Posted: Friday October 6, 2006 10:32AM; Updated: Friday October 6, 2006 4:19PM
Boggs overcame his fear of horses for a memorable ride around Yankee Stadium after winning the 1996 World Series.
Ronald C. Modra/SI
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SI.com:Although the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was pretty much dormant during those years, did you feel any sort of tension moving from Boston to New York?
Boggs: Actually, when I was with the Red Sox, the Yankees weren't such a big rival. Our rival was Toronto. There was a rivalry [with the Yankees] before I got there, but while I was a Red Sox player, there wasn't much of a rivalry because the Yankees were always finishing last. So we didn't have to worry about them. Then after I left New York, the rivalry started again.
SI.com:So it wasn't like Johnny Damon coming over from Boston this year.
Boggs: No, no. Anyway, it's more the fans that hate you more than a team rivalry.
SI.com:Before you came to New York, you weren't known so much for your fielding, but then you won Gold Gloves in 1994 and '95. How proud were you of that accomplishment and what kind of work did you put into your fielding while you were with the Yankees?
Boggs: Well, in actuality, when I was with Boston I had better fielding percentages than some of the guys who won Gold Gloves. Just because I didn't get the recognition in Boston, it wasn't that the hard work wasn't paying off there. But I think that once I got to New York I wasn't hitting in the .350s and .360s anymore, so my defense started overshadowing my hitting a little bit. I think in '94 I only had three errors. And two were on one play. That year I think I went something like 87 games in a row without an error. Just taking ground balls every day, going out every day and doing my early work, taking ground balls paid off.
SI.com:Plus, the Yankees seemed to foster that kind of strong work ethic under Buck Showalter and later Joe Torre, too.
Boggs: I think a professional athlete has to take that initiative on himself. I mean, you are a professional athlete, you get paid a lot of money, and you are not getting paid to sit in the clubhouse and play Nintendo and watch TV. When it's time to work, you go and work, and if it takes extra work then that should be something you do on your own. I didn't need Joe Torre or Buck Showalter to tell me to go out and take extra ground balls. I think it's the responsibility of the athlete to do that.
SI.com:I have to touch on the 1996 World Series with the Yankees. For many Yankees fans, Game 4 of the Series, which is commonly referred to as the "Jim Leyritz Game," is better-known as the "Wade Boggs Pinch-Hit Walk Game."
Boggs: I was actually the last position player on the bench. Joe Torre had called David Cone to pinch-hit. Steve Avery [a left-hander] was warming up in the bullpen. So Joe Torre wanted to bring a right-handed hitter up there when they brought in Avery because Bobby Cox was going to bring Avery to keep me on the bench. So then Torre goes, "Oh, no, no, sit down Dave, Boggsie, grab a bat." So I went up there, knowing that Avery hadn't pitched in 17 days, which is a long time. I knew that he wasn't going to be sharp. So I went up with the mentality that he's got to throw it in a little, tiny certain area. I mean, I've got the best of both worlds; I've got the bases loaded. So if I get a walk, OK, boom, then we're ahead. So I got to 2-2 and to 3-2, and then he threw a ball about two to three inches off the plate away for ball four.
SI.com:And there was an even closer pitch earlier in the count, the 1-2 pitch.
Boggs: Yeah, 1-2 slider. It was probably a half an inch off the plate. It was one of those that ... [chuckles] it was close.
SI.com:It is fitting that your most famous at-bat as a Yankee was a walk?
Boggs: I never even swung the bat. Never swung the whole at-bat.
SI.com:Then, of course, you go down in Yankee Stadium lore with the horse ride with the cop, which is funny only because you have a natural aversion to horses.
Boggs: When I was five years old I got bit in the back by a horse. In Georgia. We went on a field trip and we were walking around and everybody is petting the horses and I turned around and a horse bit me in the back.
SI.com:So how did you wind up on the cop's horse?
Boggs: I have no idea. To this day, I haven't gone back to look at the video or anything like that. I just want it all in my mind the way I think it happened. But I have had a couple of police officers come up to me and say, "Hey, that night I helped you up onto the horse." So I guess some of the police officers helped me up.
SI.com:Lastly, I have to ask if going into the playoffs you like this Yankees team?
Boggs: It's a juggernaut, my goodness. They're going to go up against some good pitching, the young kids from Detroit, and if Minnesota advances, with Santana. But he's only going to pitch two games in a series, and the Yankees, one through nine, are just so difficult ... man.