Ray would throw batting practice at Tiger Stadium to Bob and his younger son, Rod, who played in the minors for four years. In 1958, when Ray was traded to Chicago, Bob shagged flies while the White Sox took batting practice at Comiskey Park. "I'd hear a roar, and I knew either Bob or Early Wynn's son [Joel had made a great catch," says Ray. Bob signed his first autograph at 11; he was so big for his age that the Sox equipment man gave him Nellie Fox's uniform to wear into the outfield, and one day a fan, thinking Boone was Fox, asked him to sign a program.
When Bob played for the Phillies, Bret would work out at Veterans Stadium, running down flies and learning about life in the clubhouse. Bret got his first standing ovation at nine when, during warmups for the 1979 All-Star Game in Seattle, the crowd rose to cheer his behind-the-back catches while shagging fly balls.
But these baseball brats are not alike in all respects. Says Bob, "Bret and I are as different as night and day." Bob has always worked hard to make himself a player. Bret is a natural. "He walked at six months, and by the time he was one, his grandfather was pitching Wiffle Balls to him, and he could hit them over the house," says Bob.
Ray says that Bob was extremely serious and never talked about himself: "He came home after a high school basketball game one night and I asked him how he played. He said, 'O.K.' Nothing else. The next day I found out he was the high scorer with 27 points."
"I was boring," says Bob. "My parents never had to find something for me to do. They never dreaded the weekends, as I did with Bret. I loved to study." Bret says, "I'll read the book when it comes out on video."
Not long ago Bob demonstrated his Hoefling workout for Bret. He suggested that Bret join him in his off-season conditioning program. "Dad," Bret said, "I can hit."
Caught between a father who hit .275 lifetime—including four consecutive seasons in Detroit during which he averaged .296 with 23 homers and 99 RBIs—and a son cocky enough to make wisecracks about the way his old man bats, Bob doesn't talk a lot about hitting. He'll talk about having played in postseason competition six times in the last 11 years, but he won't mention his .318 postseason average. Nor does he bring up his four All-Star appearances. "My job is catching," he says. "And the biggest part of that job is handling the pitching staff. That takes a lot of preparation. I have to have everything planned out before I even begin to think about hitting."
Before the first game of any series, Boone arrives at the park six hours early. He studies the scouting reports and watches videotapes of the opponent's recent games. Then, when the opposing team takes batting practice, he sits on the bench and watches intently. "In BP, hitters will show you what they want to hit," he says. He discusses rival hitters with Angel pitching coach Marcel Lachemann but avoids long strategy sessions with the starting pitcher.
"I don't believe in going over lineups or talking with a pitcher, especially if he's young," Boone says. "That creates too many negative thoughts, like, 'Don't throw this guy a fastball.' Pitchers have ideas. Fine. But it's my job to get ideas, give my pitcher the target and, in so many words, say, 'Just think about giving me your best fastball here,' or 'Just give me your best forkball there.'
"Calling a game is an art form, not a science. You can't call a game five hours before it begins, or from the bench. There are so many minor adjustments that hitters and pitchers make back and forth during a game, it becomes a sort of mental chess game. I don't believe in going to the mound too often, except to try to relax a pitcher. You can communicate without saying a word, and sometimes it's better that way.