8 years later, Boone back at big-league frontier

September 17, 1990|By Ken Rosenthal | Ken Rosenthal,Evening Sun Staff

TORONTO -- First of all, Dan Boone's parents named him "Danny," not "Daniel." But enough about him being a seventh-generation nephew of the famous pioneer. Orioles PR czar Rick Vaughn has documented why his comeback is one of the most amazing in major-league history.

Boone, 36, pitched in the majors last night for the first time since Sept. 30, 1982 -- a mere 2,908 days ago. He worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the Orioles' 6-5 loss to Toronto, allowing two hits and striking out two.

"I was really pumped up," Boone said. "I don't know if you'd call it overexcitement or what. But my adrenalin was really flowing. The only time I stopped was to tell myself to calm down. I got anxious. I was working too fast."

Can you blame him? Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken was a rookie when Boone made his last major-league appearance. Manager Frank Robinson was managing San Francisco. Ben McDonald was a freshman at Denham Springs (La.) High School.

According to research conducted by Vaughn, the last pitcher with a bigger gap between major-league appearances was Jim Bouton -- eight years and 42 days, from July 29, 1970, to Sept. 10, 1978. Oakland's Mike Norris resurfaced this year after six years and 249 days.

Naturally, Boone was overjoyed by his return, the highlight of a year in which he went 11-5 with eight saves at Rochester after signing out of the Senior League. "It's a dream come true," he said. "It's very satisfying.

But wait, there's more: the 5-foot-8 Boone weighs just 142 pounds, 5 more than in 1982. According to the book "Total Baseball," the last time a major-league pitcher weighed less was in 1920-22, when Jose Acosta (5-7, 140 pounds) pitched for the Washington Senators and Chicago White Sox.

Boone said he played organized baseball every year but 1986 during his layoff, be it in an Alaskan summer league or a San Diego senior league. The difference now is that he throws 80 to 85 percent knuckleballs. That pitch, he said, was his only hope of returning to the majors.

Finally, what goes around comes around: In his last major-league appearance, Boone lost 6-5 to San Francisco while pitching for Houston. The Giants, managed by Robinson, beat him with two runs in the ninth.

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