Groz Remembers: Bret Boone gave 2001 Mariners a huge, surprising boost
2001: A Baseball Odyssey – a weekly look back at the record-setting 2001 Mariners and the players who got them there.
On Thursday, May 17, 2001, the Mariners had a day game against the White Sox. The previous night they had won their eighth in a row, marking their second eight-game winning streak of the season despite having only played 39 games.
With starting pitcher Freddy Garcia sailing along, the only question was who the batting hero would be. Turned out to be a man named Boone.
Bret Boone was the third in a baseball-playing family that included his uncle Ray and father Bob. His brother Aaron, who made some noise with the Yankees (and now manages them), became the fourth. After a quick two-year rise to the majors with the Mariners, Boone had largely disappointed early in his career in Seattle, and after hitting .251 with 12 homers in 1993 he was dealt with along with pitcher Erik Hanson to the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Dan Wilson and reliever Bobby Ayala.
Over the next seven years, Boone had some nice seasons for the Reds but was traded twice more before becoming a free agent going into the 2001 season. Boone signed a one-year deal to return to the Mariners and was expected to compete with Mark McLemore for the regular second base job, but he showed off some unexpected power in the spring, got the job to himself and ran with the opportunity.
On this May afternoon he had three hits, improving his average to .331, and three RBIs, giving him 39 on the season in 39 games. Boone eventually drove in 141 with 37 homers and remains one of the greatest free-agent signings in Mariners history.
For the M’s, the record had improved to 31-9 with a 12-game lead in the division. But the lads were just getting started.