David Adam

Sunday Conversation with Alan Bush

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 30, 2018 9:45 pm Updated: Jul. 1, 2018 12:18 am

Alan Bush is one of the greatest three-sport athletes in Quincy High School history, but unfairly, too many people remember him for what he didn't accomplish rather than for what he did.

The 1967 graduate is one of six players in the history of the school to be drafted in the Major League Baseball draft. He was taken in the 44th round by the Atlanta Braves. However, he chose not to sign and instead went to play football at the University of Missouri. After two years on the football team, Bush switched to play baseball for his junior and senior year.

Bush also played basketball at QHS, averaging 7 points as a junior and 10.2 points as a senior when the Blue Devils went 25-4. However, he says his "claim to fame" is that he missed two free throws with no time on the clock at the end of regulation time in a 70-68 double-overtime loss to Springfield in the 1967 Macomb Super-Sectional.

After graduating from Missouri, Bush first worked for Hess Investment Company in Quincy and then, with help from Paul Dennis, started Alan Bush Brokerage, a discount brokerage firm. He then moved the firm in 1976 to Boca Raton, Fla., then sold it in 1986. He eventually started two other financial firms -- Portfolio Management Services and Independent Portfolio Consultants -- before retiring in 2016.

Bush, 69, now works part-time as the director of correspondent investor relations for KBK Capital Management, a hedge fund that his son, Kevin, co-owns. When he's not working, he lives in Boynton Beach, Fla., with his wife of nearly 47 years, Diana. He enjoys doting on his five grandchildren, all under the age of 5.

What was life like growing up in Quincy?

It was a relatively simple life. My life was basically football, basketball and baseball. You rolled through those seasons. One was over, and you picked up the next. There wasn't all these other opportunities like kids have today. You were relatively focused on the three major sports. I grew up at 2002 State, and we used to get together at Madison Park to play football games. QU Stadium was a special place to go to see either football or baseball. We also played baseball games at the athletic field. That's where Midget League baseball was played.

Did anyone help create your interest in sports?

My older brother, Doug, was a catch. He loved sports. If you have to give credit to how I became a pitcher, practicing his catching was a good time. He was four years older, and his love of sports rubbed off on me. It was pretty simple that way. Sports was pretty seamless for me. I never took a gym class. I would move from one sport to the next. It just seemed like a natural flow of events.

What kind of football player were you?

I was a throwing quarterback. We had the ball in the air a lot. The offense changed a lot as a result of me being able to throw the ball. I was with a good group of guys. It wasn't just me by any stretch. We were 6-3, a reasonable season. There were a lot of good players on that team. The quarterback tends to get most of the attention, but there were good athletes everywhere.

Your favorite sports were football and baseball, but you put up good numbers on the basketball court as well.

We were pretty good. We were 25-4 our senior year, but my claim to fame is I missed two free throws with no time on the clock in a Sweet 16 game against Springfield, and we lost in double overtime.

How did you deal with that?

The lucky part there was that within a couple of days, I was playing baseball. I had the ability to move on. The reality is that we still had our opportunities (to beat Springfield), and it didn't happen. It wasn't a fun time, but for me personally, I was kind of able to move to the next sport and concentrate on the next sport, rather than sit around saying, "Woe is me." Everybody gets those opportunities to dust themselves off and try again.

Your bio on the Quincy High School Sports Hall of Fame website says your high school baseball career ended with a 1-0 loss to Camp Point Central, whose pitcher that day was future major leaguer Rick Reuschel. What do you remember about that game?

Not a whole lot, except that it was a very windy day. It was one of those contests that was just very simple, and Rick wasn't too bad that day.

Why didn't you sign with the Braves?

The Cubs were going to draft me, but I had made the decision I wasn't playing baseball. Basically, I told them, "Don't draft me." Then Atlanta tried to draft me as a wild card, but I had made the decision. It never went very far. The Cubs had a lot more interest in me.

Can you describe what kind of player you were?

There were several occasions when pro scouts would come by, and I would go out and throw for them. Baseball was fun. I hate to say this, but the issue for baseball was that it was pretty easy. My assumption was I could play football and still play baseball, and that was a bad assumption. I'd strike out two of the three batters and go on to the next inning. I was falsely thinking I could do both.

Which sport were you better at?

That's a good question. I got drafted by the Braves, and I had a pretty good high school career, but I decided not to go to pro and decided to go to the University of Missouri. I don't know. I'd probably say baseball.

So why go to Missouri?

I wanted to play football. I went to a Missouri football game my junior year and had never seen a big college stadium. I thought, "Wow, this would be really neat." I got the football bug. I enjoyed football. The idea of going to Missouri was that I would play both, but that was easier said than done. I was on a full football scholarship. My freshman year, I was on the freshman football team, and I played four games. They switched me from quarterback to safety three days after I was on campus. I had no idea that could possibly happen. I was asked, "Would you rather be the third- or fourth-string quarterback or the first-string safety?"

How did that switch go for you?

It went well my freshman year. I had a really good season. The first game of the year, we played Kansas, and I had two interceptions. The world was perfect. They made me the captain for the Iowa State game, and we get clobbered. We walked out on the field thinking we're entitled to a win because we are who we are, but what happened last week had nothing to do with this week. (Missouri coach) Dan Devine was nice enough to basically tell us he burned the film from that game because no one wanted to see it. You have to learn from it. You think everything is going to work perfectly, and you get your bell rung.

What was it like playing for Devine?

I didn't see a lot of him. He was kind of removed. The most I remember about him was that he was on the tower with a megaphone. He was a good coach and a good organizer. Also, during my sophomore year, I came back for two-a-days. On the fourth day, I was a punter as well, and I was punting against the first team. (Pro Football Hall of Famer) Roger Wehrli happened to be the punt returner, and I made the mistake of tackling Roger a couple of times inside the wall that had been set up for the return. Devine was up in his tower, and he didn't find it amusing at all. He says, "Run it again." I punted it again, and the third time, it was run, I got clipped in the back and tore the ligaments in my knee. I was in a cast from ankle to hip for four or five weeks.

Did you get to play again that season?

I healed up to where I could get back on the field. We got to play in the Gator Bowl (in 1968), and they thought enough of me to let me make the trip as a redshirt fullback. I'd never played that position before. I suffered a sprained thumb, got four stitches in my head and abscessed front teeth ... oh, and a Gator Bowl watch. We beat Alabama 34-10.

Then you switched to baseball. How did that go?

I did OK. I pitched my sophomore year, but I never really got back into the groove. Baseball is a game you're supposed to play all the time, and I was out of baseball for a year and a half. I never achieved what I hoped I could have achieved, but I got my education totally paid for. That's what you're after. I have no complaints. That's Monday morning quarterbacking. The good thing was that the decision between baseball and football, my parents never sat me down. They simply said, "You do what you want to do." That decision to play football was totally my decision. If someone else had suggested something else, I could have used them as a scapegoat. Those were good years.

So were you prepared for life after football?

I had always had an interest in investments. I got a bachelor's degree in finance, and I had a deep interest in finance. It wasn't so much that I didn't have anything to do, because I was engaged in that all along. When I came back to Quincy, I was hired by Ed Hess with Hess Investment. I was learning the business, and it was small enough to learn the entire business. While I was there, I got interested in the discount business. I convinced Paul Dennis we should start a discount brokerage in Quincy. I dated his daughter. When I was a senior, she was a sophomore. That's how I got introduced to him. I spent a lot of time at the house, and he was a phenomenal investor. When I started my own business, I asked him, "What are we going to call it?" He said to call it the Alan Bush Brokerage Company. I was concerned that wasn't the name we should have, but he convinced me it was a personal kind of thing.

How old were you when you started your business?

Not very old. Maybe 24 or 25. I graduated with an MBA at age 22. I decided to start my own company, and at that age, you don't know of all the reasons why you shouldn't try that. I was lucky in that my Hess Investment experience, Ed had given me the opportunity to obtain all the licenses required and see how the company was run. I figured out that if somebody can buy 100 shares of General Motors and pay $50 in commission rather than $100, why wouldn't they do that?

With all of the time you spend as a kid playing sports, how did you become interested in finance?

The hook was that once a year, we would take a family vacation and drive to Huntington, W.Va. I had an uncle who was a salesman for a packing company, and he was an investor. There was information always sitting around in his living room. I would be exposed to Uncle Walter, and he would talk about investments. My dad kind of picked up on it too, and we just kind of got engaged in investments. I enjoyed listening to my uncle talking about companies and all the data you could learn about a company.

Did you find anything that was common between sports and investing?

All businesses are competitive, and financial services are very competitive. You find lot of athletes comfortable in financial services. Not that other businesses aren't competitive, but with finance, it tends to fit athletes. In sports, you tend to be measured by your accomplishments, and you're measured by your accomplishments in the financial services business.

Now that you're working about 20 hours a week, would it be a good guess that you spend your free time with your grandkids and on the golf course?

You got it. That's it. The five grandkids are of great interest, and I enjoy working. I enjoy that a lot. Golf is in third place. I play a reasonable amount. I've never got too good at it. I'm a bogey golfer. I don't spend a tremendous amount of time trying to improve that score. The idea of me cutting off five or six strokes from my score, that wouldn't happen. I lose to Diana more than I win.

Do you get back to Quincy often?

Not very much. I guess I'm a Florida person now. We were back for the 50th reunion and saw a lot of friends. I love Quincy. It's where I grew up. The values there and what it represents, it's all good from my perspective.