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Philography: Jim Bunning

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After retiring from baseball, Bunning entered politics, becoming a U.S. Senator from his home state of Kentucky

 

Earlier this off-season my “Philography” series highlighting the playing career of various important figures in Philadelphia Phillies history came here to Phillies Nation.

The series began a few years back and has now grown to 19 individuals for whom I have presented a mini-biography. This year I’ve chosen to go right to the cream of the crop, the five individuals for whom the Phillies organization has actually retired an official uniform number.
Back in late November it was Richie Ashburn, whose uniform #1 was retired by the Phillies when he became the second man honored with a spot on the franchise Wall of Fame in summer 1979.
Now the series resumes with the sixth person honored with a spot on that Wall of Fame in 1984, pitcher Jim Bunning. The right-hander who pitched with the Phillies from 1964-67 and again to close out his big-league career in 1970-71 had his uniform #14 retired on April 6, 2001.
Bunning actually played more seasons with the Detroit Tigers of the American League (9) than his half-dozen years in Philadelphia. And his second career as a politician in which he became a state senator, then a U.S. Congressman, and finally a United States Senator from his home state of Kentucky was perhaps even more notable than his baseball accomplishments.

But those baseball accomplishments were certainly more than just notable. They were strong enough that Bunning was elected for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame by the veteran’s committee in 1996.

 

Per a tremendous piece by Ralph Berger for SABR, which I urge you to read at that link, Bunning was born into a tightly-knit middle-class Catholic family who lived on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, just across from Cincinnati.
Per the Berger bio, Bunning became a pitcher as a boy since he owned the only ball among his friends’ group. He grew up as a Cincinnati Reds fan. His favorite player was pitcher Bucky Walters, who became the National League MVP in 1939 when Bunning was just seven years old.
Bunning played not only baseball, but also football and basketball as a teenager at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. Then as a freshman at Xavier University, Bunning was offered a contract by a scout with the Detroit Tigers. He would ultimately sign for a $4,000 bonus and $150 monthly salary.

One of the stipulations of his signing was that he be allowed to complete his college education at Xavier. Thus, he would start the first few seasons of his pro career a few months later than his teammates.

 

That pro career began with Richmond of the Ohio-Indiana League in 1950 at 18-years of age. Bunning advanced incrementally through the Tigers minor league system over the next few years, and by the 1953-54 seasons he had reached Double-A Little Rock. There he compiled an 18-23 mark and allowed 333 hits over 351 innings across 69 games, 48 of those as a starter.
He began the 1955 season at Triple-A Buffalo of the International League, just a step away from Major League Baseball. A solid performance in which Bunning went 8-5 with a 3.77 ERA over the first 20 games, 16 of those starts, put the 23-year-old pitcher squarely into the plans of a middle-of-the-road Tigers ball club.
The organization felt that he was developing “an excellent curve ball, a confusing delivery and a sneaky fast ball“, and in July of 1955 that combination would finally get him on to a big-league mound in Detroit.
On the night of July 20, 1955 at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, Bunning made his first Tigers start. He would go 7.2 innings and was beaten up a bit by the Baltimore Orioles to the tune of six earned runs on eight hits. He struck out five and walked two and was hung with the loss against one of the worse teams in the American League.
It was a bit of an ignominious beginning, and the rest of his rookie season wouldn’t go much better. Bunning finished that 1955 season with the Tigers having compiled a 3-5 record and 6.35 ERA, allowing 59 hits and walking 32 over 51 innings across 15 games, eight of those as a starter.
In 1956 he was back at Triple-A to start the year and again pitched solidly enough to remain in the Tigers plans. He got the call back to Detroit in late July and would remain with the big-league club for the remainder of the season.
Pitching mostly out of the bullpen, Bunning had a solid 2.58 ERA after his first 14 big-league outings that year. But his final appearance of the season on September 24 resulted in disaster when he was bashed for seven earned runs in just one inning against the Chicago White Sox.
Bunning earned a role in the starting rotation during spring training of 1957. In his first start on April 17 against the Kansas City Athletics, Bunning was driven from the mound without even finishing the first inning.

That poor outing caused manager Jack Tighe to lose confidence, and the skipper relegated Bunning to the bullpen for the next month. It would prove to be a career-changing experience for the right-hander. Berger wrote that “working in the pen helped Bunning become a much improved pitcher with a slider that he could consistently get over the plate. He became a pitcher, not just a thrower.”

 

Given another shot at the rotation, Bunning would not look back. On May 16 he beat the Boston Red Sox with a complete game five-hitter at Fenway Park. Remaining in the rotation for most of the remainder of that 1957 season, Bunning made the National League all-star team and won 20 games, finishing ninth in the AL MVP balloting.
This would prove to be the only 20-win season of what would become a 17-year career in the Majors for Bunning. But over the next half-dozen he would remain one of the American League’s most effective starting pitchers.
From the seven seasons from 1957-63 with Detroit, Bunning would go 110-81 with a 1.181 WHIP. He was consistently at or above the 250-innings pitched and 35-start marks, proving one of the league’s most durable as well. He was a 7x AL All-Star, and received MVP votes three times.
Perhaps the highlight for Bunning during this excellent stretch came on the afternoon of July 20, 1958 at Fenway Park in Boston. In the first game of a doubleheader that day, Bunning tossed a 12-strikeout no-hitter against Ted Williams and the host Red Sox.
During his nine total seasons with Detroit, the Tigers only took a run at an American League pennant once. That came during a tremendous 1961 campaign in which the club won 101 games, a total that would have won the pennant in all but two of the prior 15 seasons. Unfortunately for those 1961 Tigers, the New York Yankees led by Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle had a season for the ages, winning 109 games.

Entering September, the Tigers trailed the Bronx Bombers by just 1.5 games in the standings. But New York opened that final month by sweeping a three-game set between the two clubs, Detroit dropped 12 of their first 17 that month, and the pennant race was over.

 

Things began to sour for Bunning in Detroit during the 1963 season. A managerial change saw new skipper Chuck Dressen bang heads a few times with his star pitcher. The club was also apparently not enamored with Bunning’s second career as a stock broker, or with his outspoken role as the Tigers’ player representative – an early hint at his interest in politics.
It all came to a head on December 5, 1963 when Detroit general manager Jim Campbell and Phillies GM John Quinn swung a four-player deal. In that trade, Bunning and 32-year-old catcher Gus Triandos went to Philadelphia, with outfielder Don Demeter and young pitcher Jack Hamilton heading to the Tigers.

Bunning would take to the National League like a fish to water. Over his first three seasons with the Phillies, Bunning won 19 games each year and then won 17 in 1967.  He was an NL All-Star in three of the four seasons, and finished as the 1967 NL Cy Young Award runner-up.

 

Every Phillies fan who was around and old enough to follow the club (I was two years old that summer) is well aware of what happened during the 1964 season. What happened over the final two weeks that September has left a scar that remains visible more than a half-century later.
But that summer was filled with excitement for baseball fans in Philadelphia. Few days were more so than the afternoon of Sunday, June 21. On that Father’s Day at Shea Stadium in New York in the first game of a doubleheader, Bunning pitched a Perfect Game against the host Mets.
Berger describes the early innings of that afternoon as largely uneventful, with the Bunning and Triandos battery working the New York lineup perfectly. As the game wore on and the stakes grew higher, Phillies manager Gene Mauch began to juggle his defenders to get the best possible support behind his pitching horse.
In the bottom of the 5th inning, perfection was saved by a defensive gem. Berger wrote on it as follows:
Mets catcher Jesse Gonder smashed a line drive between second and first. Second sacker Tony Taylor lunged to his left, knocked the ball down, crawled on his knees to grab the ball, and nipped Gonder at first. That was the last play in the game that resembled a hit for the Mets.

Bunning got New York shortstop Charley Smith on a pop-out to Phillies shortstop Bobby Wine to open the bottom of the 9th inning. He then struck out a pair of pinch-hitters sent to the plate by Mets skipper Casey Stengel, getting John Stephenson swinging on a 2-2 pitch to clinch perfection.

 

An 18-year-old wunderkind named Rick Wise followed Bunning’s perfection with a solid performance of his own, with Wise gaining his first of what would be 188 career big-league victories in game two of that doubleheader. That Sunday sweep in the Big Apple pushed the Phillies two games in front in the National League pennant race.
An August spurt would lift the Phillies to a season high 7.5 games in front of their National League rivals a number of times during late August. They still held a 6.5 game lead as late as September 20.

And then, with just 12 games left, it all fell apart. The Phillies infamously lost 13 of 15 games after September 15, including 10 in a row. Despite winning their final two games, the club would finish a game behind the Saint Louis Cardinals.

 

Despite having a winning team in each of his four seasons with the club from 1964-67, the Phillies would never truly contend for a pennant aside from that 1964 club during Bunning’s first go-around in Philadelphia.
On December 15, 1967 with the Phillies looking to move into a rebuilding mode, Quinn shipped a now 36-year-old Bunning off to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for pitchers Woodie Fryman and Bill Laxton, minor league prospect Harold Clem, and a 20-year-old infield prospect named Don Money.
Bunning would split the 1968-69 seasons pitching for the Pirates and then the Los Angeles Dodgers. With Major League Baseball having expanded and moved to a divisional format for the first time, the Dodgers were involved in a four-team battle royale for  the newly formed National League West Division.
Los Angeles obtained Bunning in an August 15, 1969 trade from Pittsburgh, and the veteran righty would immediately join and remain in the Dodgers starting rotation. Within a week, LA took the divisional lead. But despite Bunning pitching well for them, the Dodgers would fade over the final two weeks in a performance that nearly mirrored the 1964 Phillies collapse.
That would prove to be Bunning’s final shot at the postseason. He never did pitch in a playoff game during his entire career. The Dodgers released him on October 22, 1969. Exactly one week later the Phillies brought him back, signing him as a 38-year-old free agent.
At that point the Phillies were preparing for their final season at Connie Mack Stadium, formerly Shibe Park, which had been a Philadelphia professional baseball institution since opening in 1909. The club wanted Bunning to provide some name recognition and experience for a team that had dealt away mercurial star Dick Allen and was looking to get younger in preparation for the 1970’s and a new era in a new ballpark.
Bunning made his final start at Connie Mack Stadium on Sunday, September 27, 1970. It was a classic pitching showdown with another future Hall of Famer, Fergie Jenkins, who had briefly been Bunning’s teammate with the 1965-66 Phillies. The 27-year-old Jenkins would come out on top, tossing a complete game, holding the Phillies to four hits in a 5-3 victory.
The following spring would mark the opening of a new multi-purpose sports stadium in South Philadelphia. Bunning was tapped by manager Frank Lucchesi with the honors of taking the mound for the first Phillies game at Veteran’s Stadium.

On Saturday afternoon, April 10, 1971 at approximately 2:21pm local time, Bunning delivered his first offering. Montreal Expos leadoff man Boots Day grounded that first pitch right back at him, Bunning turned and flipped to first baseman Deron Johnson for the out, and a new era in Phillies baseball was underway.

 

Bunning would remain in the starting rotation on a regular basis through July 1 but became less and less effective as the summer rolled on, finally relegated to bullpen duty over the last two months.
His final official Win in a Phillies uniform came on June 16, 1971 at The Vet in a 6-3 victory over Willie MaysWillie McCoveyBobby Bonds and the San Francisco Giants.
During his six total seasons with the Phillies, Bunning went 89-73 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.111 WHIP. He allowed 1,361 hits over 1,520.2 innings across 226 games, 208 of them starts, while striking out 1,197 opposing batters. He remains seventh on the all-time franchise strikeouts list today.

Including his years with Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles, Bunning fashioned a career 224-184 mark. He compiled a 3.27 ERA, 1.179 WHIP and struck out 2,855 batters over 591 games and 3,760.1 innings pitched.

 

After his retirement, Bunning was hired as a manager in the Phillies farm system and moved up through the ranks over the early-1970’s. As the big-league club was becoming a contender in the middle of the decade, Bunning appeared to be being groomed for the Phillies managerial job.
As told by Berger, there was apparently some falling out between Bunning and influential Phillies farm director Dallas Green. The two had been teammates during the mid-60’s and were longtime friends. But the Phillies unwillingness to give him the big-league job and Bunning’s own “brutal honesty“, as Berger put it, finally led to his being released after the NL East-winning 1976 campaign.
Following a failed attempt at becoming part-owner of the Houston Astros, Bunning returned home to Kentucky where he became a player agent. He was also recruited to run for a city council position in Fort Thomas and won, launching his political career.
In 1980, Bunning was elected to the Kentucky state house, where he would serve as a state senator through 1984. He tried a run for governor and fell short by 54-44% in that 1983 election, but his name was now growing statewide. He would win as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress just four years later and served in the House of Representatives for six terms.

When longtime Democratic Party incumbent Wendell Ford decided to retire and not run in the 1998 race for the United States Senate, Bunning accepted the Republican Party’s challenge to try to claim the seat. In a hard-fought campaign, Bunning edged out his Democratic Party opponent by 49.8-49.2% to claim a Senate seat.

 

Bunning would hold on to that U.S. Senate seat with a 50.7-49.3% victory over another strong Democratic challenger in 2004. But then as the 2010 election cycle approached, the then 78-year-old decided against seeking a third term. He had, however, played a large role in the Republican Party rise to power, and was succeeded in his seat by another Republican, Rand Paul.
Back in 1952 when he had received his first pro contract with the Tigers, Bunning purchased an engagement ring for his childhood sweetheart. He and the former Mary Catherine Theis would remain married for the rest of their lives and would have nine children. By 2013, that union had also produced 35 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

On May 26, 2017, Jim Bunning died from complications of a stroke that he had suffered in October 2016. He was 85 years of age. He is buried in the town of Fort Thomas, where his political career began, in his beloved home state of Kentucky.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Philography: Jim Bunning

Matt Klentak might be wise to look into lefty reliever Francisco Liriano

There is a great deal of warranted interest and excitement every year around the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in Major League Baseball.

Teams can deal away players up until 4:00PM EDT on that date without first subjecting them to the waiver wire.

Once that deadline passes it doesn’t mean that trades cannot be made. After that point players can still be dealt. However, they must first pass through waivers.
Non-contending teams frequently will put a player they are interested in dealing on waivers during the month of August. Each of the other 29 clubs in MLB have an opportunity to make a claim in reverse order of the current standings.
If no one claims the player, he enters into a status of having “cleared waivers” and he can then be traded. If the player is claimed, the team who waived him can let him go to the claiming team, can pull him back, or can work out a trade with the claiming team.
It happens every year that some players are dealt in this manner. Phillies fans may remember that a couple of the 2008 World Series heroes, Chase Utley in 2015 and Carlos Ruiz in 2016, were each dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the month of August.
Phillies already made one August move
this year, adding Bour’s veteran lefty bat.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has already moved once this month to help strengthen his club. The Phillies GM obtained Justin Bour on August 10 from the Miami Marlins in exchange for prospect pitcher McKenzie Mills.
Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors has reported that veteran left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano of the Detroit Tigers as cleared waivers.
Adams describes the value that Liriano could bring to a team such as the Phillies:There is another player out there who has apparently cleared waivers who could also help the Phillies, and who might come at a similarly reasonable cost.

“…he’s held left-handed pitching to a terrible .141/.247/.239 slash through 81 plate appearances. With $984K still owed to him through the end of the year, he’d be a reasonably affordable lefty specialist for a contending team’s bullpen.”

Liriano is a 34-year-old now in his 13th big league season. He was originally signed as a teenager by the Minnesota Twins, and broke in with the Twins in the 2005 season.
In his first full season with Minnesota in 2006, Liriano went 12-3 with a 144/23 K:BB ratio over 121 innings in 28 games, 16 of those as a starter. He made the American League all-star team and finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.
He would go on to have big years with the Twins in 2010 when he finished 11th in the AL Cy Young Award voting, and then in 2013 when he finished 9th in the NL Cy Young voting as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
At the July 31, 2017 non-waiver deadline, Liriano was dealt from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Houston Astros. A member of the Jays rotation, Liriano became a lefty specialist with the Astros, making 20 appearances out of the bullpen for manager A.J. Hinch and helping the team nail down the AL West Division crown.
During the postseason he tossed 2.1 innings over five total appearances across the ALDS, ALCS, and the World Series, helping Houston win its first ever championship. He allowed one run, a homer to Rafael Devers of the Boston Red Sox in Game Three of that American League Division Series at Fenway Park.
Liriano signed with the Tigers as a free agent just prior to spring training opening back at the end of February. Pitching mostly as a member of the Detroit starting rotation he has compiled a 3-8 record, allowing just 89 hits across 97.1 innings. He flirted with no-hitters twice this season.
However, Liriano has experienced problems with his command and control. Those struggles have resulted in 58 walks, an unsightly 5.4 per nine innings. With his FIP mark at 5.63 compared to a 4.72 ERA, it could be argued that Liriano has pitched even worse than his overall poor numbers would suggest.
What we are talking about here is the ability to add a veteran left-hander with a history of prior success. One who has pitched deep into the postseason as recently as a year ago for a world championship team.
It’s all about price. He’s not owed very much in salary for the balance of this season. There is no commitment beyond this year. If you can get him for a song, which you may be able to, it certainly seems worth looking into by the Phillies.
Klentak has worked over the last three weeks to bring in veterans to help this surprising contender. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and catcher Wilson Ramos at the non-waiver deadline, Bour after it passed. Liriano would be that same type of short-term, inexpensive move.
Both Aaron Loup and Austin Davis are on the disabled list. Right now, Adam Morgan is the lone left-hander in the Phillies bullpen. Unless there is some personal, medical, or other issue with Liriano that doesn’t appear on the surface, then if I’m Klentak, I’m on the phone with Tigers GM Al Avila today.

Twins win, draw closer to AL Wildcard as pursuers all lose

Gibson’s solid outing helped Twins draw closer to playoffs

It’s become monotonous to call them the “surprising” Minnesota Twins. After all, it’s been five months now that Paul Molitor’s club has been a solid contender in the American League.

The Twins have been in control of the second AL Wildcard berth for weeks now. Last night behind an excellent start on the mound from Kyle Gibson and the timely hitting of Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler, they drew closer to clinching a place in the postseason.

Minnesota downed the depleted and demoralized host Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park by a 7-3 score. Meanwhile, their nearest pursuers in the playoff race all lost. The LA Angels were shut out by Houston 3-0, the Texas Rangers dropped a 4-1 decision at Oakland, and the Kansas City Royals were edged 7-6 by the Chicago White Sox.

The result of all that Friday night action is that the ‘Magic Number’ has dropped to just 6 for Minnesota to clinch the franchise’ first playoff berth since being swept out of the ALDS in both 2009 and 2010.

Gibson went seven strong innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits. The 29-year old right-hander struck out six and walked two in raising his record to the 12-10 mark. Those dozen wins leave him one shy of his career high of 13 set back in the 2014 season.

These two games were big for us and the next two are as well,” Gibson said per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger after the Twins second straight victory in Detroit. “Coming off a rough series in New York, we definitely wanted to get one or two there and getting zero hurt a little bit. But these games were big to get the ship going in the right direction and hopefully we can keep it going.




Kepler banged his 19th home run of the season, a solo shot, in the top of the 3rd inning off Tigers starter Daniel Norris (4-8) to tie the game.

After falling behind again 2-1, Buxton lined a two-run double to left in the top of the 4th to push the Twins on top. He then scored on a base hit by Kepler, making it a 4-2 lead for Minnesota after four innings.

Run-scoring hits by Eduardo Escobar in the top of the 5th and Robbie Grossman in the 6th stretched that lead out to a 6-2 margin. In the bottom of the 6th, Ian Kinsler tagged Gibson for his 21st homer of the year, the solo shot cutting the Twins lead down to 6-3 at that point.

In the top of the 9th, Dozier got that one back by cracking his 32nd home run of the year. Matt Belisle came on to retire three of the four batters he faced in the bottom of the 9th to close out the victory.

I think the guys played a fairly loose game,” Molitor said per Bollinger. “We know we’re in for a fight and these guys have played us tough the last few years, and probably dominated us in some regards. There’s a lot on the line and we have to find a way to keep playing good baseball.

His team will continue the series in Motown on Saturday and Sunday. Then it’s off to Cleveland for a real test against the defending AL champion Indians, who have the best record in the American League. The Twins wrap the regular season next weekend back home at Target Field with three more against the Tigers.

Detroit Tigers deadline deals are Justin time

Justins Verlander and Upton dealt from Tigers to contenders
The Detroit Tigers dealt away a pair of Justins in big trades with contenders on Thursday. Detroit sent away ace Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros. The Tigers also dealt slugging outfielder Justin Upton to the Los Angeles Angels.
August 31 was the deadline for MLB teams to acquire players who had passed through waivers, and also have those players automatically eligible for participation in the postseason.
In the first trade, Upton was shipped to the Halos. In exchange, the Tigers received Grayson Long, a pitcher in their minors system, and also will receive cash considerations or a player to be named.
Upton is signed through the 2021 season at $22 million per year. The 30-year old, 11-year big league veteran also has a contract opt-out following this season. The Angels did not request that he waive that option as part of the deal.
This wasn’t the only deal for the Angels. They also acquired second baseman Brandon Phillips from the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are also sending cash to help with the Phillips contract, while receiving catcher Tony Sanchez in return.
The Angels are currently 1.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins and also are 2.5 behind the New York Yankees in the race for one of two American League Wildcard playoff berths.
The two deals from the Angels perspective are certainly aimed at getting the club back to the postseason for just the second time this decade. The club was swept out of the 2014 ALDS by the Kansas City Royals.
Especially relevant is that this is an attempt to demonstrate to superstar Mike Trout, who can leave via free agency in a few years, that they are willing to do what it takes to win. That 2014 ALDS is the only playoff appearance of his career.

VERLANDER DEALT TO ASTROS

Verlander was finally traded to Houston with just a minute to spare in negotiations that went back and forth, from done deal to off-the-table, multiple times in the closing hours. Since Verlander is engaged to model/actress Kate Upton, it could also be said that Detroit technically dealt away two Uptons.
Furthermore, the Astros lead the AL West by 11.5 games over those Angels. They are hoping that not only can Verlander help secure them the league’s overall best record, but also help them to advance deep into October.
Houston owner Jim Crane was quoted by ESPN on the Verlander acquisition:
“We hope it positions us to get into the playoffs, get by the first round, get into the second round and get to the World Series and win it. That’s what we’ve been working at, and that’s what we’ll continue to work at, and we want to win.”

TIGERS REBUILDING, OTHER TEAMS ALSO DEAL

Most of all for the Tigers, this is clearly about rebuilding. Coming to Detroit are a trio of prospects in pitcher Franklin Perez, outfielder Daz Cameron, and catcher Jake Rogers.
GM Al Avila was quoted as follows by Chris McCoskey of the Detroit News on the Verlander deal:
“On behalf of the Detroit Tigers, we sincerely thank Justin Verlander for his remarkable 13 seasons of dedication to the organization. He is someone who I believe to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  We wish Justin all the best as he starts a new chapter in his illustrious career.”
MLB Pipeline has immediately installed Perez as the Tigers’ new top prospect, with Cameron and Rogers ranked 6th and 8th on that list. Long has been ranked in the #15 slot. Sanchez has already appeared in 51 big league games across parts of three seasons.
There were other deadline deals as well. The Chicago White Sox sent pitcher Miguel Gonzalez to the Texas Rangers. In exchange the Chisox received prospect third baseman Ti’Quan Forbes. The Seattle Mariners dealt outfielder Leonys Martin to the Chicago Cubs for a PTBNL and cash. In addition, the Cleveland Indians dealt catcher Erik Kratz to the New York Yankees for cash.
In another deadline move, the Astros claimed outfielder Cameron Maybin off waivers from the Angels. The Phillies also made a move, adding reliever Juan Nicasio from the Pirates off waivers.

Baseball’s Boone family has much to celebrate on Father’s Day

Bob, Bret, Ray, and Aaron Boone (L-R)
When I was a kid, my hometown MLB team, the Philadelphia Phillies, introduced a young catcher by the name of Bob Boone.
Boone was 24-years old when he made his Phillies debut in September of 1972. It was the start of a full decade stretch as the Fightin’ Phils primary catcher. During that time the club would capture five NL East crowns, counting the first-half of the 1981 split-season.
Boone was the starting catcher for the 1980 World Series champions, receiving the pitch that Tug McGraw would throw past Willie Wilson of the Kansas City Royals to clinch that first-ever title in franchise history.
Traded to the then California (now Los Angeles) Angels for the 1982 season, Boone would ultimately play into his 40’s.
In 2005, Boone was elected to the Phillies Wall of Fame, the seventh member of that 1980 championship team so honored.
At some point while I was growing up, I learned that Boonie was a second-generation big leaguer. His father, Ray Boone, was an infielder who had spent 13 seasons in Major League Baseball.
The elder Boone came up as a shortstop with the Cleveland Indians in 1948. He would play in 974 of his 1,373 big league games on the left side of the infield. Boone played in 464 games at short and in 510 games at third base. He also appeared in 285 games at first base, and played second base once.
The two Boones were a rarity in the annals of MLB history. They were just the third father-son combination to become big league all-stars. Ray was an AL All-Star in 1954 and 1956 while with the Detroit Tigers. Bob would make the NL All-Star team three times (1976, 78, 79) and was also a 1983 AL All-Star while with the Angels.

FOLLOWING IN THEIR FATHER, AND GRANDFATHER, FOOTSTEPS

That would be an incredible enough legacy for most families. But it turns out that the Boone family was just getting started.
In early April of 1969 while Bob was a third baseman with the Phillies A-level team at Raleigh-Durham, his wife Sue gave birth to a son.
In August 1992, the Seattle Mariners called up that son, second baseman Bret Boone, to make his big league debut. With that appearance, the Boone’s became the very first three-generation family in MLB history.
Bret would also continue the family all-star legacy. He was a 3x AL All-Star with the Mariners. Bret would also win four Gold Glove awards and a pair of Silver Sluggers over a 14-year MLB career.
While Bob was at spring training prior to his first full season with the Phillies in March 1973, Sue gave birth to another son. You can guess what would happen.
On June 20, 1997 the Cincinnati Reds promoted 24-year old third baseman Aaron Boone to the big leagues. In the 2003 season, Aaron would join the Boone all-star contingent.
Aaron would ultimately play in a dozen MLB seasons. While with New York Yankees in 2003, his ALCS-winning walkoff home run became one of the most famous postseason moments in the long and glorious history of the Bronx Bombers.

FOURTH GENERATION ON THE WAY?

Ray passed away in October of 2004, so got to enjoy his son and then much of his grandsons careers. It is entirely fair to say that the Boone family has much to celebrate on Father’s Day already.
And yet it may not be over. Just this past week, the Boone’s took a step towards becoming the first-ever FOUR generation family in Major League Baseball history.
In the 38th round of the MLB Amateur Draft, the Washington Nationals selected middle infielder Jake Boone out of Torrey Pines High School in San Diego. Jake is Bret’s son, Aaron’s nephew, Bob’s Grandson, and Ray’s great-grandson.
His draft position may ultimately mean that Jake passes up the opportunity to turn pro right now. That, and the fact that he is a potential Ivy Leaguer, with a scholarship opportunity to Princeton University waiting for him.
Whether Jake ever reaches the big leagues, the Boone family has left a legacy that will be forever remembered as long as Major League Baseball is played. And if Jake does find his way to MLB one day, well, who’s to say will it end there?
I feel confident in saying that at some point in the next decade, if history is any guide, Jake will become father to a son. By the 2030’s, that youngster will be playing the game somewhere on the sandlots of America, trying his best to become the fifth generation of Boone’s to reach the pinnacle of the sport.
Happy Father’s Day to the Boone family, and to all fathers out there who love and enjoy the great American pastime of baseball.