Flashback: Biff Pocoroba

So last night, I conducted a little experiment on Twitter.

I tweeted, “I need you to name the first baseball player that comes to your mind. Doesn’t have to be a current player.” And what happened next was kind of amazing.

The first player mentioned was Craig Biggio. My friend Terri who is a lifelong Houston Astros fan named him about 30 seconds after I sent out my tweet. I laughed, appreciating her swift response but he wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

The next four players were Yankees – Derek Jeter, Graig Nettles, Tino Martinez and Bernie Williams – which isn’t shocking because I’m a New York Yankee fan and I follow a lot of Yankee fans. They probably figured they’d be helping me by naming some guys who played in the Bronx but again, it was not what I was looking for.

Then the amazing thing happened. Someone mentioned Biff Pocoroba. I was pretty amused because Pocoroba definitely wasn’t a name I had expected see at all. And then, something even more amazing happened. Just six replies later, another person replied with Pocoroba!

Of all people to be mentioned twice during this sort of exercise, Biff Pocoroba?

That settled it, Biff had to be the subject of this post. So in case you never heard of Mr. Pocoroba, here are some facts:

  • Biff Benedict Pocoroba was born on July 25, 1953 in Burbank California. Yes, Biff is his real name.
  • Pocoroba, a catcher, was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1971 in the 17th round of the amateur draft and made his major league debut on April 25, 1975.
  • He played for the Braves from 1975-1984. During those 10 seasons, he never played more than 113 games in a season, his season high in at bats was 321 and he averaged around 60 games a season. This was to due to an injury he suffered in 1979.
  • 1977 was his best year. He hit .290 with eight home runs, 24 doubles, 44 RBI and had a .394 OBP in 113 games. He also had an OPS+ of 115 and a WAR of 1.8.
  • He tied Tony Perez for 4th in Most Intentional Walks in 1977 – they each had 15 that season. Ted Simmons of St. Louis led the NL with 25.
  • His career line was .257/.339/.351/.690 with 21 home runs and 172 RBI.
  • According to Baseball Reference, Pocoroba was worth 3.0 in oWAR and -0.1 in dWAR and he was -56 in RAA and -6.1 WAA for his career.
  • Pocoroba started as a catcher but thanks to his 1979 rotator cuff injury, he was briefly moved to third base. When that didn’t work out Pocoroba was primarily a pinch hitter/defensive replacement. Another casualty of the rotator cuff injury was Pocoroba’s ability to switch hit. After the injury he batted right handed only.
  • Pocoroba made the All-Star team once, and it was not during his career year of 1977, he was picked by Tommy Lasorda in 1978 because the NL team needed someone to catch his Atlanta teammate Phil Niekro’s knuckleball.
  • He had one postseason at bat, pinch hitting for Niekro in the seventh inning of Game Two of the 1982 NLCS. Unfortunately, he grounded out to second. The Braves were swept in that NLCS by the St. Louis Cardinals who went on to win the World Series that year.
  • Pocoroba played in his final game on April 20, 1984, an 8-7 victory over the Houston Astros. He pinch hit for starting pitcher Ken Dayley in the bottom of the third – Dayley was knocked out of the game after giving up three runs on eight hits in three innings of work. Pocoroba walked and eventually scored on a Dale Murphy home run.

Fun fact: When I Googled Biff Pocoroba, the first three searches that came up were “Biff Pocoroba baseball”, “Biff Pocoroba stats” and “Biff Pocoroba Sausage.” Get your minds out of the gutter, he apparently went on to own a specialty food place called “Sausage World” in Atlanta after he retired.

I must confess, I didn’t recall Biff Pocoroba the player but knew of his name, so this was a fun exercise for me.

And if I had been the one asked to name the first player that came to my mind, I would have answered, “Hensley Meulens.”

What’s yours? You can leave your answers in the comments.

(The answers from last night were: Biggio, Jeter, Williams, Nettles, Martinez, Pocoroba, Mariano Rivera, Ryne Sandberg, Sergio Mitre, Hector Lopez, Danny Tartabull, Yogi Berra, Chase Headley, Billy Hamilton, Ryan Braun, Hal Newhouser, Bob Forsch, John Farrell, Joe DiMaggio, Rod Carew, Razor Shines, Don Mattingly, Allen Craig, Chris Carpenter, Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente, Steve Lombardozzi Sr., and Johnny Damon – As you can see, some were serious answers and some, including the Pocoroba answers, were not.)

Stats from Baseball Reference.

Thanks to Twitter users @rico_ and @2xAught7 for naming Biff Pocoroba.

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e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
8 years ago

It’s always Carl Furillo for me, Stacey. The reflex is too deep seated to change. But on your post-Pocoroba list, Hector Lopez, Hal Newhouser, and Razor Shines particularly made me smile. I am as flummoxed as you at the muiltiple Biff buffs. He does have an excellent baseball name (never knew it was his real one), though Razor Shines is a baseball name so fine that if I hadn’t seen him play (AAA ball), I’d insist he was a work of fiction.

David
David
8 years ago

Biff is right up there with Freddie Patek, Rob Picciolo, and Tom Paciorek as P names that fascinated me as a kid in late 70s and early 80s.

Luis Gomez
Luis Gomez
8 years ago
Reply to  David

I would add Mike Pagliarulo to that list. 🙂

Phil Gaskill
Phil Gaskill
8 years ago
Reply to  Luis Gomez

How about Spike Owen? Poor guy just doesn’t get any love. . . .

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago
Reply to  Phil Gaskill

Owen tied an AL record of six Runs Scored, in his third game with the Boston Red Sox (Aug. 21st, 1986 vs. the Indians/24-5).

Coincidentally, another Red Sox shortstop, Johnny Pesky, first set this record in 1946.

Matthew Glidden
8 years ago
Reply to  Phil Gaskill

So happy someone else picked Spike Owen.

BIG10INCH
BIG10INCH
8 years ago

grwoing up in the 60’s I always loved the name Woody Woodward of the Braves.

Hartvig
Hartvig
8 years ago

Huh. I would have bet the farm that Biff was a nickname. When I picture a Biff I get a picture of someone wearing a button down shirt with a crew neck sweater belonging to an exclusive fraternity at a private school somewhere. No one in the family has done a days work since great-great-great-great-great-granddad used his government connections to swindle the Indians out of 50,000,000,000 acres of land for his railroad about a century and a half ago. The rest of his name would be Porterlarington Mountbanks the third and he sounds exactly like Thurston Howell. As for the… Read more »

Brooklyn Mick
Brooklyn Mick
8 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

When I picture a Biff I picture a son of a dead salesman.

e pluribus munu
e pluribus munu
8 years ago
Reply to  Brooklyn Mick

Good catch! – I never once connected Pocoroba’s name with the play.

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

When I picture a Biff I picture a grown-up high school bully saying, “I had your car towed all the way home, and all you’ve got for me is LIGHT BEER?”. Stacey, we’ve talked about the Biffster on here before. Andy ran a contest on Twitter where you coughed up a name of a random player and he said he could find a Play Index search with that player’s name on top of the list wihtin a specified time period. I suggested Mr. Pocoroba. This man’s name shall never be forgotten. And congrats. You only spelled his name Poc-A-roba once.… Read more »

bstar
bstar
8 years ago

It’s hard to resist. You want to elongate his last name and savor it, in the same way that Ricardo Montablan used to say Chrysler “Cordobbbbaaaa” when he was musing on its fine Corinthian leather interior.

Jeremy T
Jeremy T
8 years ago

Weird, I thought of Barry Bonds. Not sure why, I’ve been a Yankee fan my whole life and never really rooted for Bonds.

Yippeeyappee
Yippeeyappee
8 years ago

Billy Grabarkewitz

Ed
Ed
8 years ago

Biff Pocoroba is the only player with that name to play MLB. A few others have had Biff as a nickname. And in case you’re wondering, Biff is definitely not a popular name and never has been. According to the Social Security database:

“Biff is not in the top 1000 male names for any year of birth in the last 132 years.”

Ed
Ed
8 years ago

And just to be fair, I checked girls too! 🙂

Larry
Larry
8 years ago

A memorable name when introduced at Parc Jarry in Montreal was John Boccabella – with every syllable melodiously enunciated.

Biff Pocaroba’s Sausage World. That sounds like Spatula City from Saturday Night Live

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
8 years ago
Reply to  Larry

“Spatula City” is actually the store from the 1989 movie comedy UHF, built around “Weird Al” Yankovic.

tag
tag
8 years ago

Billy Williams. Because I was a Cub fan and as a kid always wondered who would name their kid William Williams. But of course Billy was his real, “full” name and not short for William, which I only found out a couple years later.

jimbob
jimbob
4 years ago
Reply to  tag

that’s kind of like Bobby Bonds, who actually had a brother named Robert Bonds.

Brooklyn Mick
Brooklyn Mick
8 years ago

Buddy Biancalana…almost as catchy as Biff Pocoroba.

Max
Max
8 years ago
Reply to  Brooklyn Mick

Biancalana is usually the first name that come to my head when someone wants a player. That or Mookie Wilson. I always wished Pocoroba and Biancalana had played on the same team, it would make hearing about steals at second base very lyrical indeed.

Brooklyn Mick
Brooklyn Mick
8 years ago
Reply to  Max

The great Buddy Biancalana had a nice World Series in 1985 when the Royals came back from a 3-1 hole. He was so fierce he was intentionally walked in game 7. A few days later he was on Letterman. Good stuff.

Jason Z
8 years ago
Reply to  Brooklyn Mick

I will see your Buddy Biancalana, and I will raise you a
UL Washington, with a toothpick to boot.

Tmckelv
Tmckelv
8 years ago
Reply to  Jason Z

I was going to reply to Buddy with UL Washington also. I guess I will have to go with Willie Mays Aikens.

kingcrab
kingcrab
8 years ago

Porfi Altamirano #1, Mike Schmidt #2

Jimbo
Jimbo
8 years ago

I would’ve thought many people’s first baseball thought would be “Babe Ruth”

Dave V.
Dave V.
8 years ago

Don Mattingly.

Second was Elston Howard, as I met his nephew this weekend (he’s the lead singer of a wedding band who performed at a wedding I was at this weekend, as well as a national anthem singer for the St. Louis Blues).

Dave V.
Dave V.
8 years ago

Same here, Stacey, on both counts (except replace mom with dad in my case). My mom actually got to know Mattingly at the restaurant she worked at for many years in NJ, as he would often come in for breakfast. They would talk baseball and he knew her and I were huge baseball, Yankees and Don Mattingly fans. One day he came into the restaurant and asked if she was going to be watching the game that night. She said she was sure she would…and he asked if my mom and I wanted to see the game live with his… Read more »

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Dave V.

G-R-E-A-T story, Dave. And touching. My condolences to you on the loss of your mother.

Jason Z
8 years ago
Reply to  Dave V.

Great stuff Dave V. Made me recall the day I met Don Mattingly. It was the summer of 1988 and I was working that summer in Evansville, IN. One day that summer, probably late July I decided to stop for dinner at Don’s restaurant he owned at the time. It was called Mattingly’s 23. I understand it has been gone for awhile. So I am sitting there drinking a beer and the place is pretty empty. I look at the bar and I see Don Mattingly. I hesitate thinking that it can’t be him. Then I realize that the Yankees… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
8 years ago
Reply to  Jason Z

I just think it’s cool that a player search on “The Biff” or “The Buzz” brings up the right guy.

However, it’s my sad duty to report that Buzz did not pitch well with Biff behind the mask. His 4.98 ERA in 94 IP (29 games) throwing to Biff was the worst with anyone who caught him more than 5 games. ‘Course, most of those games were in ’77, Buzz’s last year, when he had a 5.36 ERA. So maybe Biff helped him after all.

Jason Z
8 years ago
Reply to  Jason Z

It’s true John. Sadly Biff missed Buzz’s
career year of 1974 and this by definition
means that it is impossible for the Biff/Buzz battery to have been very succesful.

1974 marks the exact midpoint of Buzz’s
career and it would also be his finest
by a ridiculous amount.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/caprabu01.shtml

He led the league in ERA, ERA+ and fewest
hits allowed per nine innings pitched…
2.28, 166 and 6.8 respectively.

This translated to 16-8 with 5 shutouts
and 5.1 WAR. The only year besides his
final season (1.2) when he was above
replacement value.

Dave V.
Dave V.
8 years ago
Reply to  Jason Z

Thanks very much Stacey & bstar and I appreciate your condolences. Thanks as well, Jason Z and talk about a frustrating way to lose an autograph.

Dave V.
Dave V.
8 years ago
Reply to  Jason Z

And for a player that people have never heard of, well, some people may have heard of him (his Baseball Reference page has 34 likes), but I never heard of him until today:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/schmicr01.shtml

Larry
Larry
8 years ago

Two names that are favorites from my childhood were Smoky Burgess and Ted Kluszewski. I think if you had never seen a picture of either the mental image inspired by the name alone would be accurate as well as the position(s) each played

Brent
Brent
8 years ago

Funny, whenever I hear the name Biff, I think of Biff Hooper, a.k.a. best friend of Frank and Joe Hardy (along with Chet Morton and Phil Cohen not to mention the Hardy Boys’ very platonic girlfriends Callie Shaw and Iola Morton). I am pretty sure the only time I ever heard the name Biff growing up it was in those HB mysteries (and Pocoroba’s baseball card). I also learned keen words like jalopy (Chet’s car)and solar plexus (which I learned was a great place to punch someone if you wanted to incapactitate him) and not so keen words like swarthy… Read more »

bstar
bstar
8 years ago

Me too. That’s where my @23 quote came from. The only other Biff I know is Biff Henderson, long-time stage manager of David Letterman’s late night talk show.

bstar
bstar
8 years ago

Nooooooo! Say it ain’t so, Stacey.

Brent
Brent
8 years ago

As for baseball, probably the first name that comes to mind is Peter Edward Rose. To me, he really does represent baseball, all the good things and the bad things that come with it.

DaveKingman
DaveKingman
8 years ago

Dave Kingman.

And if that is allowed, Ryne Sandberg.

MikeD
MikeD
8 years ago

I was surprised you had never heard of Biff Pocoroba. I’m guessing you must not be old. : -) Hear it once and you’ll remember it forever. It’s a unique name. Biff unto itself is not common, unless you watch unending reruns of Back to the Future. Pocoroba is the deal sealer, perhaps because of its slightly alliterative beat and its uniqueness as the only Pocoroba to play in the Majors. Interesting, there was one other Pocoroba who played professionally, Joe Pocoroba, who also played in the Braves organization at the same time as Bif. I’ll go out on a… Read more »

MikeD
MikeD
8 years ago

I’ve basically got a decade on you, so that means you’re young, ’cause if you’re not, then that means I’m old!

MikeD
MikeD
8 years ago
Reply to  MikeD

Forgot to answer the actual question. For me, Thurman Munson.

I suspect many people when asked to name a player quickly, will default to a fav from their childhood, especially when coupled with the word “first.” My mind probably defaulted to a list of favorite players and reached for the first one on a chronological list.

Or maybe I’ve totally overthought why he’s the first one that came to my mind!

birtelcom
Editor
8 years ago

Highest On-Base Percentage in an Age 23 Season, Minimum 100 Games Played at Catcher:
1. Joe Mauer (2006) .429
2. Biff Pocoroba (1977) .394
3. Jason Kendall (1997) .391
4. Mark Bailey (1985) .389
5. Thurman Munson (1970) .386
6. Gabby Hartnett (1924) .377
7. Bill Dickey (1930) .375
8. Darrell Porter (1975) .371
9. Ted Simmons (1973) .370
10. Mickey Cochrane (1926) .369

Biff’s in pretty good company on this list.

PP
PP
8 years ago

mine was Yaz, even if he didn’t make kielbasa

Ed
Ed
8 years ago

BTW, Stacey’s mention of Steve Lombardozzi gives me the opportunity to mention something I noticed recently. In his rookie season of 1985, Steve compiled 1.7 WAR in only 65 PAs. That’s Troutesque! I did a PI search and there are 38 position players who have compiled 1.0+ WAR in 100 or fewer PAs. Lombardozzi’s 1.7 WAR is the highest of any of them and his 65 plate appearances were the 6th lowest.

Jason Z
8 years ago
Reply to  Ed

Steve Lombardozzi makes me think Go Gators!

Always good to see a fellow Gator at the top of list.

I can think of another list we may top on the morning of Jan. 8, 2013

Now back to baseball…

Doug
Doug
8 years ago

Re: Biff placing high in IBB.

Without checking, I’d presume that was on account of batting 8th. I suppose the utimate testimony to being a weak hitter is batting 8th in front of the pitcher and not getting many IBB.

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Surprisingly, Doug, the Biffster batted usually sixth and sometimes fifth in 1977 for the Braves. It looks like the IBB issued to Pocoroba may have been to get to the #7 hitter 2B Rod Gilbreath(72 OPS+ in ’77).

Doug
Doug
8 years ago

Biff from Burbank makes me think of the villain character in the Back to the Future movies.

Jonas Gumby
Jonas Gumby
8 years ago

Jacoby Ellsbury. My Dad said he saw him in the Scottsdale, AZ Costco this past weekend (he was buying 6 $6k watches). Rather odd.

MikeD
MikeD
8 years ago
Reply to  Jonas Gumby

I just hope I’m on his Christmas list.

Jason Z
8 years ago
Reply to  Jonas Gumby

just a small withdrawal from petty cash.

Mike L
Mike L
8 years ago

Joe DiMaggio, in honor of my mother, who she idolized for his grace. She was in the stands for Joe D Day in 1949. And Steve “bye bye” Balboni, also known in my house as “that stiff Balboni”.
Heights and depths of being a Yankee fan.

Jason Z
8 years ago

There is no question it is Babe Ruth. My grandmother saw the Babe hit a homerun and make a diving catch. I know this because she told me. Many times. When I became a baseball fan in 1976 it gave us a bond. She sold women’s clothes in Manhattan back in the 1930’s. Many of the wives of the NY Giants used to shop there and she knew many of them. She had several of the players bats that were given to her by the wives. Going back 35 years I can remember the names Bill Terry and Freddie Lindstrom,… Read more »

Steven
Steven
8 years ago

Jerry Buchek: Starting Cardinal shortstop for about five minutes in 1966, between the Dick Groat and Dal Maxvill eras.

Andy R
Andy R
8 years ago

From the first time I saw the name in the 80s, I could never get Doug Gwosdz out of my head. His nickname, oddly enough, was “Eye Chart”…

Pat Rockett, Don Mossi, Jerry McNertney, and Phil Knuckles get honorable mention…

Luis Gomez
Luis Gomez
8 years ago

Jose Valverde. I had the chance to talk to him for a couple of hours during a Padres-Dbacks Spring Training game in Yuma, Arizona in 2002. He was the nicest guy, not only answering questions but asking some himself. I still have the baseball he gave to me and signed for me.
I root for him every time he takes the mound, even if he makes my Tigers-fan friends a little nervous (ok, more than a little nervous).

JoshG
JoshG
8 years ago

Eric Bruntlett. He of the unassisted triple Play and I believe the go ahead run in game 5 of the 2008 world series

RichW
RichW
8 years ago
Reply to  JoshG

This thread made me think of John Bocabella. I can remember the PA announcer at Jarry Park drawing out his last name Boc-a-bellllllllaaaa.

His only claim to fame if you can even call it that was in 1973 hitting 2 home runs in one inning one of which was a Grand Slam. I listened to that game on the radio.

Jason Z
8 years ago
Reply to  RichW

It is always interesting how we can recall these moments so many years later.

I remember one day in 1978 I decided to listen to a Yankee
game against the Angels on the radio.

Reason being is I built a tent in my bedroom that day and I thought it would be cool to listen to the game in a tent.

That was the day Louisiana lightning struck out 18.

Jason Z
8 years ago
Reply to  JoshG

Bill Wambsganss, he of the unnassisted triple play in
game 5 of the 1920 World Series. Not yet matched and
probably unlikely to occur in a WS again.

Amazingly, this game also featured the first grand slam
in World Series history, Elmer Smith. And the first pitcher
to homer in a World Series game, Jim Bagby.

All in all a good day at old League Park in Cleveland.

Jim
Jim
8 years ago

In the late 1980’s, we named our cat Biff after the Back to the Future guy, and then I found a Biff Pocoroba baseball card and hung it over her (Biff was a girl cat) food dish.

brp
brp
8 years ago

Mark Grace; but really pick any player on the early 1990s Cubs or Brewers, back when they were in different leagues and I could root for both without having to apologize to/explain why to everyone.

Pat Listach, Steve Buechele, Shawon Dunston, John Jaha, and Jaime Navarro honorable mention.

Matthew Clark
Matthew Clark
8 years ago

First baseball player that comes to mind is a mental image of Dwayne Murphy drifting back on a long fly ball at the Oakland Coliseum, but when my brain went to put the name to the image Rickey Henderson’s name came out. Being a 10 year old boy, and seeing just how beautiful the game can be — doesn’t get much better.

Dan Franzen
8 years ago

I find it way interesting that Biff’s middle name was Benedict. Because you know who else was an unheralded Braves’ catcher, with his career overlapping ol’ Biff’s? How about that Bruce Benedict?

bstar
bstar
8 years ago
Reply to  Dan Franzen

Good call, Dan. We’ve got to get Damon Berryhill and Alex Trevino involved somehow also.

GrandyMan
GrandyMan
8 years ago

The mention of Biff Pocoroba reminds me of fruitless attempts to hand-collate Topps sets from blue-and-white vending boxes purchased at yard sales with my dad’s money. There are many other early-’80s players with unique names that come to mind in this context:

Bill Nahorodny, another Braves catcher and Biff’s teammate in ’80 and ’81,
Larry Biittner,
Bob Owchinko, who allowed 1 run in 0 IP in 1983,
Doug Rau,
John Wockenfuss,
and finally, my personal favorite, Broderick Perkins, who hit either 0 or 2 home runs in each of his 7 big-league seasons.

BCR
BCR
7 years ago

PEPE FRIAS … anyone remember him? Actually, I think he was on the same team as Biff Pocoroba (Braves).

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Brian Todd
4 years ago

Buzz Capra.

One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in a baseball game on channel 17 before it became the Superstation, was Biff Pocoroba trying to throw out a base runner trying to steal second. He was recovering from rotator cuf surgery, and I thought let’s see how this goes. Apparently Buzz forgot to duck and the ball nailed his forehead, ball and cap flying off his head.

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