Boney, Hank

Primary Position: Relief pitcher
Birthplace: Wallace

First, Middle Names:  Henry Tate
Date of Birth:  Oct. 28, 1903   Date and Place of Death: June 12, 2002, Lake Worth, FL
Burial: Wauchula City Cemetery, Wauchula, FL

High School: Undetermined
College: University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

Bats: L Throws: R        Height and Weight: 5-11, 176
Debut Year: 1927        Final Year: 1927          Years Played: 1
Team and Year: New York Giants, 1927

Career Summary
G          W        L          Sv        ERA     IP         SO       WAR
3          0         0          0         2.25     4.0       0          0.1

Hank Boney was 23 years old and fresh out of college when he stepped onto a big-league pitching mound for the first time on June 28, 1927. Professional baseball was less structured then and its players little more than talented chattels. A manager, like the New York Giants’ John McGraw, could pluck a promising kid from college for a pittance to fill a roster hole, throw him into a game or two, and then discard him like yesterday’s newspaper if he didn’t work out. For the rest of his life, though, the kid would likely thank his manager for giving him a chance.

Down 7-3 to the Philadelphia Phillies in the eighth inning, McGraw figured it was a suitable time to see what the rookie could do. Boney didn’t disappoint by retiring the three batters he faced. He gave up a single in his next outing two days later, a 6-1 loss to the Boston Braves, and then one run in a couple of innings against the Cincinnati Reds two weeks after that. And then he was gone for good, though his professional resume of a sole run in four innings would seem to have warranted a longer stay.

Boney kicked around the minor leagues for a few seasons and then settled down in Florida for a long life. He raised cattle, grew oranges, became a leader in his church, and ran companies that distributed fuel along the state’s Gold Coast. He outlived three wives in the process. He died just a few months shy of his 99th birthday.

The Boney name is an old one in Duplin County, North Carolina. After the American revolution, William Boney owned much of the land that is now the town of Wallace in the southern end of the county.[1] Most of his holdings were included in a grant from England’s King George II. Henry Tate Boney was born in 1903 into a particularly large contingent of the clan. His parents, Jacob and Julia, worked a farm near Island Creek north of Wallace where they raised eight children.

The family moved to Wauchula in central Florida sometime in the 1910s where Jacob continued to farm. Henry likely attended old Wauchula High School, but no existing records confirm that. He also likely pitched, either in school or for local semipro teams, because he was on the starting staff for the University of Florida in Gainesville in the mid-1920s. Boney apparently dropped out of school when he was signed by the Giants in 1927.

After his brief stay in New York, he pitched for minor-league teams in New Jersey and Connecticut. He returned to Florida in 1935 to live with his mother who owned a boarding house in Wauchula. His father had died six years earlier.

He married Viola Smith in 1938. Known as Brownie, she came from Wauchula’s most-prominent family. Her father was one of Hardee County’s first citrus growers and its largest landowner. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, a private, women’s school in Georgia, Brownie was a talented singer and became a local celebrity. For most of her life, she was in high demand as a vocalist, singing at veterans’ memorials, social-club meetings, and holiday celebrations. In fact, she is more likely to turn up in searches for “Henry Boney” in Florida newspapers than her husband.

The couple moved to Lake Worth on Florida’s east coast in the late 1930s where they both worked for a company that distributed oil and gasoline. He was its manager; she was its bookkeeper. Boney would remain with Atlantic Fuel Company for more than 30 years, rising to become its president. He would also own a company that distributed propane.

A leader in the Presbyterian Church, Boney was a ruling elder at his local church and a member of the national board that published the annual church histories.

He didn’t seem to dwell on his former life as a professional baseball pitcher. There are no newspaper clips of his talks on the subject, no stories about him throwing out the first pitch at a local minor-league game. About the only remnant of his former life that pops up is a boxer puppy named Muggsy, the nickname for McGraw that the manager detested. Boney took out classified ads in several newspapers asking readers to be on the lookout for his lost dog. There’s no record that the errant Muggsy found his way back home.

Brownie died in 1966. Boney remarried. When that wife, Lida, died, he married again. Reta left him a widower for the third time. He had no children.

Boney died in June 2002 in Lake Worth.

[1] For a small, rural town, Wallace is the home of a surprising number of professional athletes. M.L. Carr starred in the American and National basketball associations and was the head coach and general manager of the Boston Celtics in the NBA. Wray Carlton and Javonte Williams were running backs in the National Football League and Nate Irving was an NFL linebacker. Wallace was also the birthplace of James R. Jordan Sr., the father of North Carolina’s most-famous athlete, Michael Jordan