When he retired in 1990, Boone’s 2,264 games caught stood as a major-league record. That mark was soon topped by Carlton Fisk, but Boone still ranks as one of the most durable catchers in major-league history.
The son of Tigers All-Star third baseman Ray Boone (and the father of future major-leaguers Bret and Aaron) Bob attended Stanford University before reaching the majors in late 1972. Although he had several good seasons at the plate, his value lay in his defensive skills and his handling of pitchers. In 1977, his eight errors and three passed balls were the lowest totals among NL catchers. He started for Philadelphia’s three straight division champions (1976-78) as well as the World Championship club of 1980.
None of this would have come to pass if an agreed trade at the 1974 winter meetings had not fallen through at the last minute. The Phillies and Tigers shook hands on a deal that would have sent Boone and pitcher Larry Christenson to Philadelphia for ageing veterans Bill Freehan and Jim Northrup, but a last-minute tirade from owner Ruly Carpenter forced Hugh Alexander to call off the trade.
After Boone’s off-year in 1981 (.211, 4 HR, 24 RBI), the Phillies decided that Keith Moreland was ready to take over behind the plate and traded their veteran catcher to the Angels. The deal was a bust. While Moreland struggled, Boone threw out 21 of the first 34 AL runners attempting to steal against him and steadied the Angels’ pitching staff as the club took the AL West title.
Boone remained the Angels’ starting catcher for seven years, but was let go at the age of 40 after hitting a career-high .295 in 1988. He signed with the Royals as a free agent and led them in 1989 with a .350 batting average with runners in scoring position, but in 1990 a broken finger limited him to 40 games.
Boone decided to retire after the season, but returned to the Royals in 1995 as the club’s skipper. Constantly searching for the right mix, he showed an affinity for challenging players in new roles. (In 1996, the Kansas City Star charted Boone’s daily lineup changes in a daily “Boone-O-Meter,” which concluded that the manager had used 152 different batting orders in the Royals’ 161 games.) His second stay in Kansas City lasted less than two years, ending when Tony Muser took over midway through the 1997 season.
Boone got another chance to manage when the Reds hired him to replace Jack McKeon in November 2000. With Aaron Boone on the Reds’ roster, Bob became only the sixth man in major-league history to manage his son.