Boone Debut No Bust -- New Mariner Calls History-Making Start `Awesome'

BALTIMORE - What was history to the rest of baseball was an intensely personal day to Bret Boone.

Familiar as he was with the major leagues after having both father Bob and grandfather Ray play there, the kid's debut had to make him wonder about life in the big leagues.

When he arrived at the Seattle Mariners' clubhouse yesterday afternoon, one of his first sights was big Kevin Mitchell sneaking toward the dugout with a giggle and a shaving-cream pie. Seconds later, Mariner batting coach Gene Clines staggered past with shaving cream all over his face, his national TV interview sabotaged.

A little later, Boone's first game with the Mariners, a 10-8 victory over Baltimore, was about as memorable. But if it was historic, it was like Columbus sailing east.

Baltimore pitcher Todd Frohwirth was tossed out of the game, then was tossing, in order, the ball to the backstop, his hat and his glove, all to protest a missed third-strike call that preceded Edgar Martinez's grand slam.

Then the game at Camden Yards wound up like something out of a slowpitch softball league, two offenses taking turns clubbing each other into submission. The Orioles won the homer-hitting contest 3-2, but Boone's new team held on to win.

"Interesting . . .," Boone said, "but all that matters is that what I experienced today, I experienced in the major leagues."

Showing good lines as well as lineage, baseball's first third-generation player to make the big leagues added, "You might say I grew up in the majors with my father and all. But if that was the case, then it was a matter of getting back here on my own."

The afternoon was filled with polite talk about telephone conversations with Bob and Ray. "They didn't say much, but they aren't big talkers, either of them," Boone said. "They didn't say much about being proud, but I could tell from their voices. I'm sure they had the same feelings any parent or grandparent would have. . . ."

And the game?

"The game was awesome," he said, "but I honestly can't say I remember it. I just know it was awesome."

For the record, Boone was in at the start and finish of the Mariners' fourth straight victory.

Seattle trailed 2-0 on Mike Devereaux's first-inning homer off starter Mark Grant.

In Boone's first at-bat, he lined a 2-1 pitch to center to deliver Seattle's first run in the second. In the ninth, with his club hanging on, one out and a runner at first base, Boone scooped up a grounder by Chito Martinez to start a game-ending double play.

He also hit into his first double play, struck out, scored two runs, and showed grittiness in turning two other double plays for a Mariner club that has 38 in its past 23 games.

One might think the highlight would be the first at-bat.

"Boone's a pretty cool customer," General Manager Woody Woodward said, watching the moment. "But I'll bet his knees are knocking now."

"Yeah, I had some butterflies," the cool one said.. "But nerves? No, not that bad."

Boone, 23, said the highlight was the first at-bat, facing left-hander Arthur Rhodes, one of several gifted children of the Orioles.

But it wasn't necessarily the hit that was most memorable. Boone's salient memory of the game was the fastball that preceded one he hit up the middle, a pitch he fouled off to the right.

"It was in a bit and I got a piece of it," he said. "I thought the first swing was important. I got it out of the way. I made contact. I knew I was not going to be embarrassed."

Little need to blush the rest of the way, either, as Seattle took a 3-2 lead on Henry Cotto's double in the second and then a 7-2 bulge on Martinez's grand slam in the fourth, a rocket that sent Frohwirth into pyrotechnic display.

As the Orioles crept back on homers by Brady Anderson and Leo Gomez, Seattle got two runs in the sixth after a big error by Chito Martinez in right and a solo homer from Tino Martinez.

All of which left the Mariners clinging to a two-run edge with the cliff crumbling under their fingers. And then came the final grounder to Boone.

"I'd wanted a grounder all night to get the first one out of the way," the kid said. "But I didn't think anything like `why now?' when it came at me. I don't have to think; you just have to make the play."

And for the reviews:

"I thought the kid played well," Mariner Manager Bill Plummer said.

"Impressive," shortstop Omar Vizquel said. "Quick on our first double play, but so-so on the last. We'll do some work together."

And the reaction of the man he replaced at second base?

"I'm glad for him," Harold Reynolds said. "You only have one first game and he had a good one."

. AL batting. race.

Mariner third baseman Edgar Martinez leads the American League in batting with a .336 average. A look at the leaders:. . Player / Team Avg.. . Edgar Martinez / M's .336. . Shane Mack / Minn. .329. . Kirby Puckett / Minn. .329. . Frank Thomas / Chi. .322. . LAST NIGHT. . Martinez 3 for 5 vs. Baltimore. Mack 0 for 4 vs. Cleveland. Puckett 3 for 4 vs. Cleveland. Thomas 1 for 4 vs. Texas.


Highlights of Bret Boone's first major-league game:


-- Second: Singles, driving in Mariners' first run, later scores.

-- Fourth: Leads off with walk on four pitches, later scores.

-- Fifth: Hits sharply to shortstop on inning-ending double play.

-- Seventh: Strikes out swinging on pitch out of strike zone.


-- Second: Middle of 5-4-3 double play.

-- Fifth: Middle of 6-4-3 double play.

-- Ninth: Starts game-ending 4-6-3 double play on only grounder he fields.