Tigers’ third baseman Ray Boone was patriarch of star-studded baseball family

Ray Boone at the plate for the Detroit Tigers in Yankee Stadium.

No family in history has had more baseball in their blood than the Boone’s, who sent three generations to the big leagues.

It all started with Ray Boone, an All-Star third baseman for the Detroit Tigers in the 1950s, whose son and grandsons followed him to the majors. Not only were the Boone’s the first family to have three generations make it to “The Show”, they are the only family to send all the members of each generation to an All-Star Game.

Ironically, Ray became a Tiger when former Detroit star Hank Greenberg, then general manager of the Cleveland Indians, traded him away in the middle of the 1953 season. Ray had drawn the difficult assignment of replacing Lou Boudreau at shortstop for the Tribe. Though the oldest Boone was a talented athlete, he was not the match of the popular Boudreau at short. Over time, Cleveland fans blamed Boone for the inability of the team to catch the Yankees in the American League standings.

Tigers manager Fred Hutchinson quickly inserted Boone as his starting third baseman, adjacent to his young star shortstop Harvey Kuenn. Boone flourished at the hot corner, and after hitting .312 with 22 homers and 93 RBI in 101 games for the Tigers he finished 8th in MVP voting. The next season he was an All-Star for the Tigers and he belted at least 20 homers in his first four seasons in a Detroit uniform.

When the Tigers acquired Ray, his son Bobby was just five years old. With his dad playing 13 years in the majors, Bobby grew up around the clubhouse. He learned the game and he also inherited the skills of his father. Like Ray, Bob Boone was a catcher as a high school player. Unlike his father, Bob stayed behind the plate. He was a natural at controlling a ballgame from behind the dish.

Growing up in California where Ray lived during the off-season, Bob went on to star in college for Stanford. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. He went on to catch more games in the major leagues than anyone ever had previously – more than 2,200 games in all. With the Phillies he won two Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams. Later with the California Angels, Boone won five more Gold Gloves. In the 1980 World Series, Boone hit .412 with four RBI as Philadelphia won their first World Series title. In total, Bob’s teams went to the post-season seven times.

By the time Bob was winding down his amazing 19-year career, one of his sons was already drafted by a major league team and two others were being closely scouted. Bob’s oldest son Bret (Ray’s oldest grandson) was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 5th round of the amateur draft in 1990, the same year that his father was playing his last season with the Kansas City Royals. Like his granddad, Bret ended up as an infielder in the big leagues, debuting as a second baseman with the M’s in 1992. His younger brothers Aaron and Matt were later drafted by big league clubs, Aaron by the Cincinnati Reds in 1994 and Matt by the Tigers in 1997.

As kids, Bret, Aaron, and Matt grew up playing with the children of their father’s teammates – among them Pete Rose Jr.

Aaron made it to the major leagues and like his brother Bret, was named to the All-Star team in 2003. At that All-Star Game in Chicago, Bret (representing the AL) and Aaron (representing the NL) were joined by father Bob and grandfather Ray in a Boone reunion on the field. All four were or had been All-Star players.

Ray Boone passed away at the age of 81 on October 17, 2004, the day that the Boston Red Sox rallied to defeat the New York Yankees in Game Four of the AL Championship Series, starting their eight-game winning streak that would end with them winning the World Series and ending the “Curse of the Bambino”.

But the only curse that seems to be in play for the Boone’s is one of baseball talent. With three generations and four major leaguers in their family tree they rank as one of the most successful baseball families in history. No word (yet) on whether or not a fourth generation of Boone’s is coming. Bret and Aaron both have sons, so who knows?

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About Dan Holmes

The editor of Detroit Athletic Co. blog, is the author of Ty Cobb: A Biography. He was formerly the Web Producer for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and worked for Major League Baseball as a producer. He contributed to Sock it to 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and Deadball Stars of the American League. Follow him on Twitter at @twebman or visit his personal blog at danholmes.com.