“I always remember telling my father, if this guy can play in the big leagues I KNOW I can . . .” – Steve Keane on Bruce Boisclair in a 10.30.03 post on The Eddie Kranepool Society
Bruce Boisclair has for some time represented to me the road not taken. He broke into the majors in September 1974, when I was six years old. I had not yet seized on baseball as my primary life raft, but more significantly my family had just moved to Vermont from the possible Mets fan territory of Hopewell, New Jersey. I have always assumed that if we had stayed in New Jersey I would have grown up a Mets fan rather than a Red Sox fan.
I have put considerable thought into this alternate path. Mainly, I have come to believe that if I had grown up in New Jersey, I would have been chronically beaten by bullies. In Vermont, I was twice menaced by this one kid with putrid breath, Mark, but on both occasions (once in a bathroom at school, once after school when he grabbed my baseball glove away from me) my instinctual defense mechanism—bursting into abject, uncontrollable weeping—managed to disgust and confuse him enough to prevent him from inflicting upon me any bodily harm. Both times he ended up just walking away from me with a look on his face like I was a pile of uncommonly pungent cow manure. I always assumed that New Jersey, more heavily populated in general, would have had a higher density of merciless future violent criminals roaming the sidewalks for victims. I would have been dangled from turnpike overpasses in broad daylight, beaten beneath a pollution-covered moon, and marked by pen knife scars, pellet gun wounds, and various teeth-chipping incidents. Eventually I’d have etched into my features an uneasy, pinched look similar to the one shown here by Bruce Boisclair on the cusp of his final major league season.
By the time I would have purchased this card on one of my danger-fraught New Jersey trips to the corner store, I would have seized on Bruce Boisclair as a hero. In the safety of my room I would have exulted at the discovery of this card in my new pack, for Bruce Boisclair by then would have become for me a conduit to a different reality. Through him I could have imagined another life. I would not have seen myself in the major leagues but would have dissolved myself out of existence altogether to become Bruce Boisclair. There were other, better players on the profoundly lackluster Mets at that time, but even though none of them were really that great, their abilities still were such that they would have seemed beyond the reach of my self-abnegating imaginings. I couldn’t dissolve into the dashing Lee Mazzili, for I wasn’t dashing, and I couldn’t dissolve into the fleet and promising Steve Henderson, for I wasn’t fleet or promising.
But Bruce Boisclair would have been a different story for my timid, hunted New Jersey self. I mean, just look at him. He seems to be bracing for a roundhouse left to the ear. Worse, he’s up at bat with a hitting implement that will nullify, by virtue of its illegality, any positive result he might somehow be able to produce. An aluminum bat! Why on earth would there even be an aluminum bat on the Mets’ spring training complex? Perhaps Bruce Boisclair snuck it onto the grounds himself and was considering the possibility of using it (maybe painted to look like a wooden bat) in the upcoming season. As it turned out, he seems to have had to use the same kind of bat as everyone else, with which he hit .184, and he was released the following spring. By 1980, in other words, I would have been on my own, Boisclairless, to face the troublesome world.