May 18, 2003
PULLMAN, Wash. -- - His driver's license says Frederick Charles Brayton, but everyone knows him as Bobo. For 33 years he stood firmly in the Cougar third base coaching box, hands on his knees, or perched near the top of the Cougar dugout, right arm leaning on the pole frame near home plate, hand on his chin.
From those two positions he called the pitches and plays or sent runners scurrying toward home, some times with confidence, some times with a "I bet you can't throw this guy out" belief, usually right, occasionally wrong.
Throughout his career, 1962-1994, one item was always constant - Number 14 across the back of his uniform.
Now, and forever more, no Cougar baseball coach or player will wear number 14.
May 24, prior to Washington State's Pacific-10 baseball game with the UCLA Bruins, WSU officials will retire Bobo Brayton's Number 14, just the third number so honored in the storied athletic history of Washington State University. The other two retired jerseys honor football players Mel Hein (7) and Jack Thompson (14).
When Brayton left the field for the final time May 20, 1994, as THE Washington State University baseball coach, he did so in a manner consistent with his entire Cougar career - an 11-9 winner over the Portland Pilots. In 33 years at WSU his clubs won 1,162 games, making him the winningest coach in Cougar history. Not even close to the next winningest coach.
It is hard to know where to start, or rather end, when talking about the legacy Brayton left behind.
You can start with the relationships he developed and has maintained with hundreds of former WSU players. And the friendships he forged with Cougar fans and countless coaches around the state and even nationally. Or you could list the many awards bestowed on him while he was coaching and since he retired to his farm near Pullman.
First, you know there are two legendary baseball coaches at Washington State University. After all, the field is named Bailey-Brayton Field and has been since Bobo's name was added to the title in 2000. Buck Bailey, who coached at WSU for 32 years and won 603 games, was Bobo's mentor. Brayton was Bailey's and the school's first baseball All-American, winning that honor in 1947 as a shortstop.
Twice during his career Bobo guided WSU to the College World Series, 1965 and 1976. Perhaps even more remarkable was his string of league championships, 21 titles in all, including an unbelievable string of 11 straight from 1970 through the 1980 season. From 1970 through 1991, his clubs won or shared the title 19 times in 22 seasons.
Bobo stood second in victories on the list of active NCAA D-I coaches as his career came to a close and when it was over, he had become the fourth winningest coach in the history of NCAA D-I baseball.
But Brayton meant a lot more to the NCAA than just victories piled up season after season. In 1977, he received the NCAA's Distinguished Service Award for his tireless efforts on behalf of the College World Series and the NCAA Rules Committee.
In 1981 he was inducted into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame and two years later was inducted into the AACBC Hall of Fame and was the recipient of the AACBC-sponsored Lefty Gomez Award for service and contribution to collegiate baseball. And the list goes on and on and on.
Before the first pitch at 1:00 p.m., May 24, Brayton's storied Number 14 will be unfurled on the right field wall of Bailey-Brayton Field by WSU officials.
Bobo and wife Eileen will be on hand to enjoy the ceremonies, but if you know Bobo, you know he will want to talk about the players who made everything happen, not about his own accomplishments. He may start by talking about that pitcher on his first team, Bob Stevens, or his co-captains in 1994, Mike Kinkade and Kevin Brunstad, or maybe the long line of Cougars in the Brunstad family. Bobo can name them all.
He will surely reminisce about the Cougars currently playing in the Major Leagues, Scott Hatteberg with Oakland, Mark Hendrickson with Toronto, Kinkade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, John Olerud over in Seattle and Aaron Sele down in Anaheim. And he won't forget about Robert Ramsay's recovery after the removal of a brain tumor more than a year ago and now his path back to the parent San Diego Padres.
If you want to talk about the state of collegiate baseball, Bobo will be ready. If the plight of area grain farmers is your hot button, bet the farm Bobo will be sympathizing with you. Or if you have wondered about his favorite saddle horse, he will spin yarn after yarn about those famous hunting trips he was so fond of taking each fall.
There will be ample time to do all of that and more May 24, before the game, at the evening reception, or during the game, as Bobo takes up residence in a special area near the Cougar bullpen, complete with tables and chairs and a tent to keep the sun out of your eyes.
Every fan attending the Brayton ceremony will be given a Bobo Brayton trading card and the first 500 in attendance will receive a Bobo Brayton mini-bat. In addition, you can bet Bobo will amble around the field after the game while the current Cougar players conduct a youth baseball clinic. Just a pointer here and there from a Cougar who has been there and done it all - Bobo Brayton, Number 14 forever.
In conjunction with the retirement of Brayton's #14, the WSU Athletic Foundation is organizing a post-game reception Saturday, May 24, 6-8 p.m. in the CUB Ballroom. Those planning to attend the reception are asked to RSVP to the Athletic Foundation at 1-877-IMA-COUG prior to 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 20.
In addition, fans who would like to send Bobo Brayton a letter or message of congratulations may send them to the WSU Athletic Foundation, P.O. Box 641602, Pullman, WA 99164-1602.