Okay, I admit it, I'm a homer. I've thought that Jim Rice should have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame ten or twelve years ago. But it's official, he's in now and that's just fine with me. Granted he squeezed in with 76.4% of the vote (75% needed), but that's all it took.
Maybe some of you who live in other parts of the country aren't as familiar with Jim Rice as I am. After all, the man retired from playing Major League Baseball 20 years ago this year.
But I can tell you, growing up in the Boston area and being a lifelong Red Sox fan, watching Rice play both in person and on television was a treat. When Rice batted, you paid attention. The stadium always grew quiet and people at home stopped what they were doing to watch. Every time. Picture what happens now when David Ortiz comes to the dish. That was how it was with Jim Ed.
Sure you can read all kinds of stories both for and against Rice's HOF worthiness, which forever more will be debated when others with similar achievements are up for Hall consideration, so I won't rehash most of those arguments here.
Rice followed in the great tradition of power hitting Red Sox left fielders, some slouches (also HOFers) named Williams and Yastrzemski. From 1975-1986 he was as dominant a hitter as you'll ever see. His defense in left field at Fenway may not have been flawless, but he wasn't nearly as bad as some critics will maintain. Could you play a carom high off 'da monsta like Rice (or few others) could? I doubt it. I know I
Yes, it's true his last three years he was not nearly as good. Failing eyesight made him a shadow of his former playing self and he retired after only
16 seasons, knowing he was not the player he once was. This shortened career left him 18 homers shy of 400 and .002 below a lifetime .300 hitter, two standards that virtually ensure a plaque at Cooperstown.
Heck, my mom even knows who Jim Rice is and she doesn't even like
baseball. For sure, my nine year old son knows who Jim Rice is. Every time we play catch now, M uses my old Jim Rice signature model glove. M's glove now; passed on from father to son like the treasured heirloom it has become.
I even have had the opportunity to meet Mr. Rice on several occasions at baseball card shows, and have his autograph on three or four cards and two baseballs.
And for what it's worth, in the 20 years since Jim Ed hung 'em up, no one
has worn or might I assume, even dared to ask for Red Sox jersey #14.
Now the Red Sox need to do the right thing in 2009 and place Rice's number up on the right field facade with Williams (9), Yaz (8), Doerr (4), Cronin (1), Fisk (27), Pesky (6) and Jackie Robinson (42) and ensure that no one will ever wear #14 for the Red Sox again.
Congratulations, Jim, on your election to the Hall of Fame today. It's a well deserved honor for you and makes us proud to root for the Boston Red Sox. Thanks for the memories.
Labels: baseball, HOF, Red Sox