College roommates are a strange part of people’s lives. I happened to get a good one in Jon Ward. We became friends very quickly when we were at NYU, having similar tastes, senses of humor and love for movies.
Some people struck out and got roommates from hell.
When Steve Buechele went to Stanford in the late 1970’s, he was already an athlete with some attention on him. The White Sox drafted him in 1979 but he decided to go to college instead.
In Palo Alto, he was matched with another potential professional baseball player and one who wound up playing in the Yankee farm system but never made it to the major leagues.
There may have been jealousy from his roommate when the Texas Rangers picked Buechele in the 5th round of the 1982 draft and by 1985 he made it to the major leagues.
Or maybe his roommate didn’t care and his shortcomings in his baseball career would have been healed elsewhere. Buechele’s roommate was John Elway. And while Elway never did make it to the Bronx, it is safe to say he found some success in the NFL.
Buechele became a stead player for a talented Rangers squad that just couldn’t put all the pieces together. Under manager Bobby Valentine, the 1986 Rangers won 87 games with the likes of Scott Fletcher, Pete O’Brien, Oddibe McDowell, Pete Incaviglia and Larry Parrish providing power. Buechele was steady and provided power at third. 20 year old Ruben Sierra looked like a star in the making.
The team had decent if not great pitching as well and contended for a while with the Angels. In 1987, the team slipped and it was a missed opportunity. The 87 wins from the year before would have been enough to win the division and the eventual West champ, Minnesota, went on to win the World Series. Then the A’s under LaRussa took over the West after 1988, taking any Texas chances with them.
Buechele gave the Rangers solid defense and some pop at third as they played out the string in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
In 1991, the Pirates, on the verge of their second straight division title, suddenly had a hole at third base with an injury to Jeff King. The Pirates sent Kurt Miller, the number 5 pick overall in the 1990 draft, plus another minor league pitcher to Texas for Buechele. Suddenly, with a month to play, Buechele found himself in a post season position.
In the thrilling 7 game NLCS against the Braves, Buechele batted .304 with an OPS of .799. He drove in no runs as the Pirates were blanked in Games 6 and 7 at home and came up short of the World Series.
Midway through the 1992 season, he was traded to the Cubs for starter Danny Jackson as Jeff King returned from injury. After a few seasons with the Cubs, he played a handful of games with the 1995 Rangers before retiring.
His post playing days have included being a television commentator, minor league manager and currently on the Texas coaching staff. He also has a son in the Giants organization.
All this makes for an impressive sports life. But not even on his best day could he take the title “Most impressive sports life from his dorm room.”
It is a tough title when John Elway is bunking with you.