look and the blinding speed.

  45. firova2 on January 16th, 2008 9:32 am

    Bochte was certainly a child of the 1970s. He was Barry Zito way before yoga and organic foods became a marketing angle. I’ll always have Dave Niehaus’s double play call in my head, because (insert shortstop)-to Cruz-to BOCHTE–the double play!” just worked perfectly. In the gloom of those years, these were nuggets.

    That 1979 team was actually quite entertaining on a daily basis, what with people like Bochte, Cruz, Ruppert Jones, and Mr. Willie Horton on hand. Couldn’t pitch for anything, but it wasn’t a bad hitting team at all.

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