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Friday, June 18, 2021

John Boothby started in Australia, released in minors stunt

John Boothby 1990 Wausau Timbers card

Playing in the United States with the Wausau Timbers in 1990, Australia-native John Boothby spoke to The Appleton Post-Crescent about the state of the game in his home country.

Australians, he believed, just needed exposure, he told The Post-Crescent.

"The key to baseball in Australia is to get people out to the games," Boothby told The Post-Crescent. "Once you get them out, they're hooked. ... Crowds at professional games average a couple of thousand, but I think they'll be going up."

Boothby's pro career in the United States proved brief, just that season. His brief career is also best remembered perhaps for his and some teammate's attempt to impact the crowd size in one game that August - with a "Bull Durham"-like stunt with a tarp on a rainy night.

The tarp stunt essentially ended his U.S. career, but he did go on to play further in his native Australia.

Boothby's American career began and ended in 1990, signing with the Orioles out of his native Brisbane.

Boothby signed, following American-with-Australian-ties Mike Young to the organization. Young had served as a player and manager for Brisbane and scouted for the Orioles. Young also managed Boothby at Wausau.

At Wausau, the reliever struck out the side to close out a late-May game. He picked up a win in relief in a June game.

Then, in a late-July column in The Wausau Daily Herald, the columnist jokingly gave each of the Timbers nicknames. The columnist gave Boothby an almost prescient description, though not so much nickname (Wilkes). The columnist, though, wrote Boothby had a "flair for the theatrical."

Boothby then went out and basically showed that flair as he and four teammates created a scene similar to one from "Bull Durham" by sneaking into the South Bend ballpark and removing the tarp during a storm to try and force a rainout the next day.

The Midwest League and the Orioles came down hard on the five, suspending four for the rest of the season and the start of the next. The fifth, Boothby, was released.

"We felt this was severe enough to have their hands slapped good," Midwest League President George Spelius told The Philadelphia Daily News. "I'm sure if they thought about it, they wouldn't do it again. They'd probably go to a movie."

Boothby's season ended with 25 games pitched, all in relief. He picked up three wins to one loss, with a 6.75 ERA. That season marked his only time in the United States.

He did, however, return to play in Australia. He picked up a win in relief in a January 1993 game with Brisbane. He then went six innings that December and gave up three hits in a win. He threw a seven-inning no-hitter a month later at Adelaide.
John Boothby 1990 Wausau Timbers card
1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,675
Made the Majors:1,254-34.1%
Never Made Majors:2,421-65.9%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors:522
10+ Seasons in the Minors:308

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