Bob and Susan Boone came to Eugene in the summer of 1972 with their young son, Bret. As a catcher, Bob was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969 and had been working his way through the minors since.
The Eugene Emeralds, of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League at the time, were Boone’s fourth minor league team in as many years.
Playing with future major leaguers Mike Schmidt and Oscar Gamble, Boone batted .308 with 17 home runs, 158 hits and 67 RBI’s for the ’72 team that went on to win the Pacific Coast League Title. It was Boone’s last minor league season before he was called up to the Phillies and began a decorated MLB career that included four all-star appearances and one World Series title.
Boone was back in Eugene on Friday to pay tribute to Civic Stadium, where he played during that ’72 season, after much of the grandstand burned down on June 29.
In the second of a three-game series against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, the Eugene Emeralds held a tribute night for the fallen stadium. Boone, along with former Emeralds general manager Bob Beban, spoke to the PK Park crowd before the game.
“My wife and I talk about Eugene often, and miss that summer a lot,” Boone said. “It was a great time for us.”
The Emeralds (17-19) fell to the Volcanoes (19-17) in a 6-5 defeat, but the night held meaning beyond the game being played on the PK turf.
Several former Emeralds players, including Schmidt, Gamble, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski and Mike Sweeney spoke of their Civic Stadium memories through videos they submitted to the team. Between innings, the Emeralds played these video tributes on the big screen beyond centerfield.
“In my entire life I’ve had some wonderful memories, and the year I spent in Eugene, Oregon at Civic Stadium I will never forget,” Schmidt said in a video. “So sorry to hear the news and I hope that the Eugene Emerald baseball tradition continues.”
Like Boone, many players hit their stride in Eugene, generating enough attention to get their shot in the majors.
“I really feel that without playing there in 1969, I probably would’ve never played in the big leagues,” Bowa said.
The Emeralds, on the other hand, started slow on Friday as Ryan Kellogg gave up five runs and 11 hits in the first two innings. With a sputtering offense as of late, the deficit appeared difficult to overcome for the Emeralds.
But Alberto Alzolay replaced Kellogg at the start of the third, and the Emeralds slowly chipped away.
Donnie Dewees hit a home run for the second consecutive night, this time a solo shot to trim the lead to 5-2.
In the bottom of the 8th, Alex Bautista blasted a two-run homer to bring the Emeralds within one run at 6-5. Three batters and two pitching changes later, Ho-young Son threatened to score from third.
Dewees, battling Volcanoes reliever Caleb Smith, popped up a pitch within the infield. Son darted home, and Volcanoes third baseman Miguel Gomez was unable to make the catch on the line. The play was initially ruled fair, which would’ve tied the game 6-6 with Son’s run. Umpires Justin Anderson and Justin Phillips discussed the play for a few moments, and eventually ruled the ball foul.
“At first, we thought it nicked his glove and when they talked about it, I think they got the call right,” Emeralds manager Gary Van Tol said.
The Emeralds were unable to get anyone on base in the bottom of the ninth, halting a promising comeback.
The Emeralds and Volcanoes will play the rubber match Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at PK Park.
Follow Will Denner on Twitter @Will_Denner
Correction on Dec. 12, 2020: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Bret as Aaron Boone.