SIOUX CITY -- It was 1960 when sixth-grader Terry Boone from Tabor, Iowa, boarded a train in nearby Hamburg with a friend and his parents.
The train took them to Kansas City for a game between the old Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and a host of other baseball luminaries.
Like many firsts in all of our lives, it was an experience Boone has never forgotten.
Still, it was all of two decades later before the computer programmer from Omaha’s Woodmen of the World Insurance Co. visited his second professional baseball venue, a newer stadium in K.C. Then, the same year, he and his 9-year-old son, Tony, went to ball games in St. Louis and Minneapolis, as well.
Neither of them might have imagined the milestone the elder Boone achieved Sunday evening in Sioux City, where a trip to Lewis and Clark Park made it an even 100 professional ballparks he has visited.
Terry is now 70 years of age and Tony, who was with him for one of the league-leading Explorers poorest performances of the season, is a 46-year-old sports writer for the Omaha World-Herald. It is not difficult to fathom where Tony’s passion for sports took root.
“I guess I’m where he gets his sports interest,’’ said Terry, quite proud that his son now covers the Class AAA Omaha Storm Chasers along with Nebraska-Omaha athletics and also professional boxer Terance Crawford, a 30-year-old Omaha native who is the reigning world champion in the lightweight, light welterweight and welterweight divisions.
“We’d go to the College World Series and to Omaha Royals games at Rosenblatt here in (Omaha),’’ said the 1966 Fremont-Mills High School graduate who has turned into one of the more devoted baseball fans I’ve ever encountered.
“It was in the 1990’s when I started going on trips for work,’’ he said. “If I went somewhere close to a professional baseball team, I’d try to arrange to see some games.’’
Not until 2002, though, did he truly kick things into gear. It all started that year with what he called his “Great Lakes Tour,’’ catching games in Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit, all in a week’s time.
“I had a great time doing that, so after that I started planning trips,’’ he said.
In 2003, he went to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston and New York, taking in games for both the Mets and Yankees.
In 2004, he flew to Seattle and spent two weeks in the Pacific Northwest, watching the Mariners and also Class AAA Tacoma.
“I like history and science, so most of my trips involve visits to national parks and historic sites,’’ said Boone, who taught math and science for two years in Oakland, Iowa, before working 38 years for Woodmen.
In 2005, he went west to see all five major league teams in California along with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2006, he went south to see the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros, swinging back through Oklahoma City to see Bricktown Park, arguably the finest stadium in all minor league baseball. He also made stops on that far-flung trip in San Antonio, Louisville and Durham, North Carolina.
He had already been to OKC in 1995, I should note, watching the team known then as the 89ers play at the Oklahoma Fairgrounds park called All-Sports Stadium.
“I had an aunt and uncle in (suburban) Edmond and my mom and I went to see them,’’ he said. “It was the day after the bombing (at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995) and they wouldn’t even let you get off the interstate. But we parked for free, got into the game for free, food was free -- they were trying to take peoples’ minds off the bombing.’’
A business trip to Miami let him watch the Marlins and a 1998 journey to Tampa Bay let him catch the second exhibition game ever for the team formerly known as the Devil Rays.
“I was getting up to where I’d done practically every major league ballpark,’’ he said. “I never did get to Montreal, but that team moved to Washington and I went to D.C. about 12 years ago with some friends and we also went to Baltimore and Philadelphia.’’
Yes, there have been several repeats, but Boone has only counted the parks, not all the seemingly countless games. Some trips, he’d see one team or another play several games before coming home.
In the spring of 2008, after retiring the previous December, he decided to try spring training in Florida, where he watched games at 10 different facilities. The next year, he watched spring training in Arizona, where he saw another 11 stadiums.
Then, he started taking in games around the 16-team Midwest League, where he has been to the homes of 13 clubs.
“The one I’m most proud of I call my ‘7 in 7 in 7,’ which was seven games in seven nights in seven different states,’’ he said.
That particular tour took him to Kane County in suburban Chicago, then Indianapolis, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Birmingham, Alabama, Memphis, Tennessee, Little Rock, Arkansas and Springfield, Missouri.
His 2014 adventure was a westward trek to Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, Colorado, Oprem, Utah, and Las Vegas. However, in 2015, watching a grandson play basketball in an old school, he was accidentally knocked off the stage on which the court was situated, fracturing his lower right leg. He couldn’t walk for five months and the baseball travels were put on hold.
It got even worse in 2016, when he was diagnosed with gastric cancer, which required surgery in 2017.
“The cancer was gone about a year, then they discovered another lymph node (tumor),’’ he confided. “I’m taking chemo right now (during our telephone interview). That’s kind of why we went last weekend.’’
Where Boone and son Tony went was a three-city tour of American Association parks, checking out Sioux Falls Stadium on Friday, Fargo’s Newman Outdoor Field on Saturday, and then making Sioux City that magic No. 100, occupying Seat 8 in Box 25.
“If I’m able to keep going, I will,’’ said the Northwest Missouri State alumnus. “I’ve been to Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame) and I’ve been to the Football Hall of Fame (Canton, Ohio), too. I’ve been to the Indy speedway and Churchill Downs. I like other sports, too, but baseball’s always been my favorite. I played in high school and then a year or so after college in a town team league’’
A lifelong University of Nebraska diehard, he started following Husker football in the late 1950’s, before Bill Jennings’ unsuccessful sojourn gave way to a pretty fair coach named Devaney and then another named Osborne. Like many of our readers, I’m sure he’s hopeful for more success under the new coach, Scott Frost.
However, Terry Boone is not like too many of our readers at all. He’s a man who discovered a passion for something and set out on quite a mission.
We’re just lucky that mission brought him to our town.
And, here’s hoping there are many more miles ahead of him.