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League of his own

Padres manager's hat size bigger than his ego

Posted: Thursday September 7, 2006 4:49PM; Updated: Thursday September 7, 2006 4:49PM
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Dear Professor Endgame,

My brother says all big-name sports figures are egomaniacs. Of all the ones you've run across, who has the biggest head?
-- Guido Anselmi, Ft. Debbie, Mont.

Dear Guido,

Bruce Bochy has managed the Padres since 1995.
Bruce Bochy has managed the Padres since 1995.
Robert Beck/SI

I've never met a bigger head case than Bruce Bochy, the San Diego Padres manager. But just because Bochy has the biggest, if not necessarily the thickest, skull in the big leagues doesn't mean his ego is swollen. Buckethead, as he is known, is an amiable, good-natured fellow who just happens to wear a size 8-plus cap, a half-dozen sizes larger than the average 7 3/8. His noggin is more than two feet around, an inch or so smaller than your average Halloween pumpkin. Indeed, the main difference between a pumpkin and Bochy's head is that nobody has ever tried to make the latter into a pie.

Bochy first realized his melon was larger than most in high school, when he had to custom-order his caps. One day, while out fishing, his buddy landed a big one: Bochy. The multi-barbed hook had pierced Bochy's cap and imbedded in his scalp. In the emergency room, a doctor told him he would have to cut the hat off his head.

"You can't destroy my hat!" protested Bochy. "It's the only one I've got."

Throughout his 14 years as a catcher in organized ball, Bochy wore the same batting and catching helmets. "I had to," he says. "None of the teams I played for carried my size." Both helmets were specially made in 1975, his first year in A ball with the Covington Astros. The batting lid was so huge that when he made a game-winning hit late in the '86 season, his Padres teammates celebrated by filling it with ice and a six-pack.

"Whenever I got traded or played winter ball, my first priority was always to pack up my helmets," he says. "And before I arrived, I'd usually have to paint them."

Bochy is the Earl Schieb of baseball. Each of his helmets have changed colors more than a dozen times. "When I first got them in '75, they were Astros orange," he recalls. "They turned blue when I moved up to Columbus in '76, then back to orange later that summer when I got shipped to Dubuque. They stayed orange until '78, when I got sent back to Columbus. But midway through the season I made the big club in Houston, and they went from blue to orange. I played winter ball in Venezuela, where I had to paint them red.

"I added a coat of orange before the '79 season with Houston, and a coat of red before the next winter ball season, then two more coats -- orange and red -- in '80, a coat of blue when I went over to the Mets organization in '81, coats of red and brown when I came to San Diego in '83, and, finally, blue again in '90 when I played for the Orlando Juice in the Senior League. I'm not exactly sure where the helmets are now, but wherever they are, they've gotta be blue."