Camden Courier-Post - January 9, 1980

Hard work by Boone eases operation woes


By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post


PHILADELPHIA – When an all-star athlete undergoes knee surgery, it's usually standard operating procedure for everyone within a thousand miles to break into a cold sweat.


Players of that caliber just don't walk into town every day. And, there is always the possibility that complications or the athlete's own lack of desire during rehabilitation could jeopardize his career and the future of the team.


That's why the attitude of people toward Phillies' catcher Bob Boone's trip to the operating room last September is so surprising. You'd think he just stepped out to have new heels and soles put on his shoes rather than having the ligaments in his left knee repaired.


Boone, who is already running in preparation for the 1980 season, believes that if there has been a blasé attitude on the part of people toward his surgery, it's the nicest compliment they can pay him.


"When anyone just assumes that I'm going to be coming back as good as new, it shows me they know I'm going to do whatever it takes to get the job done," said Bob.


"The fact that people aren't overly worried is an indication they have confidence in me."


That confidence is surely not misplaced. Boone has always been a man of determination, thriving on personal challenges.


Anyone who saw him make the transition from third baseman to catcher will verify that fact. Especially after watching him spend hour after hour in spring training, insisting that one coach or another throw pitches that would bounce in front of him.


He came away with split fingers and bruised arms. But, he learned how to block a wild pitch with his body so that the ball ricocheted in front of him.


Bob's belief in self-improvement through hard work has enabled him to not only become one of the most accomplished and sought-after catchers in baseball today, but it's also transformed him into an impressive physical specimen.


"Some guys are willing to endure the pain and sacrifice of improving their strength and coordination," explained Phillies fitness expert Gus Hoefling. "Then, there is the rare individual who isn't just willing to make the effort, he loves doing it. Bob Boone is one of those men."


What does this have to do with Bob's knee? Everything.


"I'm a firm believer in self-discipline," he explained. "What can be more challenging than taking yourself to the limit and then trying to go even farther?


"That's why I liked the Kung Fu exercises so much. That's why I've used the Nautilus machine to get myself at least 20 percent stronger than I was last season.


"It all comes into play when you're faced with something like rehabilitating a knee. There is no easy way out. There are no shortcuts. You know that when you watch guys like John Bunting or Bill Bergey of the Eagles make the sacrifices hour after hour, day after day."


Two weeks after his operation, Boone looked up at the ceiling in his Medford home and announced to the vacant room, "I can't just lay here on my butt! I won't!"


There was pain. Lots of it. But he wanted the rest of his body to be ready for the day when his leg cast would celebrate its six-week birthday and become history.


"Probably the greatest strain was mental," said Boone. "Up at 6 a.m. for the trip to the stadium. Three to six hours working with the trainers. An hour or two on the Nautilus. For a while there, it was dark when I left the house in the morning and dark when I got home.


"I never even saw daylight. And, I think it would have gotten to me if it hadn't been for our trainer Don Seger and his assistant Jeff Cooper. Always positive. Always encouraging. Never once showing the slightest sign of strain. You can't teach people to have attitudes like that."


With a dozen different treatments machines and exercises brought into play, Boone was able to take a knee that had just eight percent mobility and rehabilitate it to 134 degrees. Which is just four degrees shy of his healthy right knee.


Boone's rehabilitation schedule, which is targeted for a healthy opening day of spring training, began with one basic rule – the key to a successful operation is the work you put into it after surgery.


Small wonder nobody's been staying up nights worrying about Bob Boone.