There have been more than 350 pairs of brothers to play in the Major Leagues and more than 100 fathers and sons. Baseball families are hardly rare, but even so, the Boone family trumps them all.
A Lineage of Baseball Talent
The Boones (Ray Boone, his son Bob, and Bob’s sons Bret and Aaron) are one of three families in baseball history to have a grandfather, father, and son reach the Major Leagues. Amazingly, all three families had not just one son but two play Major League ball.
Source: Baseball Almanac
But what sets the Boones apart is their success: all four were All-Stars (Ray twice, Bob four times, Bret three times, and Aaron once) and all four played in the World Series. Additionally, Bob and Bret are one of only two father-son tandems to win Gold Gloves.
Ray Boone made his Major League debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1948, playing just six games at shortstop but earning a championship ring when the team won the World Series for their last time to date. BaseballLibrary.com describes him as a “line-drive hitter who could handle the curveball,” and explains the circumstances that led to his Major League debut.
Boone showed some promise over the next few years but was struggling through the first two months of the 1953 season. Hitting just .241 with 4 home runs, Boone was traded to Detroit as part of an eight-player deal on June 15. Maybe it was the change of scenery, or maybe it was being moved to third base, or maybe it was coincidence, but Boone’s performance improved dramatically in Detroit. In 101 games with the Tigers that year, Boone hit .312 with 22 home runs and 93 RBI. He was in the top 10 in almost every major offensive category, and was eighth in the voting for Most Valuable Player.
The following year was another good one for Boone and included a selection to the All Star Game, where he hit a home run to help the American League to an 11-9 victory. His success continued as he led the league in RBIs in 1955, and was an All-Star again in 1956, while compiling a .308 average with 25 home runs. Baseball-Reference.com has Ray Boone’s complete statistics, and BaseballLibrary.com recaps some of the significant moments in Boone’s career.
All the while, he and wife Pat were raising the family that made Ray even more famous than his All-Star appearances. There was Bob, the future Major League player and manager; Rod, a standout in high school and college who played briefly in the Houston Astros organization; and daughter Terry, an excellent swimmer who competed in the 1968 U.S. Olympic Trials.
After finishing his career with the Red Sox in 1960, Boone became a scout for the team, a position he held for decades. His most famous acquisition was current Red Sox superstar pitcher Curt Schilling, whom Boone signed in 1986. Years later Schilling pitched the Red Sox to their first World Series victory in 86 years in 2004.
Boone died in 2004 at age 81, having lived to see his son play and manage in the Majors and his grandsons follow in his footsteps to the All Star Game and the World Series. USAToday published this obituary.
Source: USA Today
To strangers, Ray is the patriarch of baseball’s First Family. But to those who knew him, Ray was a family man and a good friend. In an obituary on The Deadball Era, Boone is praised by friend and former major leaguer Jerry Coleman, who describes him as “a marvelous person,” and son Bob Boone, who explains that “Dad loved being a father and a grandfather. … He could have kept playing in 1960 and he had other opportunities in baseball. But he wanted to scout and stay at home. He didn’t like being away from home.”
Source: The Deadball Era
“When Ray Boone was with the Indians, his son Bob was hanging around the batting cage in spring training as a 5-year-old. When his father joined the White Sox, Bob took batting practice as an 11-year-old, swinging against the future Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn.”
As the New York Times’ obituary of Ray Boone describes the family’s sports leanings, it’s no surprise that Ray’s son Bob ended up in the Majors. Born months before his father debuted with the Indians, Bob showed early promise as an athlete.
Source: New York Times
Boone was never much of a hitter, but his defense was outstanding and earned him seven Gold Gloves. In 1977, he led the National League catchers with the fewest errors and passed balls. In the 1980 World Series, however, Boone found his stroke, hitting .412 for the Phillies while becoming the second Boone to win a world championship. Boone caught the pitch that struck out Willie Wilson and gave the Phillies their first and only championship. His performance in the Series might be better known for a defensive play he made in the final game. In an article on the Phillies’ official site, Boone recounts the famous foul popup that bounced out of his glove and into first baseman Pete Rose’s for a crucial out.
“I busted my tail to get there and Pete makes the play. Charlie Hustle [Pete’s nickname], my foot,” he joked.
Source: Philidelphia Phillies
After a dismal 1981 season, Boone was traded to the California Angels. He found immediate success and played seven years with the team, helping them to first-place finishes in 1982 and 1986.
Boone was known as much for his longevity as for his defense: when he finally retired after 19 seasons, his 2,225 games behind the plate were a Major League record. Even so, a career-best .295 batting average in 1988 did not persuade the Angels to keep the 40-year-old catcher, so Boone signed with the Kansas City Royals. A solid 1989 season was followed by an injury-shortened 1990, and then retirement. But like his father, Boone found new employment with his final team: he was hired as the Royals’ manager for 1995.
Boone was at the Kansas City helm for less than three years, but was soon tapped to manage the Cincinnati Reds before the 2001 season. The family dynasty had a new chapter, as Boone managed his son, Aaron, who was the Reds’ third baseman.
“I don’t think it will be weird at all,” Aaron told the Associated Press when Bob was hired. “Probably the first day he stands up in spring training it might be a little weird. After that, it will be business as usual. I’m just excited for him to get this opportunity. He loves managing.”
Bob managed the Reds for two and one-half seasons, but eventually followed his father into scouting. He currently oversees scouting and player development for the Washington Nationals. Nationals fan blog Nats320 caught up with Boone during spring training last year and posted a transcript of the interview, along with some pictures of Boone working with young players. Knowing this family, one wonders if he’ll have a grandson among those players someday.
Bret and Aaron Boone
“When Bob Boone caught for the Phillies, Bret and Aaron had their own lockers at Veterans Stadium. During batting practice for the 1979 All-Star Game at Seattle’s Kingdome, in which Bob was playing, Bret, then 10 years old, and Aaron, 6, caught fly balls behind their backs in the outfield, a trick taught to them by the Phillies reliever Tug McGraw,” the New York Times describes, in an obituary of Ray Boone recounting the boys’ baseball-heavy upbringing. “As for those days in Philadelphia, Bret Boone once recalled: ‘I wanted to go to the ballpark every day. If my dad wouldn’t let me, my day was ruined. I just loved it.’’
Source: The New York Times
It’s no wonder, then, that the Boone brothers starred in high school and went on to play for baseball powerhouse USC in college. In fact, their names are all over the list of career statistics leaders at USC.
As Bret rose through the Mariners’ minor league system, talk of baseball’s first three-generation family increased. He finally broke though to the Majors in August, 1992, driving in a run and scoring two in his first game. His name garnered all the attention at first, but Bret was a lot more than just the newest Boone: he was a talented second baseman who could hit for average and power, and he quickly became a star independent of his lineage. “It doesn’t matter who your daddy is when you’re facing the pitcher one on one,” Bret told the Los Angeles Times upon his Major League debut.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Bret went on to win four Gold Gloves, played in three All-Star Games, and enjoyed some of the finest offensive seasons of any second baseman in history, including a 2001 campaign in which he hit .331 with 37 home runs and drove in 141 runs. But before all that he was struggling through the 1997 season with the Cincinnati Reds when, on June 20, they sent him to the minors to work out his hitting trouble. His replacement? Aaron Boone.
Source: The New York Times
Bret made it back to the Majors, of course, and the two played together in the Reds infield for a while before Bret was traded to Atlanta midway through the 1999 season. In fact, the brothers made history yet again when they started alongside shortstop Barry Larkin and first baseman Stephen Larkin at the end of the 1998 season to become the first two sets of brothers to play for the same team in the same game.
Of the two, Bret had the more impressive career. But Aaron’s debut was hardly the only time he’s taken the spotlight. Aaron played in the All-Star Game in 2003, but his biggest moment came later that season, after a July trade to the Yankees. In the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Boone hit a home run that gave the Yankees a 6-5 victory over the Red Sox and sent the team to the World Series. USAToday has the box score and a recap of the classic game.
Source: USA Today
In a Boston Herald poll taken after last week’s Super Bowl, Boone’s home run ranked as the third most painful moment in Boston sports history.
Source: The Boston Herald
Bret retired in 2006 but Aaron is now back with Dad, having signed with the Nationals for the 2008 season, where he’s expected to back up star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
This could very well be the last year we see a Boone in a Major League uniform. But then again, Bret’s eight-year-old son Jacob may one day have something to say about that. “We're a baseball family,” Bret said upon retiring.