Philadelphia Inquirer - March 4, 1980

Boone is pushing himself to be Phillies’ ‘iron man’


By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer


CLEARWATER, Fla. – It was a leisurely morning in the life of Bob Boone (avocation: exercise-aholic).


It started with a mere 10 minutes hooked up to something called a Cybex machine, flexing his left knee time after time after thousandth time. Boone was actually biting his lower lip to indicate how much fun this was.


Then Boone lay on the floor of the Phillies' clubhouse and made the mistake of raising his legs into a kind of horizontal crouch. This looked like a mistake because Phillies trainer Don Seger proceeded to grab those legs and began pushing Boone's knees against his stomach. Seger did this for five minutes. Boone just bit his lip again.


After that, Boone planted himself a few feet away from Gus Hoefling, the Phillies' strength-and-flexibility guru, and did the following:


Rolled his neck in each direction. Wheeled his arms both clockwise and counterclockwise. Sat on the floor and touched his toes. Grabbed his left leg and stretched. Grabbed his right leg and stretched. Lay on his stomach and yanked each leg in the direction of his third vertebra. Did 25 situps. Did 25 pushups. Did 20 more situps. Did 15 more pushups.


(Phew.) (Not through yet.)


Lay on his back and did leg lifts until he couldn't do any more. Leaned on each knee and stretched his hamstrings. Did more leg lifts. Reached out with both arms and kicked his legs high enough to slap his hands. Squatted as best he could, then came out of it until he was only halfway standing up and held that position a while.


Okay, take a break, Bob. Bob?


Nope, Boone then headed for the trainer's room and rode a stationary bicycle for a half-hour. After that he showered, gathered up his two sons and left. For the beach, right? Wrong. For the Y, to work on the Nautilus machines, run and swim.


Ever wondered now much fun you were missing by not having an operation to correct a medial collateral ligament tear in your knee? Now you know.


Boone would be doing a lot of this stuff anyway, being one of the most fanatic conditioning devotees alive. But Boone also had Joel Youngblood crash into him at home plate last September. His reward for not getting out of the way was an operation on his left knee, six weeks in a cast and a tough rehabilitation process.


"Well," said Boone, "it gave me something to do all winter so I wouldn't get bored."


When the cast was removed from Boone's knee the first week of November, the range of motion in his leg was a whopping eight degrees.


Boone figured that for every three hours he spent trying to rehabilitate himself this winter, his range increased one degree. His range now is somewhere around 135 degrees, so figure out how many hours that comes to.


"I can bend it now to about where most people can normally bend it," Boone said. "I don't think you'd even notice it if I played any other position."


Unfortunately, the knee is as critical to catching as a throat is to singing. What hurts Boone most now is the on-the-toes crouch, the one he flashes signals out of. He also is not too excited about the prospect of blocking pitches in the dirt. These are even more frequent than attacks by Youngblood.


"If we were in a pennant race in September and he had this kind of quality (in knee movement). I'm sure he'd be catching," said Seger. "But this is spring training. We know what he can do. It's not like he has to make the club. I'd rather make sure his knee was perfect.


"How much will he catch early? I don't know. I'd like him to (wait and then) really get going the last 10 days or two weeks (of the spring), just so he'll know in his mind he's got no problem." Boone's physical readiness for the season could be especially important for two reasons: One is that Tim McCarver isn't around anymore to give him every fourth day off. The second is that manager Dallas Green seems intent on carrying only two catchers.


Green says he expects Boone to catch 150 games this year and maintains he can get away with having only two catchers particularly because Boone has traditionally been so durable.


Boone, on the other hand, is opposed to the two-catcher plan. But it is for the traditional reasons (leaving another backup after Keith Moreland pinch-hits). The slight matter of his coming off a knee operation has nothing to do with it.


"Most people tend to think that's a consideration," Boone said. "I don't think it's much of a factor at all."


What? Boone not be physically ready for a baseball season?


NOTES: Greg Gross, Lonnie Smith and Dickie Noles were unsuccessful in their attempts to drive through that blizzard in the South, so they failed to arrive yesterday.... The final item on today's camp-opening agenda reads: "Supervised Running; Pitchers with (Herm) Starrette; Field No. 2.... Yesterday morning was the coldest in March in history (29 degrees), so there was no formal workout.