36-year old Daniel Boone, left-handed pitcher for the Rochester Red Wings is trying
to create major league interest in unusual ways, starting with his delivery: the
BOONE: I'm still learning the pitch. I talked with Hoyt Wilhelm, Phil Neikro, Joe Neikro-
they showed me their grips and what their philosophy of throwing it was. And one thing I
failed to do is ask them how to take care of their nails. That seemed to be the biggest
problem I've had with it so far. I'll go out and throw three or four innings and all of
a sudden I'll look down and one of my nails will split or cutting. For me, if the nails
aren't just right and the release point- the ball coming out just right- I can tell by
the reaction of the hitters that the ball isn't doing what it's supposed to do…so, I need
to make an adjustment on it.
Today, only two major league starters throw the knuckler, successful only when the
ball doesn't spin- allowing wind currents to erractically maneuver it past the frustrated
hitters. Ex-major league hurler Dick Bosman, now the Red Wings pitching coach, says it's
a catch-22 situation because everyone involved: the pitcher, batter and catcher have no
idea which way the ball is going.
BOSMAN: The better you are, the harder you are to catch. You get into a lot of trouble
throwing knuckleballs because if the catcher can't hold you and guys get on base, you're
gonna have a merry go 'round out there. You get wild pitches and passed balls and guys
score because of it and you end up losing ball games, a lot of times you say "what's the
use?" because it's a good pitch but nobody can catch it. So it can become very
frustrating. I think it takes somebody with a lot of intestinal fortitude and a lot of
Boone quit baseball six years ago after bouncing around three big league
organizations. He may have been the lightest player in the majors: at 137 pounds with
San Diego in 1981. But he returned with the knuckleball last fall in the Senior League,
impressing scout Berdie Tebbets of the Baltimore Orioles and was signed for triple-A
Rochester. Through both starting and relief roles this year, Boone is among team leaders
for victories,has one of the top earned run averages in the International League, and
last month tossed a no-hitter, shutting down the Syracuse Chiefs.
Memories of unhappier days: out of baseball working construction through the mid-80s,
helps him appreciate the baseball life all the more.
BOONE: Driving down the road every once in awhile, I'll see a construction truck go by
and my heart goes out to them because I know what type of job it is. Eight-to-five isn't
the most glorious job and sometimes not the most fulfilling. It's kind of like a dead end
situation, especially when you know you're not going anywhere in the company. And I think
that was one of the reasons why the flame never did go out in my desire to return to
Red Wings management and players say Boone is one of the boys on the ball club. His
goal to make the majors isn't any different than guys ten years younger. Dan says he does
get razzed with some "old man" jokes, but more often is teased for being the smallest on
the squad at 5 foot eight… or about his ancestry: he's a seventh-generation nephew of the
legendary pioneer, Daniel Boone.
BOONE: A lot of people growing up used to make fun of the name and sing the Daniel Boone
theme because it was on TV, which was quite embarrassing. In 1978, when I played in the
Angels organization, the General Manager of the Double-A El Paso Diablos bought a
coonskin cap from me.They had me put the cap on when I would run in from the bullpen. I
don't really get caught up in it very much. For a period of time in my life I was a
little disappointed because I did struggle to overcome that. But at this point in life,
I'm really proud and thankful that my mom named me Danny.
[ MUSIC CLIP: lyrics from The Daniel Boone television show ]
From the coonskin cap on the top of old Dan
To the heel of his rawhide shoe
The rippin'-est, roarin'-est, fightin'-est man
The frontier ever knew
Daniel Boone was a man, yes a big man
What a Boone, what a do-er what a dream come-a true-er was he
Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370.