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A look back at Bob Boone

Baseball was the Boone family business.

Kansas City Royals vs Philadelphia Phillies, 1980 World Series Set Number: X24984 TK5 R7 F16

There are two Bob Boones. The first is Bob Boone the player, baseball royalty, descendant of Daniel Boone, son of Ray Boone, a 26 WAR, two-time All-Star third baseman who played for six teams in a 13-year career, including one year for the Kansas City Athletics. Bob Boone is also father to Bret Boone and Aaron Boone who played primarily for the Mariners and Reds, respectively. They’re one of four families to have three generations of major league players and between the four of them, have 58 years of major league service time. That’s a lot of games, 6,569 to be exact.

Bob was arguably the best of the bunch, and that’s no disrespect to the other three. Bob was a 27 WAR catcher who played 19 seasons, ten of those with the Phillies. He was a four-time All-Star, won seven Gold Gloves, and helped lead the Phillies past the Royals in the 1980 World Series. As almost to rub salt in the wound, he played his last two seasons with the Royals, his age 41 and 42 seasons, when he was held together by duct tape and baling wire. He only hit one home run in Royals uniform, but it was a dandy. It came in his first season, on June 11th, 1989, against his previous team, the Angels. The three-run jack came off some guy named Rich Monteleone provided the winning runs in a 5-3 Royals win in front of 30,942 at the K.

I was so far removed from the game in those years, consumed by being a husband, a father, and starting a career that I had no idea who Rich Monteleone was. I was amazed to see that he played for ten seasons with four different teams from 1987 to 1996. Amazing. You miss a few seasons, and the world passes you by. Granted, I wasn’t watching a lot of Royals baseball in those dark years of the franchise. It’s hard to get excited about watching 90 and 100-loss teams. You can see evidence of this on the Sporcle Friday, those wonderful quizzes that run on Royals Review. I’m solid on the old stuff and everything after 2012. In between? Not so much. If John Sherman or Dayton Moore should happen to read this, take note. Those losing years will fritter away even your most dedicated fan base. And because of those dark ages, I really don’t have many memories of Bob Boone with the Royals. Or Tony Muser. Or Trey Hillman.

The second Bob Boone was Bob Boone the manager. Bob Boone the manager was nothing to write home about. He managed the Royals from 1995 to 1997, going 181-206. He got a second chance with the Reds from 2001 to 2003 and went 190-238. He never enjoyed a winning season at the helm of either team. Ray Boone, possibly the wisest of the bunch, never managed. Aaron is a manager and has done quite well, leading the New York Yankees to a 328-218 record from 2018 to 2021.

Boone’s tenure in Kansas City was not pretty. Granted, he was the first manager to suffer for the front offices desire to shed payroll, which forced him to try some unorthodox things. In April of 1995, over a period of two days, the Royals brain trust unloaded Brian McRae and David Cone for a quintet of minor league stiffs. With a front office like that, what’s a manager to do?

Boone tried to paper over the pitching staff lack of depth by going with a four-man rotation in a vain attempt to keep pace with the Cleveland Indians, which were in the early stages of being a juggernaut. He constantly tinkered with his lineups, which had to drive his team batty. The Kansas City Star kept the Boone-O-Meter, a daily chart that counted how many different lineups he used. For the 1996 season, he trotted out 152 different lineups in 161 games. He seemed to be constantly at war with Star columnist Jeffrey Flanagan. In retrospect, the Boone experiment was doomed from the start. The Royals were an old team. The talent pipeline had run dry, and what scarce young talent they had, was slow to develop. The pitching staff was tired. Despite that, Boone somehow managed to keep his undermanned team from losing 100 games in a season.

He was fired in the most usual way, 82 games into the 1997 season, almost two months after he was given a contract extension and the dreaded “vote of confidence”. Whenever the front office gives you the vote of confidence, you best start brushing up your resume.

After his managerial trials ended, Boone joined the Washington Nationals in 2005 as Assistant GM and VP of player development. The Nationals had considerable success during Boone’s tenure. They won the National League East in 2014, 2016, and 2017 and were World Series Champions in 2019. Boone resigned his position as Senior Advisor on September 15, 2021, after refusing to get the Covid vaccine, as mandated by the Nationals.