Baseball has been quite a boon to this family
He was sitting in a chair in his home in San Diego on that fateful October night when his grandson hit the home run that prevented the Red Sox from making it to the World Series. Ray Boone had been drawing paychecks from the Boston Red Sox for 43 years when the son of his son bounced the Sox from the playoffs, but he felt not a single twinge of guilt.
"None," said the 80-year-old longtime Sox scout. "You don't feel guilty when you start getting down to family."
And what a family. What a life.
Ray Boone was born in San Diego on July 27, 1923, and grew up playing baseball. He played 13 seasons in the bigs, retiring after a short stint with the Red Sox in 1960. Who would have guessed that his son, Bob, would play 19 years in the majors, then become a manager? And who could have predicted that two of Bob's sons, Bret and Aaron, would also make it to The Show?
Ray retired after last season. Forty-three years of bird-dogging was enough. Forty-three years of watching high school, Legion, and college players in California, New Mexico, and Arizona. He retired at the same time his grandson, Aaron, was driving a stake through the heart of Red Sox Nation and now he watches games for fun and wonders if Aaron might end up going back to the Yankees or maybe even (gulp) to the Red Sox.
It's so circular, so Red Sox-like, this Boone connection. Ray, an infielder, played only 34 games for the Sox, but he knocked the stuffing out of the ball when he came to Fenway with the Indians and Tigers. Tom Yawkey liked him. The Sox owner liked young Ray so much that when Ray decided to hang 'em up after the '60 season, Yawkey offered him a job. And it was the only job Ray ever had after playing baseball. He watched games. And he watched the progression of the next two generations of Boone major leaguers.
Making the big leagues is an achievement of long odds. There are thousands of good high school and college players and hundreds of good minor league players. Every big leaguer you see -- every Cesar Crespo or Doug Mirabelli -- represents thousands of wannabe major leaguers who gave up the dream, or were told to go home. The idea that three generations of the same family would make it to the majors is almost laughable. But the Boones did it.
"I credit my wife," says Ray, who has been married to Patricia for 58 years. "She's the athlete in the family. She was and her twin sisters were champion synchronized swimmers. Her sister was a golf pro. And her brother was an All-America football player at Navy."
Ray was pretty good, too. He was five years younger than another San Diego baseball player named Theodore Samuel Williams and he remembers being a young teen, riding his bike to a field to watch Teddy Ballgame hit. Ray wound up being bat boy for Williams's Legion team, and when the score got lopsided, sometimes they let Ray take a few hacks.
"I've got a box score that proves I played with him," says Ray. "Only problem is, they spelled my last name `Bone,' so nobody believes me."
He was good enough to make it to the majors in 1948 with the Cleveland Indians, who went on to win the World Series. He even got to bat once in the Series. It was the beginning of a career that produced 151 homers and landed him in the old Hotel Kenmore in September 1960. That was the only time he lived apart from his family. When Yawkey offered the job, Ray Boone was happy to go home to California, watch his boys play, and scout for Boston.
Thirteen of the guys he signed made it to the majors, including Dave Morehead, Tony Muser, Marty Barrett, Kevin Romine, and Curt Schilling.
Yes, Curt Schilling. Ray saw skinny, young Schilling pitch for Yavapai Junior College in 1985 and the Sox drafted Schilling in January 1986.
"He was pitching about 125 miles east of Phoenix," recalls the old scout. "When I saw him, he threw about 83, 84 miles an hour, but he was [6 feet 5 inches] and only weighed about 175 pounds, and had those broad shoulders. I figured if you put 15 pounds on this guy, he could throw 88, but I didn't know he was ever going to throw 98."
Ray and Patricia had two boys and a girl. When the kids were grown (both sons went to Stanford), the Boones hit the road in a motor home and logged 40,000 miles a year beating the bushes in the vast three-state region. They did that for 15 years before Ray started to slow down. The Red Sox gave him a new Mercury Grand Marquis when he retired from full-time scouting in 1992, but kept paying him for part-time work until last year.
The old scout could see that his kids were good and it was no different when his grandsons started playing ball.
"They were usually the No. 1 guy on the teams they were on," says Ray. "You have to have the desire and these kids were around baseball all the time. I remember Bret when he was a kid, he used to shag balls in the outfield with Tug McGraw. Bret could catch 'em behind his back."
Bret went on to star at Southern Cal and in 2001 led the American League with a whopping 141 runs batted in. Not bad for a second baseman.
Aaron was a Yankee until he blew out his knee playing basketball last winter, an event that led to the Yankees trading for Alex Rodriguez. Aaron's working out ferociously in California and talking to several teams about returning to the majors for the stretch run. It would simply be too perfect to see Aaron Boone playing for the Red Sox against the Yankees this October, but his price might be too high for the Red Sox. The Yankees, meanwhile, could still use him as a second baseman.
"He's a good everyday player," says Ray.
Whatever happens, the old scout will be watching it from his chair in San Diego.
"I remember that pitch," says Ray Boone of his grandson's home run last October off Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. "It was a high knuckleball. High knucklers don't move too much. The ball just sort of sits there for you. I remember the only time I hit off Hoyt Wilhelm was on a high knuckler. As soon as Aaron hit it, I said, `That's gone.' "
Theo Epstein and the Bill James/Peter Gammons Youth Stat Pack can have their fun with computer printers and on-base/slugging percentage formulas. There will always be a place in the game for the old scouts, the guys who know that a high knuckler is the one you want.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.