FORT MYERS, FLA. – Baseball’s 21st All-Star Game was played on July 13, 1954, at Cleveland. The Indians were on the way to winning the pennant with a 111-43 record, and a crowd of 69,751 filled Municipal Stadium.
Gus Bell, a Cincinnati outfielder, was in the second of his four All-Star Games. He hit a two-run pinch hit home run in the eighth off Bob Keegan to give the National League a 9-8 lead.
The American League then scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to give the home fans an 11-9 victory.
Detroit’s Ray Boone started at third base in his first of two All-Star Games. Boone homered to cap a four-run third inning for the AL.
Last Sunday, the 36th Fargo International Squirt hockey tournament was completed with a boys A championship game. Bode McConnell scored and Chase Nevers assisted on Edina’s lone goal in a 3-1 loss to host Fargo.
Trust us. There’s a connection here …
There have been five three-generation families to produce major league players. Four of these are father, son and grandsons. The Schofields were a father, son and grandson/nephew (Jayson Werth).
Two of those families are the Bells and the Boones.
Gus Bell’s son Buddy was a five-time All-Star at third base, and Buddy’s sons David (12 seasons) and Mike (19 games) also were in the big leagues as infielders.
Ray Boone’s son Bob was an outstanding catcher (and Gene Mauch’s favorite) from 1972 to 1990, with four All-Star appearances. Bob’s sons Bret and Aaron had excellent careers as big-league infielders.
“My dad, Buddy, and Bob Boone played during the same era but never on the same team,” Kristi (Bell) McConnell said. “My brother, David, and Bret Boone were teammates with the Mariners (116-46) in 2001. My dad was a coach for Cleveland when Aaron Boone was with the Indians.”
There are more Bell-Boone connections to be found, including this one:
Bode McConnell is Gus Bell’s great-grandson. Chase Nevers is Ray Boone’s great grandson. And they soon will dive into baseball while also juggling summer hockey demands in Edina.
“We’ve made our home in Arizona, in Chandler,” Mike Bell said. “I had no knowledge of hockey until visits to my sister’s family in Edina; no idea what the sport could mean to a city until I watched some games with my nephews and niece.”
Mike Bell is the new bench coach for the Twins. His playing career ended early in 2005. He spent the previous 13 years working for the Diamondbacks, including as vice president of player development.
“Mike’s so excited to be given this challenge,” Kristi McConnell said. “He’s so impressed with [manager] Rocco Baldelli, so impressed with the Twins organization.”
Mike’s married to Kelly and they have three children: Luke, Mikaela and Madeline. They have not yet gotten hooked on hockey, which could change if they spend more time with the skating McConnell kids — sons Bode, 11, and Baker, 9, and daughter Hayes, 6 — in Edina.
Buddy and Gloria Bell have five children: David, Mike, Ricky, Kristi and Tracy, the youngest. Tracy has Down syndrome and is a constant presence with her parents.
“Tracy’s our girl,” Kristi said. “She’s been my best friend forever. Tracy loves baseball like no one else. She now has two favorite teams: the Reds, because it’s home and our brother David is the manager, and now the Twins, because our brother Mike will be in the dugout.”
Kristi also has developed the closest of friendships with Stacy Nevers from across the street. Stacy is married to Tom Nevers, who happens to be the coach of Edina Squirt As, and a former teammate and roommate of Mike Bell’s in the minor leagues. The Nevers are the parents of hockey players Mason (USHL; committed to Gophers), Jackson (Edina bantams) and Chase.
She also is the granddaughter of Ray Boone, with her mother, Terry, being the youngest of Bob Boone’s three children. Stacy was 5 when her mother married Steve Strandemo, a son of Kenyon, Minn., and dad to Kristi and her two siblings, Kendra and Patrick.
Kristi Bell met her husband, Bobby McConnell, when she was going to college at Colorado. Her roommate in Boulder was Kendra Strandemo, because one day Mike Bell happened to mention to Tom Nevers that his sister was starting college at CU, and Tom said Stacy’s younger sister was also headed to CU.
And that’s how a Gus Bell-granddaughter and Ray Boone-granddaughter became college roommates.
Nevers was an Edina hockey standout and such a baseball prospect at shortstop that he was taken No. 21 in the first round by Houston in 1990. Mike Bell was taken No. 30 out of Moeller High School in Cincinnati in the first round by Texas in 1993.
Nevers got close but never made it to the big leagues. He formed the left side of the infield with Bell at Louisville in 2000, when Mike got called up for those 19 games with the Reds and hit pinch-hit home runs against Montreal’s Steve Kline and Milwaukee’s Curt Leskanic.
Nevers met his wife while both were taking classes at the University of Minnesota. Tom’s post-baseball career has been in real estate sales. Nevers sold Edina houses to the McConnells twice when Bobby was moving around for General Mills.
The second time, Nevers ticketed Bode as a potential running mate for Chase in a neighborhood without many kids.
“There was a great house across the street,” Nevers said. “I called and asked, ‘Do you want to sell?’ And they said, ‘We’ve been thinking about it.’ And I said, ‘You’re in luck. I have the buyers.’ ”
And that’s how the great-grandsons of Gus Bell and Ray Boone, two hard-nosed ballplayers who hit home runs in the 1954 All-Star Game, became Squirts linemates — and likely beyond — in Edina hockey.
Noteworthy: Hockey legend Badger Bob Johnson was Bobby McConnell’s grandfather. Football legend Ernie Nevers was Tommy’s great-great uncle. Bob/Aaron Boone and Buddy/David Bell are two of six father-son combinations to manage in the majors. Steve Strandemo was a valuable basketball player at St. Cloud State and became one of the nation’s top racquetball players. And, Edina isn’t in the 2020 state Class 2A hockey tournament that starts Thursday.
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