Home run a boon to Boone’s legacy
New Astro will be forever remembered for ALCS-winning hit
By BRIAN MCTAGGART
March 15, 2009, 12:39AM
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Aaron Boone finally has learned how to embrace one of the most magical moments in the history of the New York Yankees, a moment that made him a villain in the eyes of Boston Red Sox fans and forever a hero in the Bronx.
Yes, there was a time Aaron Bleeping Boone, as he is known to Red Sox Nation, didn’t care to talk about his walk-off homer in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series.
There was a time he was ready to move on, focus on the future and the rest of his career.
“I went to Cleveland (in 2005) and tried to distance myself from it and didn’t want to talk about it a lot,” Boone said. “It’s something I’ve kind of embraced and realized what a special moment it was to be a part of it.”
Boone, signed by the Astros to platoon with Geoff Blum at third base, sent the Yankees to their 39th AL pennant by hitting a Tim Wakefield knuckleball over the left-field wall at Yankee Stadium, cementing his place in history.
Boone, after all, is one of only a handful of players to have hit a walk-off homer to win a playoff series.
“If it was on a TV and I was walking by and I knew it was coming up, I’d stop and watch it,” Boone said. “I see it every now and then.”
At which point, teammate Lance Berkman, yells from a nearby locker: “Are you talking about that homer again?”
More than five years removed from becoming a part of Yankees lore, Boone, 36, is with his fourth team in four years and knows he no longer is a full-time player.
That’s one of the things that attracted him to the Astros, who were looking for a third baseman after the departure of Ty Wigginton.
Boone signed a one-year deal in December worth $750,000, plus incentives.
“It was a chance for me to be with a veteran team that has a chance to be a good team,” Boone said. “When I found out the Astros were interested, it was very exciting for me and something that I kind of encouraged my people to get done.
“I feel like at this point in my career, I can’t really do it every day, but I feel like it’s potentially a perfect situation. I’ve got something left and hopefully I can be a part of a winning formula.”
Boone comes from strong baseball stock. He is the son of former catcher and manager Bob Boone, the brother of former All-Star Bret Boone and the grandson of former major leaguer Ray Boone.
“My dad was basically in the big leagues from the time I was born to my senior year in high school, and he played with a lot of great players,” Aaron Boone said. “From the time I was 6, 7 years old, we were in the park every day.
“Looking back, I’m really grateful for that because we loved every second. Growing up, we learned how to act, and I think that’s part of the reason he brought us. I’d put my childhood up against anyone’s.”
Boone is a career .264 hitter with 126 homers and 555 RBIs in 11 seasons. He played his first 61/2 years in Cincinnati before a midseason trade in 2003 sent him to the Yankees and altered history forever.
The Yankees voided his contract in 2004 after Boone tore up his knee in a pick-up basketball game.
The Yankees traded for Alex Rodriguez as a replacement; Boone sat out a season before signing a two-year deal with the Cleveland Indians in 2005.
Boone played with Florida in 2007 and with Washington last year, hitting .241 with six homers and 28 RBIs.
“My thing is I’ve been very blessed to get to play for a long time,” he said.
“As long as I feel like I can go out there and perform and be a part of a winning equation, I’m going to keep doing it.
“When that time is up, it’s up and I don’t want to be a guy that hangs on. I look forward to whatever is after this. I always feel like that can wait. I want to play as long as I can be productive.”
Enduring feat ‘pretty cool’
His career is nearing an end, but Boone knows his legendary homer will live forever.
“It’s amazing how many Yankees and Red Sox fans there are across the country, and now every stadium I go to somebody says something about it or you get stopped in an airport,” Boone said. “It’s certainly what I’m known for, and at the end of the day it’s pretty cool.”