Once, twice, three times a champion

The photo above is how I remember Bruce Bochy 18 years ago. Leaning on the batting cage at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on a hot summer day, running his hand over day-old whiskers and not speaking unless spoken to.

And even then, not always.

Yep, everything the same as the photo — except the World Series logo on his cap. (His cap, for you fellow trivia geeks, is as large as anyone's in baseball — bigger than a size 8.)

Watching Bochy manage the San Francisco Giants to the World Series title last week brought back memories of another Bochy championship run, in Wichita as skipper of the Wranglers in 1992.

I was the Eagle's beat writer for the team and got a first-hand look at Bochy — a simple, friendly, knowledgable guy and as unassuming as they come.

It was his only year in Wichita, four years after his 14-year playing career ended. He led the San Diego Padres' high Class-A team to a California League championship in 1991, and the Padres sent him here in '92 with another stacked roster.

He had three top-of-the-line starting pitchers, a couple of power hitters and speed throughout the lineup that accounted for 212 stolen bases.

But mostly, it was a roster full of guys accustomed to winning, and Bochy was the perfect fit. He didn't overmanage, didn't throw out the "It's all about development" line that really meant "Winning's not my job."

He was laid-back but professional — a player's dream manager.

Trailing by five games with 14 to go in the season's first half, the Wranglers won 11 straight and clinched the division with two days to spare. They coasted through the second half, then turned it on again in the playoffs — beating El Paso in four games of a best-of-5 division series, then sweeping Shreveport in four in the final.

In the offseason, Bochy was promoted to the Padres as third-base coach. He would manage the club in another two years, and in 1998 took them to the World Series.

Throughout this Series, Bochy lived up to his reputation of a good manager who's a bad quote. A San Francisco Chronicle writer compared him to a 2-by-4 when games are in progress.

I went through the archives last week, looking for the Best of Bochy from 1992. It's this: ''Pitchers may go into a slump, and hitters may, too. But speed usually doesn't."

Yeah, a bad quote back then, too. But a good guy who's proven to be one of the majors' better managers for the past 15 years.

Let the frustration begin — You'll see in today's Sports section that we're running November's college basketball television schedule. Check back on the last Sunday of each month for the following month's schedule.

For me, combing through the schedule — does the History Channel really have a game this year? —shows that sports TV programmers still won't recognize that even though they allow a two-hour window for a college basketball game, it rarely finishes in that time slot. That often leaves fans of the next game waiting for the previous game to end to get to theirs.

I understand the reasoning. Why schedule a 2-hour, 15-minute window for a game when you don't have 15 minutes of programming to get you to the half-hour?

But the NFL has learned that when a network has doubleheaders, it makes sense to push back the start time of the second game so as not to miss any action. Maybe ESPN, CBS and Fox Sports Net could learn from that.

Until then, though, if you're a Kansas or Kansas State fan not wanting to miss a second of the Valentine's Day meeting in Manhattan, you'd better hope that West Virginia and Syracuse wrap up their ESPN game in two hours. Same for you Shocker fans if Wichita State makes the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament final. You won't miss the tip... if Kentucky and Tennessee play fast on CBS.