Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#131 - Bob Boone

Here we have the catcher for the 1973 Topps Rookie All-Star Team. Bob Boone was a welcome addition to a roster that had seen a not great recent history at his listed position. In '70, in the wake of a Tim McCarver injury, the Phillies used six catchers, including one they pulled out of retirement. Then, while Tim was healthy in '71 his fragility returned the following year and a mid-season deal with Montreal brought over John Bateman to take the catching lead, but that wasn't a long-term solution either. So Bob got a quick peek that September and then in spring training of '73 impressed everyone with his defensive work. He stuck, had nice rookie numbers, and made the Topps team. Not bad for a guy who didn't become a full-time catcher until the prior season. Here he gets his first solo card in this set and he looks pretty sanguine in a catcher's crouch somewhere during spring training.

Bob Boone went to Stanford where he played third base, a position he also played in the summers of '66 to '68 in Alaska. Up there he joined other alumni we have already seen (Tom Seaver, Rick Troedson, etc.). Looking at the list of Goldpanner players I noticed one of his contemporaries was Dan Pastorini who would go on to QB for the Houston Oilers (a little cross-sports reference). Bob was drafted by the Phillies in '69 and played that year in Single A where he hit .300, again playing third. After missing nearly the entire '70 season to injury, he beagn putting in some time behind the plate in a '71 spent in Double A. By '72 he was at Triple A Eugene and while his offensive numbers were pretty good - he even showed some power that year - his real strength was defense. That season he moved exclusively to catcher since there was another Eugene kid named Mike Schmidt who was a pretty good third baseman. Bob did pretty well in his late season call-up to Philly and was given the starting job in '73. He was an excellent pitch-caller right off the bat and eventually even Steve Carlton would let him call his pitches. Boone would be the primary Phillies receiver through the '80 season. He would get on a good run offensively as well; after a couple sub-.250 seasons, he averaged over .280 from '76 to '79. By then he had accrued three All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, four division-winning seasons, and one Series-winning season. And two serious knee injuries. The latter of those occurred in '79 and although Bob hit a ton in the '80 Series, his offensive and defensive numbers were hurting in '81, he was pissing off management by being player rep in the strike year, and he lost some starting time to Keith Moreland. After that season the Phillies sold him to California.

The Boone sale by Philadelphia would turn out to be a bad move. Bob was physically recovered by the beginning of the '82 season, threw out 21 of the first 36 guys to try to steal on him, and helped mold the Angel pitching staff into a division winner. He would go on to start the next six yearns for California, adding another All-Star season and four more Gold Gloves. In '88 he hit .295 but was released (he was 40 at the time). He then signed with Kansas City where he had a decent '89 while winning another Gold Glove. In '90 he was a reserve and after breaking a finger decided to hang them up. At that point he was the leader in games played at catcher, but that was broken almost immediately by Carlton Fisk. Bob is now third on the list. He finished with a .254 average, 105 homers, and 826 RBIs. In the post-season he hit .311 with 13 RBI's in 36 games. Defensively he caught 40% of the guys who tried to steal on him against a league average of 33% and he is in the top 25 all-time of catcher assists and the top ten in putouts and double plays.

After playing, Boone turned to coaching. In '92 and '93 he managed in the Oakland chain. In '94 he coached with KC and then took over as manager from '95 to '97. He also managed the Reds from 2001 to '03. His managerial record in the majors is 371-444 and in the minors 125-161. He has stayed in baseball since and is currently assistant GM of the Nationals.

That second star bullet shows what an easy transition he made from third to catcher. Pretty impressive. Bob's dad was an All-Star as would be both Aaron and Brett, his two sons who played in the majors. He also had a brother Rod who played for the Goldpanners right after he did.Speaking of the Goldpanners, Bob did some excellent work his summers in Alaska. For his career he put up a line of .376 with 20 homers and 139 RBI's in his 154 games.He is still the career leader in those stats plus hits and runs.

This one's easy. These guys played together:

1. Boone and Reggie '82 to '86 Angels.

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