Bob Boone: The best of them all

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1974 Goldpanner Yearbook

Former Goldpanner great, Bob Boone, picked team’s all-time great player

If ever there were a ball player who truly epitomized what the Alaska Goldpanner baseball program represents – what it emphasizes, what it personifies, or simply what it means to the community – it would have to be Bob Boone.

Now a bright, young catching prospect with the Philadelphia Phillies, Boone spent three summers of the most crucial years in the development of a baseball player, in a uniform of the Alaska Goldpanners.

He left behind a career batting average of .376, and a trail of other records when he departed the Goldpanner ranks in 1968.  But it wasn’t so much his performance on the playing field that led to Boone’s selection as the Goldpanners greatest all-time player.  It was also his involvement in the community, its customs, and its people.

“It was never strictly his baseball ability that made Bob such a great player,” said Red Boucher, who became like a father to him. “Rather it was the total person.

“I always figured that for the long range potential, as a total ball player, Bob Boone was the best kid I ever had,” confessed the Panners former field manager.  “I’m talking about the total kid.  He had the most of what it all represented.  And the fans saw what Bob Boone radiated.

He could get mad – but would never lose his temper.   He spoke respectfully to people.  He never traded on his father’s name.   He worked his way through school.  On his job up here, I never had a complaint.  He was up at 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning, he went to work, and put in a full day’s work.  He did the dishes at home.   He took the time to care for his summer family.   He participated in Alaska.”

Boone was selected the greatest Goldpanner player of them all from a list of similarly outstanding players who have performed with the Goldpanners over the years.   Such players as Gene Delyon and Bill Seinsoth.   Dave Roberts and Dave Winfield.   And Graig Nettles and Buddy Hollowell.

Realizing the impressiveness of the list of players who have played with the Panners, Boone was touched upon learning of his being picked.

“Being selected as the top all-time Goldpanner player,” he said, “is truly an honor I shall cherish throughout my lifetime.   It is more than just an award to me.

“It would be totally inadequate for me to say that playing baseball, living and working for three summers in Fairbanks was a fun time in my life.  My life those three seasons was much more.  It was a total experience.

“To imagine a town of 20,000 people supporting a program in the magnitude and class that the Goldpanner program has been supported, is truly unbelievable, and a tribute to the community itself.  The support given the Panners though, has always been more than strictly financial.

“The Panner program has been people and friends, and involvement and love.  And these are the real ingredients that make each summer such an experience for the players and the fans.  To me, there was never another place to play – only Fairbanks.

“I can recall the memories of those summers that are still so vivid… of working an eight-hour day, and playing a game each night with never a thought of being tired… of winning most of our games, and being surrounded by such talented athletes… of the friendly rivalry shared by the late Bill Seinsoth and myself… of working on the field to improve a hole or a lip at third base… of taking off and going fishing every spare moment I had… and of course, there were my friends – the Tom Miklautsch’s, the Grace Cady’s, the Ray Foster’s, the Nusbaumers, the Merdes’, the Millers, the Milo Griffin’s, the Emmitt Wilson’s, and so many others.  They all led to the happiness I knew in Alaska.

“I just feel so very grateful to have played for the Goldpanners, and to have been given the opportunity to experience such a number of rewarding times.”

Boone came to the Goldpanners as an 18-year old freshman out of Stanford University.  The son of former major leaguer, Ray (Ike) Boone, he batted .382 his first summer with the Panners, then followed that up with averages of .346 in 1967, and a record-setting .405 mark his final year.

Almost his entire career with the Goldpanners was spent as a third baseman, and it is a tribute to his ability and determination that it is as a catcher that Boone is making his mark in the big leagues.

“Bob caught his first game ever behind the plate when he was with the Goldpanners,” said Boucher.  “I moved him back there the odd time because he was such a natural leader.  He was the type of guy who had the total respect of his ball club.”

It was in his third year as a pro that Boone made the full-time conversion to catching, and it resulted in his becoming a big leaguer with the Phillies a short time later.

Boone’s younger brother Rod also played with the Goldpanners for three years, from 1969 through 1971, and like Bob has made the transition to catching after turning pro, though he likewise caught briefly with the Panners.

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