SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – There’d been a period in his life when Bruce Bochy did not obsess over winning a World Series.
Bochy believed his time would come too, when he would have – and mold – the team that wasn’t going to lose.
But a decade passed, and another began.
Soon he’d played a dozen professional seasons, managed 19, and turned 55. What he had to show for it was a National League championship ring, a second-place ring he couldn’t bear to wear, and a career in which the end was a whole lot closer than the beginning.
From somewhere in him, he began to envy the men who were winning. Tony La Russa won, Joe Torre won, Terry Francona won, Jim Leyland won.
But not Bochy. When?, he wondered. And how?
Once, he’d actually said it aloud, confiding in his general manager, Brian Sabean, “I really want one more chance to get to a World Series.”
One more. Not to win it, but to get to it, then see if he could win it.
He considered the career of Gene Mauch, who’d managed 26 seasons, and wondered if Mauch didn’t suffer the same ache of jealousy. Mauch was a capable manager whose failing was an inability to coordinate time and place amid the game’s continuum.
“The last thing I wanted was to look back and say, ‘You know what, I never won a World Series,’ ” he says. “It’s been on my mind for a few years.
“I just wanted one more opportunity so it wouldn’t be a one-shot deal. To never have a ring as a player or a manager, that was weighing on me.”
We’re waiting on steaks at a place on Scottsdale Road on Saturday night, two days before his San Francisco Giants begin reporting to defend their championship.
He’s talking about his dad, the Army officer, who one morning 20 years back was packing to come see Bruce when he died of a heart attack. Bochy’s mom died a few years ago. He’s talking about his son, Brett, a pitcher in the Giants organization who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. And about his Brevard County, Florida junior college, which this winter named its ballpark after him.
“A really humbling experience,” he says. “An emotional day.”
His life has been leaning in that direction for several months, since the night in Arlington, Texas when they – 25 players Bochy liked to call “The Dirty Dozen,” the coaching staff, the management team, and the extended family of Giants fans – won themselves.
Major league managers whose sons are players in the same organization:
|Jim Leyland, Tigers||Pat||C|
|Ron Gardenhire, Twins||Toby||IF|
|Jim Tracy, Rockies||Mark||1B|
|Bruce Bochy, Giants||Brett||P|
Major league managers whose sons are players in other organizations:
|Don Mattingly, Dodgers||Preston||OF||Indians|
|John Farrell, Blue Jays||Jeremy||3B||Pirates|
|Brad Mills, Astros||Beau||1B||Indians|
A decent man who ducks behind unexpressive eyes and a voice that comes at you at a low rumble, like a distant rock slide, Bochy’s demeanor goes a little wispy when he thinks of those guys, of the seven-month crawl toward a championship, of searching for his wife – Kim – in the immediate aftermath, and of the near-crippling stress of the final four weeks.
The pressure was so great, Bochy says, he’d kill the late nights and early mornings by watching The Military Channel, which features such airy shows as “GI Factory,” “Satellite Shootdown,” “World War II in Color: The Soviet Steamroller” and “Weapon Masters.”
“I had to get my mind off it and see what pressure really is,” he says. “I had to relax and these military guys do such incredible jobs. The decisions they make, I mean, what we do is not life or death. It’s baseball.”
While he was reminding himself of that between episodes of “What Really Happened to Rommel,” the Giants kept winning. In spite of a weak (yet resilient) offense, and a slow (yet unexposed) defense, all of which clung to a spectacularly capable pitching staff, Bochy became sure they could keep on winning. Maybe he convinced them of it, maybe they convinced him, but they arrived in the same place at about the same time, as determined a cast as had ever jumped in on baseball’s continuum.
Bochy began saving the lineup cards from the clinchers, first from the regular-season finale against the San Diego Padres, then from the division series against the Atlanta Braves, the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies and the World Series against the Texas Rangers. They are framed on a wall in his house, an exception for the man whose collection of memorabilia pretty much had begun and ended with the ring he wouldn’t wear. And as he was looking them over, considering how long he’d waited and how difficult the task, he thought of two commonalities: The names on those cards and the number of runs they scored – and made hold up – in each of those games. Three.
“It always comes down to whether you believe in yourself or not,” he says. “They wanted it so badly. They were such a unique group, unlike any I’d ever been around. They just knew it.”
Now, everyone does. And while it’s almost time to start over, Bochy was happy to spend a few more hours not on what’s ahead, but what’s changed.
“Oh,” he says, “it feels a lot different. It’s got to. I don’t want to say it’s a relief, but it has been on my mind. I mean, if it hadn’t happened, I would have been thankful for everything, for as long as I was able to do it. I know how fortunate I am. But, it would have felt incomplete.”
The truth is, he adds with a smile, now that he’s been granted that one last shot, he wouldn’t mind one more.
- Bruce Bochy
- Jim Leyland