#CardCorner: 1980 Topps Bruce Bochy
Here we see a perfect example of this relic, preserved on Bruce Bochy’s 1980 Topps card. As I opened the card packs as a kid, I marveled at these players, seemingly the last man on every team well into the 1980s. Despite appearing in only a handful of games every year, they lived the big league life and were revered for their baseball smarts and guts.
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They were the third-string catchers. And will shall never see their like again.
Bochy’s card is a typical offering of the 1980 Topps set that helped launch the baseball card boom of that decade. The strong head-and-shoulders photo is complemented by the “flag” designs indicating the player’s position and team, with the name in block lettering across the top.
The reverse featured the traditional bio and stats, along with the cartoon info-graphics that had become a Topps staple. For Bochy, those numbers told the tale of a player who would one day become one of the most successful managers in big league history.
Born in Landes de Bussac, France, on April 16, 1955, Bochy was the son of an Army sergeant who took his family around the world on his assignments. Bochy would eventually enroll at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Fla., and was selected by the Astros in the first round of the secondary phase of the June 1975 MLB Draft.
After three-and-a-half seasons in the minors, Bochy made his debut with Houston on July 19, 1978, going 2-for-3 at the plate in a 2-1 loss to the Mets at Shea Stadium. It was the first of three doubleheaders in three days for the Astros, who employed Bochy and Luis Pujols behind the plate for much of the rest of the season following a trade that sent starting catcher Joe Ferguson to the Dodgers on July 1.
Bochy also led the Giants to World Series crowns in 2012 and 2014, becoming just the 10th manager to skipper at least three World Series winners.
Each of the other nine has a plaque in Cooperstown.
Bochy retired following the 2019 season with 2,003 victories, making him the 11th manager in history to reach the 2,000-win mark. His distinctions as a manager could fill up a biography.
And yet, Bochy’s playing career might even be more unique. For while we may again see managers reach the 2,000-win plateau or lead three World Series winners, only a fundamental change in the game will bring us back to an era where guys like Mike Sadek, Bob Montgomery and Johnny Oates were household names among diehard fans.
They may have been third-string, but their legacy is first-rate.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum