Bochy given fond farewell in San Francisco

September 30th, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants went quietly, but Bruce Bochy did not.

A stream of ovations and tributes flowed unabated as Bochy managed the 4,032nd and final game of his 25-year career, a 9-0 loss to the Dodgers in the Giants’ regular-season finale on Sunday afternoon at Oracle Park.

The Giants finished Bochy’s final season in third place in the National League West with a 77-85 record, marking the third consecutive losing year for San Francisco. Still, Bochy’s triumphs will outweigh those leaner years, a sentiment made clear in an emotional farewell ceremony the Giants staged afterward in his honor.

Nearly 50 former Giants players returned to Oracle Park on Sunday to surprise Bochy, who said he was deeply touched by the celebration. The alumni were introduced by eras, beginning with the 2007-’09 Giants and followed by members of the 2010, ‘12 and ‘14 championship teams. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who played for Bochy in San Diego and San Francisco, joined the fray while still wearing his blue cap, prompting Barry Bonds to rip it off and throw it into right field.

Fans saved the loudest ovation for two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who made his first public visit to Oracle Park since 2015. Bochy did his best to contain his emotions throughout the ceremony, but he said the sight of Lincecum nearly put him over the edge.

“I was blown away,” Bochy said. “I was just trying to keep it together. This was as tough a day as I've ever had because you just can't believe that there's that many people that care and made the effort to come out and be part of this.

“I had no idea that this sendoff would be like it was today. They were really quiet about it. And then I’m getting all these ex-players coming out and each one I'm getting emotional about it. So it was an emotional roller coaster going on all day. I just wish we'd played a little better, but besides that, this is a day I'll never forget.”

Bochy, 64, will head into retirement with a 2,003-2,029 record, including 1,052-1,054 with the Giants, but his Hall of Fame credentials have long been burnished. After spending the first 12 years of his career with the Padres, Bochy moved to San Francisco ahead of the 2007 season and helped lead the Giants to three World Series titles in the first five years of this decade.

He is one of 11 managers to record 2,000 wins and one of nine to win three or more championships; the others are enshrined in Cooperstown, where Bochy seems destined to end up. He will be eligible to appear on the Today’s Game Committee ballot in December 2021, setting him up for possible induction in the summer of 2022.

Bochy was joined by his family in the dugout before the game and broke out an old catcher’s mitt to receive his son Brett’s first pitch. The moment echoed one of the highlights of Bochy’s managerial career, when he summoned Brett out of the bullpen for his Major League debut in September 2014.

The Giants honored Bochy with a foghorn salute and played a series of congratulatory messages from current and former Giants during the game, including one from Hall of Famer Willie Mays. The feting continued during the farewell ceremony, with team president and CEO Larry Baer and current and former Giants Jake Peavy, Gregor Blanco, Ryan Vogelsong, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval each toasting Bochy.

“Seeing Boch get emotional throughout the day definitely made it hit home,” Posey said. “I’ve seen him talk a lot, and I’ve never really seen him get emotional before, so obviously, this was a big day for him, to say the least.”

The son of an Army sergeant, Bochy spent parts of nine seasons in the Majors as a backup catcher for the Astros, Mets and Padres. Shortly after his playing career ended in 1987, Bochy secured his first managerial gig with the Rookie-level Spokane Indians and found his true calling.

"I loved it," Bochy said. "I didn't know I would ever get to the Major Leagues. I didn't look at it like that's where I was headed. If I would have stayed in the Minor Leagues as a manager, I probably would have been happy. That's how much I loved it."

In 1995, Bochy received his first opportunity to manage in the Majors with the Padres at age 39. He has known no other job since, becoming only the second man to manage 25 consecutive years in the big leagues after Connie Mack. His longevity is a testament to the universal respect he has engendered over his decorated career in baseball, both for his reputation as a strategist and his affable nature.

Bochy didn't want or expect a farewell tour when he made his retirement plans public, but the gifts poured in as he made his final swings through ballparks across the country. Cases of wine, bourbon, a fly-fishing trip to Montana, a chair from the Fenway Park grandstand and a signed Sandy Koufax jersey were among the many gifts he received. The showings of appreciation often overwhelmed him.

The Giants added a few more gifts to his haul on Sunday, including an Oracle Park home plate that was presented by Madison Bumgarner and a trip to New Zealand. When he finally took the microphone to address the crowd, Bochy had to fight back tears as he expressed his gratitude to all the people who had supported him throughout his career, particularly his family, former Giants general manager and current team executive Brian Sabean, and of course, his players.

“Fellas, you’ve challenged me, you’ve entertained me with your diverse personalities and you’ve made me in awe of your talent,” Bochy said. “Managing you guys has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Thank you for making me a better manager and a better person.”

Bochy concluded his speech by borrowing a line from Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig.

“I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth,” Bochy said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Accompanied by his wife, Kim, Bochy took his final lap around Oracle Park in a vintage convertible, soaking in the applause one final time from the largest home crowd of the season.

While he's stepping away from managing, Bochy plans to remain in baseball in some capacity. He has been asked repeatedly if he really is retiring for good and has affirmed that he is happy with his decision. Bochy’s only immediate plans are to spend the next few days packing up his office before heading off to Napa to finally unplug for a bit.

Bochy had to catch himself when asked what message he would leave for his successor.

“I’d probably leave a note telling him he got the best job in baseball,” Bochy said.