EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT)- It’s official: Boots has hung up his cleats.
After a professional baseball career that started in the 1960s and took him to St. Louis, Chicago, and Montreal, Evansville Otters coach Boots Day says 55 years is long enough and he was ready to hand it off to the next generation.
Boots says he learned plenty from his playing days alongside legends like Bob Gibson, Ernie Banks, and Rusty Staub, calling each of them “gentlemen.” Boots, now 74, is passed that knowledge down to the next generation of players, saying players should always try to get better each and every day to prepare themselves for the ultimate test: Major League Baseball.
Despite his lengthy career both playing and coaching, Boots never forgot his roots some 850 miles northeast of Evansville’s Bosse Field in his hometown of Ilion, New York, just down the road from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Boots fondly remembers his earliest days playing baseball with sticks, stones, or anything else he could find, joking he may have broken a few windows in the neighborhood along the way.
More than any other city, Boots found a home in Evansville: first as a player with the now-defunct Minor League Baseball Evansville Triplets, then as the first manager in Otters history, and finally as a bench coach for the Otters. Boots says he always loved playing Evansville and interacting with the fans. Boots says baseball fans in Evansville support their team, know the game, and are vocal throughout the game.
After he handed in the lineup card one last time, it was time for Boots to take his final at-bat, some 41 years after his last plate appearance in 1980. Otters general manager Travis Painter says manager Andy McCauley came up with the idea and their opponents, the Lake Erie Crushers, were more than happy to oblige.
While Boots didn’t quite hit a homerun in his final at-bat and the Otters won’t be playing for a Frontier League crown in 2021, he says he has no regrets in his half-century of baseball.