Bruce Bochte 1980 Kellogg’s 3-D Super Stars – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 22, 2017

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Ever get sick of trying to explain what you are doing to friends you haven’t seen in a long long time? I guess it is less of a problem now with social media and everything. But more than once in my life I have been in a situation where an awkward conversation starts with someone I haven’t seen in a decade.

The question “What are you up to?” is brought up and I would feel the need to crawl into the fetal position.

Former Mariners All Star Bruce Bochte evidently feels that way about Seattle and their fans. At least for a while he would decline the chance to join reunions because he was tired of being asked the question “What are you up to?”

Now let me get one thing out of the way. His name is pronounced “BOCK-TEE.” It sure looked to me like there was a Bruce Bochy and a Bruce Bochte playing at the same time with the same pronunciation, but they were different.

The graduate of Santa Clare University was picked 34th over all in the 1972 draft by the Angels. The left handed hitting first baseman shot through the Angels system and made it to the big leagues in 1974.

He was a solid hitter with California, hitting for a .285 average and a .738 OPS in 1975. He didn’t have much power nor speed but held his own with the bat.

In 1977, he was traded to Cleveland and batted .304 in 112 games. At the end of the season, he tried out the brand new free agency route and found himself joining the Seattle Mariners in their second year of existence.

In 1978, Bochte hit a career high 11 homers and remained a solid contact hitter. Then in 1979, as this Kellogg’s 3-D card would denote, he took it to the next level.

He homered and drove in 2 runs on opening day 1979 against his former team, the Angels. Later that week he homered again against Oakland (a team he would eventually play for.)

Bochte had a .941 OPS in April, but nobody knew that then. He did bat .342 for the month, which raised some eyebrows.

He kept his production up in May, batting .352 with 3 more homers and a .973 OPS. By comparison, June was mild, slashing .330/.370/.477. He had 9 homers by the end of June, just 2 behind his career high. On July 13th, he matched his career high with his 11th homer in a 16-1 win against the 2 time defending World Champion Yankees.

At the All Star Game in the Seattle Kingdome, Bochte was the Mariners’ representative. He got a warm hand and in the game drove in a run against defending Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry.

He would finish the season batting .316 with 16 homers and an eye popping 100 RBI. He became a fan favorite for a Seattle fan base that didn’t have much else to cheer for.

He remained consistent for double digit homers and a decent average before injuries erased his 1983 season. He would find his way to Oakland and managed one more good season in 1985 before ending his career after the 1986 season.

After he left baseball, he focused on bigger topics, like the universe.

No really.

An environmentally conscious person while a player, he donated his time and effort to ecological causes and read about astronomy and nature.

In his post baseball life, he began to understand man’s relationship to the cosmos and frankly shares many of my own thoughts on the origin of life and purpose.

He has worked with the Bay Institute of San Francisco to help preserve Northern California baylands. He has also contributed to the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and has stressed the concept of healthy living, physically and spiritually.

He is careful to not be labeled as a flake or some kind of hippie. Bochte is interested in the science of the natural world. His wife is the director of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. (Wasn’t that from Star Trek 4?)

But according to this Seattle Post Intelligencer article written by Jim Moore, he has kept an arm’s distance from baseball. He turned down the chance to join the Mariners in a All Star Game reunion in 2001. One reason? He didn’t want to keep explaining what he was up to.

Baseball is a chapter in his life. For some, reaching the level of Major League All Star would be an achievement that would mean the world to them.

Perhaps it does for Bochte. But he is thinking about something a little bigger than just the world now.

Mike Campbell 1988 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 5, 2017

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Clearly this is not the came Mike Campbell from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

This 1988 Topps Card proudly proclaims Mike Campbell as a future star for the Seattle Mariners. On a team that included a lot of young talent like Mike Moore, Mark Langston, Jim Presley and Alvin Davis, a solid young pitcher looked like he was going to be a key member to a growing team.

He would eventually make his mark in Seattle.. and he would do so with frozen treats.

Bear with me.

Campbell was a native of Seattle and went to high school in Bellevue Washington. He looked like he was going to be a local hero for sure when the Mariners drafted him out of the University of Hawaii with the 7th overall pick in the 1985 draft.

The player picked right before him? Barry Bonds. FYI, Rafael Palmeiro, Walt Weiss, Gregg Jefferies and Randy Johnson were all still available in that draft.

At age 22, he won 9 of 10 decisions in Double A Chattanooga. In 1987, he went 15-2 in Triple A Calgary and earned a call up to the majors and was looked upon as one of the bright prospects in the game.

With Dick Williams still managing the Mariners and the team flirting with contention in a weak AL West from the year before, there was some hope in Seattle. Their lineup had power and speed. Langston, Moore, Billy Swift and Scott Bankhead were all considered to be talented pitchers. And Mike Campbell was about to step in and make his mark on the emerging Seattle squad.

Early on, the returns were pretty good for Campbell. He threw a pair of complete games in Apriil and pitched into the 8th three other times through May.

But he would also get clubbed as well. There did not seem to be much of a middle ground. He had several terrific starts through mid June. And yet his ERA was 5.88, reflecting the others games he pitched were total blow outs.

He finished his first full season in the majors with a 6-10 record and a 5.89 ERA.

Injuries and ineffectiveness kept him to only 5 big league starts in 1989. By the end of the year, he was sent packing to Montreal in a deal that involved two of the biggest pitcher names in Seattle Mariners history. He joined Mark Langston heading to Quebec as a group of pitchers including Randy Johnson arrived in Seattle.

He never pitched as an Expo. Between 1989 and 1996, Campbell appeared in 4 games total. He made a relief appearance with the 1992 Rangers and started two games and relieved another for the 1994 San Diego Padres. Tendinitis and multiple surgeries sidelined his can’t miss career.

In 1996, 32 year old Campbell made it back to the majors, making 13 appearances with the Chicago Cubs.

His first Cubs start on June 11, 1996, he threw 7 innings and allowed just 2 runs to earn the win. He won his second start as well. But things went downhill from there. In his final appearance, he didn’t last 4 innings in the second game of a double header against the Pirates.

After bouncing around between independent leagues and Japan, his playing career was over.

Then he made his triumphant return to Seattle.

Joining his fellow Washingtonian and former minor league pitcher Steve Towey, they began to sell something called Shiskaberry’s.

Basically they are fruit on a stick covered in chocolate and other flavors. They began selling them in Seattle and ultimately worked a concession stand at Safeco Field.

A hit in the stadium, they were even featured in the Jumbo Tron videos between videos.

No doubt Mike Campbell had images of making big at Mariners games on the mound, not selling stuff called “Berry Bonds” and “Berry White.”

But hey, give him credit for turning what could have been a sour situation into something very very sweet.

Jim Presley 1986 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 20, 2017

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I have never stepped foot in the city of Seattle and yet I have a huge spot in my heart for the Seattle Mariners.

There is no rhyme nor reason for it. I just have always wanted the Mariners to put a winning product on the field. As of this writing, they remain the only current Major League city to have never hosted a World Series. (Washington DC hosted the 1924, 1925 and 1933 World Series when the Senators were the team.)

Over the years, they have had superstars in their prime like Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez. But I have been pulling for them long before that.

I loved the trident hats, with or without the star, and in the mid 1980’s they looked like they were finally putting together a winner. And one of the keys was third baseman Jim Presley.

With a last name like Presley, it is no secret to why he was called “Hound Dog.” He was drafted as a high school player from Pensacola Florida in the 4th round of the 1979 draft by the Mariners.

He initially struggled but by 1982, earned his way to AA. In 1984, he was in Seattle. In his big league debut, he doubled off of future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven. While the Mariners lost that game and lost a lot more games in 1984, they were putting together an interesting squad.

Alvin Davis was the Rookie of the Year. Mark Langston was a stud young hurler. Mike Moore had a world of talent. And piece by piece, the team was assembling a stellar lineup with two budding aces at the top of rotation.

In 1985, Presley asserted himself as one of the top players on the squad, clubbing 28 homers and posting a .808 OPS. The team went nowhere again as neither Langston nor Moore could coordinate their brillant seasons.

1986 started with a bang for Presley. In the bottom of the 9th of opening day, he launched a game tying homer off of Donnie Moore. Then in the bottom of the 10th, with 2 out, he crushed a walk off grand slam against Ken Forsch.

That game set the stage for his All Star season. He would sock 27 homers and drive in 107 runs along the way. And with Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds and Rey Quinones, was part of a young and potentially lethal infield. Throw in the bats of Phil Bradley and Danny Tartabull and Langston and Moore in the rotation and the Mariners looked like they were on to something good.

By the end of the 1986 season, Dick Williams had taken over as manager. Just 2 years prior, he turned the hapless Padres into a pennant winner. He also transformed the Expos into contenders and before that turned around the Red Sox in 1967 before winning back to back titles in Oakland.

In other words, he knew how to turn the fortunes of a team around. And Seattle looked like the next great conquest for the man who would eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Presley held up his end of the bargain with a 24 homer season in 1987. Harold Reynolds led the league with 60 stolen bases, Alvin Davis drove in 100 runs, Phil Bradley still hit the ball well and Seinfeld punchline Ken Phelps hit 27 homers and posted a .959 OPS.

Despite that firepower and a 19 win season from Mark Langston, the Mariners failed to post a winning record in a very winnable AL West.

That was in all probability the best chance for that Mariners squad. Presley’s numbers slipped in 1988 as the A’s took over control of the AL West. In 1989, new names like Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Randy Johnson started emerging in the Pacific Northwest. Martinez eventually pushed Presley out of a job.

After the 1989 season, he was dealt to Atlanta where he played one season, missing the pennants and Division titles that would follow. After a few months with the Padres in 1991, his big league playing career was done.

Over the years, Presley has found life as a coach with both the Marlins and the Orioles. But I will always remember him as one of the very talented Mariners who played on a team that had the players and the right manager but couldn’t put it all together.