McCoy was nearly in tears. Strokes in the optic nerves of both eyes had left him with only a tiny, blurred tunnel of vision. "You're probably seeing me for the last time," whispered McCoy. "I can't see. I can't do this job anymore."
Boone took him by the shoulders and sat him down in his chair. "No good," Boone said. "That's not a good enough excuse. You aren't quitting. You're too good."
You have to understand: A player caring about a writer is like a shark caring about a sardine.
But here was Boone, pulling Hal McCoy through his darkness. Here was Boone, checking on him every day. Here was Boone offering to guide him to teammates' lockers. Here was Boone... giving him crap. "Hal," Boone would say from his locker, mock-disgusted. "I'm over here?'
"I wouldn't be covering the Reds today if it weren't for Aaron Boone," says McCoy, who is back for his 32nd season covering the Reds, the longest one-team tenure of any current writer. "I'd have retired that very day. I wanted to quit five or six more times that spring, but he'd always talk me out of it.... For a ballplayer to care that much about me, man, it lifted me. It carried me."
And when McCoy was inducted into the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame last July, he had the crowd in tears telling the story of how a ballplayer turned out to be the strangest of things to a sportswriter—a friend.
Hey, Boston, you still hate him?