Biff Pocoroba (by bledsoe)

Biff Pocoroba. Let it roll off your tongue. Biff….Pooooooke…….arobah! Say it with me.

If you were writing a short story for Boys’ Life about a professional baseball team, Biff Pocoroba might have been a name you would have thought up for the character of the crafty, bandy-legged catcher, or maybe the shy, wet-behind-the-ears rookie outfielder just up from the farm. Life imitates art. Seriously, it’s one of the most wonderful baseball names ever. (The only other Biff I’d ever heard of was the chiseled Biff Hooper, the Hardy Boys’ boxing sidekick, who was called on whenever they needed muscle.)

Several years ago, I was in my local yuppie coffee shop, waiting for my soy 180 degree no-foam skinny two-pump four-shot almond caramel peppermint pumpkin spice decaf macchiato, thumbing through a stack of random CDs, when I came across this:

I was completely woolgathering, when some part of my subconscious brain recognized the printed words “Biff Pocoroba.” After a full minute of disbelief, wondering if I had had a stroke, or had been transported to an alternate dimension where Biff Pocoroba was worshipped as a cult deity, I hastily purchased the CD and ran to my car to play the fourth cut on this album.

Fate? I’ll say. Seriously, what are the odds of me, Biff Pocoroba fanboy, finding this CD, which probably had 1500 copies made, tops, in my daily coffee shop, which doesn’t even really sell CDs, in a box no one ever, ever peered in? Because Biff Pocoroba stood in my mind, and still does, as the personification of the truly awful Braves teams whose futility I supported with every breath of my adolescence. For some it might be Rowland Office, for others Rod Gilbreath, or Marty Perez. For me, it will always be Biff. One of my Rotisserie teams was named Sons of Biff Pocoroba. It was going to be Bastard Sons of Biff Pocoroba, but that was too many letters for the space available.

Biff was taken in the 17th round of the draft in 1971 out of Canoga Park High, in the metro L.A. area. (Go Hunters.) He was a career Brave, playing from ‘75 through ‘83. (Not going to count his four pinch-hit appearances in April 1984.) He was the backup in ‘75 and ‘76, but the starter in ‘77 and ‘78, BECAUSE THAT’S HOW BAD WE WERE.

Biff was a so-so contact hitter, but fairly devoid of power. Biff was also a switch-hitter, with a very weird reverse platoon differential (LH OPS 123 points better than righty). He finished with a career .257/.339/.351 slash line, recording 21 HRs and 172 RBIs. He averaged only 186 PA over his nine-year career. His best year was 1977, with 8, count ‘em, 8 taters, 24 doubles, hitting .290 with an OPS of .840. In 1979, he only played in 28 games, and I honestly can’t remember if he was sent down or hurt. There was a catcher named Murphy that the Braves were high on, and when that experiment was over, Bruce Benedict came up and took the No. 1 catching spot. In 1980, Biff pretty much just pinch-hit: he was the third catcher, unable to pry the No. 2 catching gig away from the fabled Bill Nahorodny. In 1981, they moved him to third base to back up the fragile Bob Horner, because while the Biffer’s catching skills were declining, Bobby Cox definitely wanted his .213 SLG in the lineup. Bobby batted him second. In 1982, the year that this series celebrates, he moved back to the No. 2 catcher, giving Eggs days off. (More Biff trivia: his middle name is Benedict.)

His Similarity Scores are guys you never heard of. Honestly. Defensively, he was not terrible, league average or thereabouts. He had a fair number of passed balls, but he also had to catch Knucksie – you try it.

According to JAWS, he was the 573rd best catcher to play the game. (Henry Blanco is 471st. Eddie Perez? 428th.) Yes, he was a stiff. But he was OUR stiff. I recall with complete clarity driving to our church gym one day and hearing him hit a pinch hit grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth (I looked it up: May 17, 1977) to win a game against Montreal. Biff was named NL Player of the Week for the first and last time in his career, and that would be one of the 61 games we won that dreary year.

Biff was named an All-Star reserve in 1978, which simply defies belief, until one realizes the genesis of this honor. Niekro had been named to the team, and none of the other catchers had any interest in embarrassing themselves on national TV trying to corral his butterflies. Biff entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth, and Niekro came in two outs later to record the final out of the game, a 7-3 NL win. (NL All-Star wins were like death and taxes in those days, kids.)

Here’s the composer of the song, Jack Stenger, singing his signature piece. Let’s just say there’s a fair amount of poetic license in the lyrics. He was definitely not as good as Johnny Bench.

When this guy plays concerts, they don’t yell “Free Bird!” — they yell “Biff Pocoroba!” We played this so much that my kids can sing most of the lyrics to this song, which is probably good enough to call Social Services.

Oh, Biff. I still love you.

49 thoughts on “Biff Pocoroba (by bledsoe)”

  1. When I first registered on this site a VERY long time ago, my handle was pocoroba. I had a fish named Biff in college in the spring of 1975 and Pocoroba hadn’t even been called up yet — I just liked the name. The Fish Called Biff had a fairly short life. Pocoroba lives on.

  2. Fun fact: Biff has been a sausage maker for quite a while now. If you’ve ever eaten a sausage at one of the DePalma’s in Athens, you’ve tasted his handiwork.

  3. He got hurt in ’79. I believe he tore his rotator cuff. He could never throw after that. I thought he was fairly promising before that happened.

  4. In my running diary of the Home Opener I wrote – “8:14 – It’s time for the Parade of Legends. Hammering Hank, Knucksie, Murph, Bream, The Crime Dog, Bobby, and Chipper are here. Where the heck are Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz or Darrell Evans???”

    Once I posted it, I immediately thought to myself “Darrell Evans? I shoulda said Biff Pocoroba!”

    My hand to God.

  5. I remember a game early in ’78 when Biff hit a double in the right field corner and a small part of the cover tore off the ball, landing foul. The opposing manager (I remember Schoendienst, could be wrong) argued to no avail. The best part was that for the rest of that wretched year, whenever there was a hard-hit ball Pete would say, “He’s hit the cover off of that one,” and Skip or Ernie would immediately chime in,”Yes, but it was no Pocoroba.”

  6. Sometimes I get Biff Pocoroba and Bill Pecota mixed up in my head. I wish their children would marry though, and have a child named Bill “Biff” Pecota-Pocoroba that made it to the bigs.

  7. Biff Pocoroba

    There has to be some good luck associate with that name as we all love it so.

    This year, as I yearn for a Braves comeback rally, I will chant his name.

    “Biff Pocoroba…Biff Pocoroba…BIFF POCOROBA!”

    It couldn’t hurt.

  8. Nice work, bledsoe.

    When I was about to turn 14, I saw Biff Pocoroba hit a HR in person. I was living in Columbus, so you tended to remember your 100-mile trips to the Stadium. We only did once or twice a year.

    But, I do recall that Pocoroba got on top of a Stan Bahnson fastball & hit a screaming liner over the RF fence. Didn’t get out by much.

    And yes, I looked it up: It was 8/4/77, also against the Expos (with 3 future HoFers in the lineup). Braves won 5-2. Gary Carter also went deep. The winnning pitcher was Buddy J. Solomon. We also saw an appearance from Preston Hanna. The save was recorded by Dave “Chopper” Campbell. Our team was lousy, but we did have some great names.

    The game lasted 2:24 and 3,987 people attended. Yes…

    And for reasons too weird to recount, my friends & I always referred to Biff as Hoggo Smokoroba.

  9. I’m thinking it might be May 1st Vs the Mets. I remember it being a home game. If I’m right it was the 3rd inning off of Craig Swann.

    Someone who was older than 12 at the time should pipe in if they remember it.

  10. Jayson Stark: “Updated Braves transaction scoreboard: 5 trades involving 17 players, 5 big-league free agents, 12 minor-league FAs, one Rule 5 pick. Busy!”

  11. I had read somewhere that they didn’t see Peraza as a major league second baseman in 2016, so I guess this makes sense.

  12. Buster Olney:

    Some teams view Jose Peraza as a descending prospect. If he doesn’t pan out, this will be remembered as a terrible trade for the Reds.

  13. On Toscano,

    If he passed through waivers, doesn’t that mean we could choose to send him to AAA if he had not met standards for minor league free agency? So, is he gone, or gone to Gwinnett?

  14. It was said to be the transition from JV to Varsity that really messed Olivera up for the season. A simple case of too much, too soon.

  15. You got guys at that level throwing 8-7 hooks out there and velo in the 80s. That comes at you hot.

  16. So Peraza is a worse prospect now than he was in July… but depreciated-he and two organizational depth guys bought, essentially, two years of Todd Frazier?

    How does this make the Olivera trade look *better*, again? You’re telling me they could have kept Wood, traded Peraza and some flotsam, and brought back Frazier?

    Put another way, anyone here not for trading Olivera and change for Wood and Frazier, were that offered today?

  17. Pulling that comment back for now as I figure out which of these prospects are supposed to be any good. The Olivera trade makes me irrationally angry, but this new trade is complicated enough that Peraza + fringy guys = Frazier is probably not exactly the correct reduction of Peraza’s perceived present value.

  18. Biff Pocoroba was my guy (same first name); the walk-off grand slam was against the immortal Bill Atkinson. Biff also hit a bases-loaded double off Tom Seaver on national TV on the 4th of July when Seaver was on the Reds.

    Biff got hurt a lot; I have a scrapbook with lots of boxscores from his career. Think the Braves waited until (owner) Ted Turner left the country before they released him- he was 0-1 in the ’82 playoffs.

  19. Biff was written about in a book published in the early 90’s. The book contained stories about unheralded baseball players. Does anyone know the title or author of this book? Thanks.

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  21. If you’re interested, I can tell you the date and time of every Pocoroba HR because in the 70s when I was a young teen, I lived and breathed Biff ❤️

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