Bruce Bochy spent a lot of time with Madison Bumgarner over the last decade. San Francisco's former manager was there in the dugout for Bumgarner's MLB debut and his last game as a Giant.
Despite all of Bumgarner's World Series heroics, it's fitting that Bochy's favorite memory of the former Giants ace comes off the field. And it's about bear hunting of all things.
"Well my favorite -- I'm pausing for a second because I can't tell my favorite," Bochy recently said to ESPN's Buster Olney on the "Baseball Tonight Podcast." "It's a bear hunting trip and I swore to secrecy on that. Hopefully, he'll let me tell it one day."
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Bochy's favorite Bumgarner story he can tell certainly fits, too. It's more about the left-hander's unmatched mentality than anything else.
"On the baseball side, my favorite, of course, is 2014," Bochy said. "The incredible run that he had between the wild-card game and of course what he did in Game 7 [of the World Series]. It was after Game 5, he had just shut out the Royals and I had switched it a little bit, because I felt like we just had to go into Kansas City up a game instead of down a game.
"I was taking some heat for not pitching him in Game 4 and then starting him in Game 7, but [Ryan] Vogelsong started Game 4 against their fifth starter and I wanted Bumgarner to pitch against [James] Shields."
It clearly was the right decision to start Bumgarner in Game 5. He threw a complete-game shutout in San Francisco while striking out eight in a 5-0 Giants win. But what he did in Bochy's office before traveling to Kansas City was even more vintage MadBum.
"He shuts out the Royals and now we're going to Kansas City. We're up 3-2, we're a game away from being the World Series champions and guys are starting to pack because we've got to go to KC and he comes into my office," Bochy said. "He goes, 'You know I just wanna tell you, if you wanna win this thing, you're gonna put me out there. You're gonna start me.' I says, 'Start you when?' And he goes, 'After [my] day off.' He meant Game 6.
"I said, 'No, I'm not starting you with one day's rest!' He goes, 'I'm telling you, if you wanna win this thing.' And I said, 'Well, we haven't set the pitcher for Game 7. Right now it's [Tim] Hudson.' He looked at me and said, 'No, no. You gotta start Huddy. I want him to start this game. But you have me ready if you wanna win this thing.' "
The rest is history. Hudson lasted just 1 2/3 innings before Jeremy Affeldt relieved him for 2 1/3 innings. And then, Bumgarner opened the bullpen gates for the fifth inning and gave us all one of the greatest performances in baseball history.
Bumgarner threw the final five innings and didn't allow a run, as the Giants outlasted the Royals, 3-2, to win their third World Series title in five years. His masterpiece on the mound forever will be remembered in the history of the Giants and baseball as a whole.
To put it in context, Bumgarner had a 0.43 ERA in the 2014 World Series. Here's how the rest of the starting staff fared: Tim Hudson (6.14 ERA), Ryan Vogelsong (9.82) and Jake Peavy (12.79).
"It's just this guy who had this maniacal focus on winning that World Series, and he wasn't gonna hold back on his feelings," Bochy said on Bumgarner.
Bochy's two favorite Bumgarner stories, both on and off the field, truly couldn't be any better.