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MINOR LEAGUE NOTEBOOK : Ex-Titan Boone Shoots For Majors Again

Few baseball players get a second chance at the major leagues, but Dan Boone is hoping he’ll be an exception--eight years later.

Boone, who helped Cal State Fullerton to its first College World Series berth in 1975, spent one full season in the majors. He was a solid, if not spectacularly successful, reliever for the Padres in 1981. His most interesting numbers: He led the league with five balks in 37 appearances that season, and at 137 pounds may have been the lightest player to pitch in the majors.

These days Boone is aiming to create a more impressive baseball legacy. At 36, he is again a step away from the majors, pitching for his fifth triple-A team, the Orioles’ affiliate in Rochester, N.Y.

This time his main weapon is the knuckleball, a pitch he says he throws about 75% to 80% of the time. He rarely threw the knuckleball during his first stint in the majors, although he struck out Johnny Bench the first time he threw the pitch in a major league game.

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At Rochester, where he has been used as a left-handed reliever and a spot starter, he is baffling hitters. He pitched a no-hitter last month in a seven-inning game with Syracuse. Boone is 8-5 with a 2.81 earned-run average and eight saves.

Boone vividly remembers his last month as a major league pitcher. Called up by the Astros in September, 1982, he pitched in four games.

“It was very disappointing,” Boone said. “Especially because I had three appearances in the first week and I allowed no runs in 5 1/3 innings and they gave me only one more the rest of the month.

“That’s terrible.”

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But it was all Boone would get. In the next two seasons, he pitched for the Astros’ triple-A team in Tucson, Ariz., and then the Brewers’ triple-A Vancouver team, but never made it back to the majors. When Boone, a seventh-generation nephew of pioneer Daniel Boone, was released by the Brewers in the middle of the 1984 season, his baseball career seemed to be history.

After his release, Boone gave up professional baseball and found a construction job in San Diego. He and his wife, Marge, bought a house in El Cajon and settled in with their three daughters, Bethany, 7, Amanda, 4, and Brittany, 2.

Although Boone’s main concern was providing for his family, he continued to play baseball.

In 1985, he played in a collegiate summer league in Anchorage, Alaska, and when a men’s 33-and-over league started up in San Diego in the summer of 1987, he joined.

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Then, when John D’Acquisto, a former Padre teammate, left the San Diego league for the newly formed Senior League in Florida last fall, Boone asked him to look out for opportunities for him.

The day after Thanksgiving, the Bradenton Explorers called offering him about $5,000 a month for the final two months of the season. Boone accepted, leaving his construction job and enduring a separation from his family. Because of his performance for Bradenton--a 4-3 record and a 3.16 ERA (fourth in the league)--and the knuckleball he started relying on, the Orioles were interested enough to give him another shot at making the majors.

In Rochester, Boone currently is waiting for word from Baltimore. The Orioles’ pitching staff is depleted--two pitchers went on the disabled list last weekend--but Boone still pitches in the International League.

Greg Biagini, Rochester manager, said Boone’s performance in triple A should have earned him another shot at the majors. Doug Melvin, the Orioles’ farm director, isn’t making any promises but told Boone he likely would be pitching for the Orioles when rosters are expanded to 40 in September.

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Driven by his love for playing baseball, the desire to prove he can be a successful major league pitcher and his knowledge that after a season in the big leagues, he probably could pay off the mortgage on his house in El Cajon, Boone remains patient. He said he wouldn’t mind coming back to Rochester again next season. He and his family are renting an apartment in the city, and playing baseball beats working 8 to 5 on a construction site, Boone said.

“If I can get back to the big leagues and be successful, there’s no telling what’s going to happen,” he said. “I could pitch there the next 10 years.”

They’re out: Jim Dedrick, formerly of Huntington Beach High School, Orange Coast College and Southern California College, was among five Wausau (Wis.) Timbers players suspended and fined last week for a prank apparently intended to cancel a doubleheader in South Bend, Ind.

South Bend police investigators determined that the players had entered Coveleski Stadium last Sunday night and rolled back the infield tarpaulin during a rainstorm, apparently hoping the doubleheader between the South Bend White Sox and the Timbers scheduled for Monday would be cancelled.

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However, the rain stopped and the grounds crew was able to prepare the field in time for the first game. Although the police were prepared make arrests after the first game of the doubleheader, the White Sox’s decided not to press charges, the South Bend Tribune reported.

George Spelius, Midwest League president, was less forgiving, fining the players an undisclosed amount and suspending them for the remainder of the season, through the fall instructional leagues and 10 games into next season. Spelius said the severity of the sanctions was intended to show that the league didn’t think it was funny to jeopardize the $20,000 to $25,000 the South Bend franchise would have lost if the doubleheader weren’t played.

Given another chance, the players probably would have spent the evening differently, Spelius said.

“If they were aware that they would be caught, they may have decided to take in a movie instead,” Spelius said.

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Perhaps . . . “Bull Durham.”

In a scene of the movie, Kevin Costner’s character, Crash Davis, and several of his Durham Bull teammates succeeded in getting a game cancelled with late-night waterworks.


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