A retired law librarian from Phoenix, Arizona...

Bruce Naegeli

Date of first appearance:

Total winnings:
5 time champ: $64,200
Tournament of Champions: $18,799 (I came in second)
1991 Super Jeopardy! invitational tournament: $5,000
Grand Total: $87,999

The $64,200 I won in my regular five days made me (briefly) the second-highest winner of all time, behind Chuck Forrest, the Ken Jennings of his era.

What did I do with the money?
When Alex asked me, on the air, what I intended to do with the money, I said that I would salt it away and use it to retire early. I was more-or-less talking through my hat at the time, but I wound up doing just that. I retired at age 57. My Jeopardy! winnings weren't entirely responsible, but they certainly helped.

Favorite anecdote:
The day before I drove off to Los Angeles back in '88, my co-workers at the Maricopa County Law Library threw a little good-luck party for me (any old excuse for an office party). My boss made a jokey little speech and then said, "Bruce, since fish is supposed to be brain food, we've bought you something to help out," and she handed me a 3.75 oz can of a well-known brand of sardines. Since it was incumbent on me to make a speech at that point, I said, "My friends, I wouldn't dream of eating these sardines. When I'm on the air, I'll have this can in my pocket, as a talisman and a reminder of my great 'ground crew' here at the Library."

Alex found out about the sardine can in my coat pocket and made a point of asking me about it during the first break in the first game. When I pulled the can out, he said, "Hold it up, Bruce, so we can see it." So I held it out in front of me at arm's length and the camera zoomed in until the label filled the whole screen (fortunately, I was holding it right-side-up).

About five days after the show was broadcast, a UPS truck pulled up to my house and left a cardboard box that was a 2-foot cube. Inside were 100 more cans of the same brand of sardines and a letter.

The letter, on the letterhead of the sardine company, said that they had been holding their semi-annual Board of Directors meeting, the meeting had been going on for some six hours, and everyone was headachey and grumpy. Someone proposed a coffee break, so they recessed and stood around being unhappy. There was a TV monitor in the boardroom, and someone idly switched it on. When the picture came on, there was a can of their sardines filling the whole screen. Everyone was transfixed, and they watched the rest of the show. When the man with their sardines in his pocket went on to win, it dispelled all the gloom and fatigue, and inspired everyone with the can-do spirit. They sat back down around the table, all smiles, someone said, "Mr. Chairman, I move that we send this fellow another 100 cans of our sardines," and the motion swept through by acclamation.

I took about a dozen cans for my own use, carted the rest of the box down to work the next day, and plopped it in the middle of a worktable. "Guys," I said, "remember the Loaves and Fishes? Remember the Parable of the Talents? Well, that can you gave me has multiplied wondrously, so I'm declaring a dividend. Help yourselves!" The Library staff cleaned out the box in short order.

I've since read two books on Jeopardy!, and both of them mentioned the guy with the lucky sardines. My little fishes and I are anonymously immortal, apparently.

I still have the original can, which I've been using as a paperweight. (The can has swelled up somewhat in the last dozen years, so I guess the sardines are a little poorly these days.) It goes without saying that I'll have it in my pocket for this tournament. Wouldn't leave home without it!

"He finished second in the 1988 Tournament of Champions. A retired law librarian from Phoenix, Arizona..."

2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions Round 1 winner: $31,600. Lost to eventual champion Brad Rutter in his Round 2 game.
1990 Super Jeopardy! quarterfinalist: $5,000.
1988 Tournament of Champions 1st runner-up: $18,799.
Season 4 5-time champion: $64,200.

While Bruce's one-day total of $26,600 (#913, aired 1988-07-20) was not enough to beat the single-day cash winnings record of $27,800 set by Kevin Frear a few weeks earlier in his second game (#902, aired 1988-07-05), it was the second-highest single-day winnings amount at the time, and it remained the seventh-highest one-day total through 1998, earning Bruce a spot on the list of the 13 highest one-day winners available on the Jeopardy! web site 1997-1998.

Bruce died 2009-06-09 at the age of 65.

Bruce appeared in the following 2 archived games:
#4764, aired 2005-04-28 John Beck vs. Brad Rutter vs. Bruce Naegeli 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions Round 2, game 12.
#4744, aired 2005-03-31 Tom Halpern vs. Graham Gilmer vs. Bruce Naegeli 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions Round 1, game 37.
Bruce previously appeared on Jeopardy! as Bruce Naegeli in the following archived game:
Super Jeopardy! #1, aired 1990-06-16 Bob Verini vs. Bruce Naegeli vs. Steve Rogitz vs. Ouida Rellstab Super Jeopardy! quarterfinal game 1.

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