Now a Phillies Wall of Famer, Boone caught for 19 big-league seasons, winning seven Gold Gloves
The Philadelphia Phillies franchise was founded in 1883. Since 1978, the club has honored the greatest individual contributors to its success with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
There are club executives and beloved broadcasters on the Wall. And of course, there are dozens of players.
The players on the Wall range from 19th century trailblazers to 20th century Hall of Famers to 21st century superstars.
But of those players, only two played the position of catcher. One of those was Bob Boone, selected to the Wall in 2005.
Boone was the seventh player from the 1980 World Series champions to be so honored. He thus joined Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, Tug McGraw, Greg Luzinski, and Garry Maddox on the Wall of Fame.
A native of San Diego, Boone played there at Crawford High School. He would then become the Phillies sixth round selection in the 1969 MLB Amateur Draft as a third baseman out of Stanford University.
BOONE DEVELOPS WITH THE PHILLIES
As an advanced 21-year old, Boone made his pro debut that summer with the Phillies rookie level team in the Florida State League North. He was promoted quickly to A-level Raleigh-Durham in the Carolina League where he hit .300 over 325 plate appearances that summer.
In 1970, as the Phillies were closing out Connie Mack Stadium, Boone reached AA Reading. With 23-year old Don Money emerging as a strong player at the hot corner for the big league club, the Phils decided to convert Boone to the catcher position that summer.
Boone would repeat the 1971 season at Reading, still learning the ropes behind the plate as the Phillies opened up their shining new home at Veteran’s Stadium in South Philly.
The 1972 season would prove to be his big breakout campaign. Boone hit .308 with a .363 on-base percentage at AAA Eugene, banging 17 home runs with 32 doubles, 67 RBI, and 77 runs scored.
For that strong performance, Boone received his first promotion to the big leagues that September.
BOONE BEGINS HIS BIG LEAGUE CAREER
His first game came on a Sunday afternoon at The Vet. The date was September 10, 1972, and Boone entered in the bottom of the 7th as a pinch-hitter for starting catcher Mike Ryan. There he began his career by unceremoniously striking out against Chicago Cubs reliever Joe Decker.
In that 1972 season, the Phillies had juggled their catching position between a trio of veterans, Ryan, Tim McCarver, and John Bateman, all of whom were aging into their 30’s. By the following year, Boone was the starter, and only Ryan remained to back him up.
Boone played in 145 games for the Phillies in his first full big league season of 1973. Over 575 plate appearances as a 25-year old he batted .261 with 10 homers, 20 doubles, and 61 RBI. For that performance he finished third in the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Gary Matthews and Steve Rogers.
This was the official beginning of what would become one of the longest, most successful careers of any catcher in Major League Baseball history. Boone would be a starting catcher every season from that 1973 right through the 1989 campaign.
With the Phillies emerging as a contender in the mid-1970’s, the club decided to bring in veteran left-handed hitting catcher Johnny Oates to platoon with Boone in the 1975 season. It very nearly caused Boone to quit the game for medical school.
BOONE STARTS AS PHILLIES EMERGE
The Phils would finish a strong 86-76 in 1975, just 6.5 games behind the first place Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East race. With a strong, young team entering the Bicentennial year of 1976, the Phillies became divisional favorites. Boone was reinstated as the unquestioned full-timer behind the dish.
The Phillies would capture each of the next three NL East crowns. The club won what was then a franchise record 101 games in both 1976 and 1977. Boone would become an NL All-Star for the first time in ’76, an honor that he would repeat with the Phillies in both 1978 and 1979.
Having taken well to the catching position, Boone developed during those years into one of the best defensive backstops in the game. In both 1978 and 1979 he would win the NL Gold Glove Award for the position.
PHILLIES AND BOONE FINALLY WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP
Despite being a consistent contender, Boone and the Phillies were unable to win a championship. In 1979 the team faded to a fourth place finish, and there was much talk that perhaps their window had closed.
But in 1980 under firebrand manager Dallas Green, the Phillies would fight their way back to the top of the NL East. Boone would, in fact, provide a pivotal hit as the club clinched the NL East crown. And this time would prove different in the postseason.