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Boggs says goodbye

Veteran player leaves behind Hall of Fame career

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Posted: Thursday November 11, 1999 05:07 PM

  Wade Boggs Full circle: Over an 18-year career, Wade Boggs experienced the best and worst of what pro baseball has to offer.  Andy Lyons, Al Bello, Damian Strohmeyer/Allsport

(CNN/SI) -- Wade Anthony Boggs broke into the Major Leagues in 1982 and quickly served notice that he was destined to be one of the greatest hitters of all time. He hit .349, the highest ever by a rookie playing more than 100 games his first year.

But the following season he began a very "fowl" pre-game ritual.

"Well in '83 about midway through April, I started eating chicken every day and won a batting title," he said. "To this day I still eat it every day."

"The Chicken Man" went on to win four more American League batting titles in the '80s. He hit an amazing .352 for the decade, which stands as the best decade for a hitter since Ted Williams hit .356 for the 1940s.

Boggs's hitting philosophy was rather simple: be patient, be disciplined and get a good pitch to hit. A compact swing and the eyes of a hawk enabled him to execute this philosophy to near perfection.

"I could recognize it right out of their hand, and there are certain indications that tell me what the pitch is right out of his hand," Boggs said. "You see the dot on the slider, the forkball tumbles, the curve ball changes plateaus. That enabled me to put a good swing on the ball because I could recognize it so early."

The 1980s also saw the two lowest points of Boggs's career. In 1986 he suffered both personally and professionally: his mother was killed in an automobile accident during the season and four months later the Red Sox lost a heartbreaking World Series to the Mets.

"It was the finalization that there was no more baseball and I had to go home and walk through the door to where she used to live and all the emotions came flooding out."

In 1989, the the public image of the long-married Boggs was sullied when Margo Adams went public with their four-year affair. Amid the ensuing whirlwind of negative publicity, the Red Sox put him on the trading block, though no deal was made.

Boggs lasted three more seasons in Boston, but after hitting a career-low .259 in 1992, he left Boston and signed a free-agent deal with the Yankees. Four years later he won his only World Series ring and celebrated in grand fashion by jumping up behind a policeman on horseback for a celebatory ride around the field.

"'Til this day, I have no idea how I got up there. I can't remember how I got up there and the next thing I know I am in center field and waving to the fans and making eye contact and that was the biggest thing making eye contact with all the fans and it was the greatest thrill I have ever had."

Nearing 40, Boggs signed with the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays, to finish his career in his hometown. Boggs was often criticized for being "just a singles hitter" but ironically on August 7, he became the only member of the 3,000 hit club to reach that plateau by hitting a homerun. Boggs's career .328 average ranks first all-time among third basemen and the 12-time All Star's next stop will no doubt be Cooperstown.

"It's the resting place of all the great players, that's where they get to lay their hat and it's very special and a tremendous honor to be there.

And well-deserved.


 
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