Saturday, February 21, 2009
Me and Ed
How many of you actually know a current or former major league player? Or aside from autograph sessions or fan conventions, how many of you have had an actual conversation with a player?
I think it would be fair to say that most of us have had none or very limited contact with a player. Allow me to tell you about my pal, Ed.
Well, pal is probably too strong a word. But I have talked with one former player, Ed Bouchee.
He had a short career with the Cubs, but he did end up putting down roots in the Chicago suburbs. The page from the Cubs 1961 roster book lists Des Plaines, Illinois as his hometown. In the mid-'90's he was still in Des Plaines. So was I.
I was teacher and athletic director at a small Lutheran school in Des Plaines. As AD, one of my jobs was to arrange referees for our basketball games. The ref association we used was mainly older guys who couldn't keep up with the high school game any more, but they still wanted to work. So they did elementary school games. Not as high profile as the high school games, and not as high paying either, but it gave them some exercise and some cash.
One of the refs assigned to do several of our games was none other than Ed Bouchee. It has been 30 years since he played in the big leagues, and he was not in his playing condition. In fact, he was a kind of big guy. He didn't move too well, either. But there he was, in our gym, officiating our games.
He wasn't the greatest ref, but he would always loudly explain his calls to the players and the fans. He seemed like a nice-enough guy and he wanted to make sure the kids understood what they did wrong. He would blow his whistle, signal traveling with his arms, and then shout out something like "Whoa, you can't take that many steps, son. You've got to put the ball on the floor!" It was pretty entertaining.
We would make small talk before games, but I never got up the nerve to talk much baseball with him. I guess I didn't want to come across as a pushy fan or stalker type.
As a player, Ed Bouchee got off to a great start with the Phillies in 1957. He hit .293 with 17 home runs and 76 RBI's. That was good enough to finish second in the rookie of the year voting. Unfortunately, he never matched those numbers again. He was traded to the Cubs in May of 1960. The Mets drafted him from the Cubs in the expansion draft prior to the 1962 season, but he only 19 games with the Mets before being released and out of baseball. Remember, that '62 Mets team lost 120 games, so if you get cut from them, you should be done.
As I was researching Ed for this post, I game across something that was somewhat disturbing, especially considering that I knew of him through my elementary school. In March of 1958, he was placed on three years probation as result of a guilty plea to two counts of indecent exposure involving children. He would receive treatment for what a psychiatrist called "compulsive exhibitionism." Yuk! He was suspended from baseball for part of the 1958 season, but was allowed back in July. Topps also pulled his card from the 1958 set.
This is from the Sporting News, March 12, 1958. You may want to click on the picture to get a larger view of it.
So that is the story of me and Ed. Its not a real flashy story, but it is a flasher story.