KANSAS CITY — In another year, or maybe on another team, corks would have popped and champagne would have flowed. But Bob Boone's timing was bad.
Boone had to pick 1987, a dry year in the Angel clubhouse, to break Al Lopez's all-time record for most major league games caught. Angel management has banned alcohol in the locker room since June, so Boone could celebrate catching Game No. 1,919 the only way he was allowed, with a magnum of electrolyte solution.
Following the Angels' 6-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals Wednesday night, several of Boone's teammates presented the catcher with an ice bucket containing a bottle of Pedialyte, which carries less punch than Dom Perignon and seldom accompanies caviar. Taped to the bucket was a hand-written sign: Congratulations from Your Pals.
"Tastes great," said Boone with a grin. "That's the best we can do in our clubhouse with our rules."
With or without the bubbly, Wednesday was a special night for Boone. Fifteen years in the making, the moment was forever frozen in Boone's memory when he took his position behind home plate in the bottom of the first--soon to find himself surrounded by the Angel team.
Boone shook hands with each player and coach and was finally greeted by Angel Manager Gene Mauch, who handed Boone home plate. Actually, it was an old home plate, attached to a plaque and embossed with the wording:
Major League Record
1,919 Games Caught
Sept. 16, 1987
Angels Vs. Royals
A nice trophy, suitable for mounting . . . or maybe Boone will throw it on the floor of his living room and squat behind it, every now and then, following his retirement. Just to keep the feeling.
"That surprised me," Boone admitted. "I didn't know any of that was going to happen. All of a sudden, everybody's running out onto the field. I wondered what was going on. That's very nice, I was very pleased."
Boone then settled into his crouch to do what he does best: Direct a young pitcher.
On the mound for the Angels was Chuck Finley, who was replacing the traded John Candelaria and making his first major league start. Finley struggled through two shaky innings--yielding three runs and four hits--and lasted just 4 innings, but Mauch noticed the progress Finley made the longer he worked with Boone.
"Finley's motor was running a little fast in the second inning," Mauch said. "But after that, he threw pretty good."
Finley left the game tied at 3-3. Greg Minton, the Angels' first of three relievers, pitched the next two innings, earning credit for the victory while the Angels scored the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth.
They added two more runs in the top of the ninth for DeWayne Buice, who wriggled out of a nervous final inning by the skin of Dick Schofield's glove.
Buice loaded the bases with one out and walked George Brett to force in one run. He came back to strike out Danny Tartabull for the second out before Frank White hit a sharp one-hopper.
The ball was headed for center field but Schofield, the Angels' shortstop, intercepted it with a diving lunge. On his knees, Schofield flipped to second baseman Johnny Ray for the final force out.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is interested in adding Boone's glove to its trophy case, but Boone has put the curators on hold.
"I've got to finish this year first," he said. "I only have one glove I feel comfortable playing with in a game. I want to hang on to this one for a while."
Boone would like to hang onto it until at least 1989.
"There's more baseball for Bob Boone," he said. "I plan to sign for next year. Hopefully, the California Angels will cooperate."
A lack of cooperation between the two parties last January nearly cost Boone this record altogether. Boone failed to come to terms with the Angels by the Jan. 8 deadline and had to wait until May 1 to reconsider the club's offer and re-enlist.
"It would've been a shame not to get the record because of financial reasons," Boone said. "I'm glad I didn't. Now, my goal is to play as long as I possibly can."