SAN FRANCISCO -- A moment in a reality TV show perfectly illustrated Bruce Bochy's minimal vanity.
After the 2010 Giants became San Francisco's first World Series champs, Showtime tapped them for the 2011 version of its show "The Franchise.'' To allay concerns that the exposure would generate soap-operatic distractions, the Giants and the show's producers stressed that team management would have editorial discretion. Any footage deemed unflattering could be sliced out.
The show turned out to be very tame, devoid of the sharp edges in HBO's NFL counterpart, "Hard Knocks.'' But one awkward scene did get past censors and onto the screen. While managing the All Star Game, Bochy went to the home-plate umpire to make a substitution and said he could barely keep track of all the potential lineup changes, uttering an obscenity to express his exasperation.
The exchange didn't come across as genuinely foolish or terribly vulgar, but an image-conscious manager might have exercised his veto power. Bochy rarely seems aware that he has an image.
As he rode down Market Street this week in the second victory parade in three years, Bochy would have been a prime candidate for ego expansion. It happens to a lot of coaches and managers. A championship taps huge reservoirs of self-importance. Now, after two titles, Bochy might start taking himself seriously.
But if he does, the shift will rank as one of baseball's great upsets.
This is a manager who turned to a hypnotist last year to help him break a decades-long habit of dipping tobacco. Bochy had admitted many times in the past that he felt powerless to beat the addiction on his own. When the hypnosis worked, he eagerly talked about it, without a hint of macho concern about submitting to offbeat treatment.
For years, Bochy routinely ended long nights at AT&T Park by chatting with a semi-homeless man who had become a fixture around the players' parking lot. Billy Chamberlain moved out of town last year, causing some alarm when he suddenly disappeared in the middle of the season. As a search for him took shape, people who worked at the park talked about Bochy's rapport with Chamberlain and the fact that the manager periodically provided him with tickets and helped him get to games in Southern California. Bochy was very reluctant to say he had helped Chamberlain because several other employees had also looked out for him. But he called Chamberlain a friend.
"He would wait for me after the games. It wouldn't matter how late I left here, Billy would be there,'' Bochy said. "He'd say: 'I'm not going home till you come out.' And he'd be here when I walked in."
On large, formal stages, Bochy reins in his personality. But he has one of the sharpest wits in professional sports.
In 2007, his first season with the Giants, Bochy had to oversee Barry Bonds in his disparaged pursuit of Henry Aaron's home-run record and simultaneously introduce 23-year-old Tim Lincecum to the pitching staff. The Bonds drama required a bland calmness from the manager. Lincecum, the Freak, allowed him to have a little more fun. When Lincecum made his first start in the sauna that is late-summer Atlanta, he lost three pounds in two hours. Bochy noted that the loss was considerable on such a lithe frame.
"I mean, for me," he said, "that would be like throwing a suitcase off the Queen Mary."
During the 2010 postseason, Goose Gossage told the San Francisco Chronicle about Bochy's contributions to the offseason hunting trips at Gossage's Colorado ranch. One year, pitcher Ed Whitson got lost on a long walk in the snow, then had to make his way to the highway and find someone he could pay to drive him back. At dinner that night, Gossage said, the group teased Whitson until he angrily left the table.
"The next morning at breakfast, all you can hear is forks hitting plates. No one is talking," Gossage said. "And then Boch all of a sudden says, 'Hey Whit, you got your cab money?' We almost fell out of our chairs."
One of the Giants' great achievements this season was committing to young shortstop Brandon Crawford and never looking back, even as he committed 12 errors in the first third of the season. In that faltering period, Bochy told Crawford very directly that he planned to stay with him. Crawford said he appreciated the backing, especially since he had no doubts about what the manager meant. That isn't always the case.
"I think about half the time he was joking about something, I took him seriously,'' the shortstop said.
He'll get used to it.
Bochy swims for fitness, and he has said he'd like to swim from Alcatraz someday. At times, he has appeared quite interested in the idea. But it's very possible he was kidding.
He's won two World Series, meeting challenges that no other San Francisco baseball manager could. Bochy has nothing to prove now, not in his sport, certainly not in frigid waters shared by sharks. He probably knows it, too, and finds it very amusing.