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A Quiet .300
Tom Verducci
January 15, 1996
Former Boston headliner Wade Boggs keeps a high average but a low profile as he prepares for a fourth New York season
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January 15, 1996

A Quiet .300

Former Boston headliner Wade Boggs keeps a high average but a low profile as he prepares for a fourth New York season

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Alas, Boggs has sold nary a newspaper in New York. He has not beefed about official scorer's calls or about having to bat leadoff at times (he prefers to hit third). He has neither consulted a psychiatrist about a stiff back nor toppled out the door of a vehicle driven by his wife, Debbie (the door didn't latch, and he went flying when she made a turn). He has not thought about willing himself invisible when a man held a knife to his throat, as he said he did when accosted in the parking lot of a Florida bar. He has not told reporters unsolved mysteries better than Robert Stack's, like the one about a twister in Omaha that supposedly swept up one of his grammar school teachers and set her down two miles away, or the one about the time his mother, two weeks after she was killed in an auto accident, appeared at the foot of his bed. He has not willingly taken questions, including some in prime time from Barbara Walters, about his four-year affair with mistress Margo Adams, or told reporters that while watching a Geraldo segment on sex addiction, he suddenly realized his affair was the result of that "disease." All of these things he did in Boston.

"I'd heard the same things everybody else had about him," says catcher Mike Stanley, who had a locker next to Boggs's the past three years. (Stanley signed with Boston last month.) "I never once saw anything remotely close to him being selfish or concerned about his own statistics or anything else like that. He was always focused on what was best for the team."

Says Showalter, "I don't know what happened in Boston. All I know is that he was the consummate pro the past three years. I think what happened in New York was he just tried to do his job and fit in. I think he had had his fill of the other stuff in Boston."

Boggs, who went to high school in Tampa and still makes his home there, with Debbie and their children, Meagann, 17, and Brett, 9, does not admit to intentionally lowering his profile, though he is not nearly as glib as he was in Boston. "I was too cooperative," he says of those days. "I wasn't like Steve Carlton or Mike Greenwell or Roger Clemens. I didn't decide not to talk to the media for a month or two." But he credits his tranquillity in New York more to improved luck than to reduced cooperation.

Speaking of the knife incident, in which, Boggs maintains, some crazed stranger jumped into his backseat simply because his car had Tampa plates, he says, "It was no different than Charles Manson showing up at Sharon Tate's house. Wrong place, wrong time. It's happened to me.

"The main thing is we had reporters in Boston who looked for something to stir up. They thrived on that. If something happened off the field, it was bigger than what happened on the field. I could go 3 for 4 and slip on an ice cube in the hotel lobby after the game, and they'd write about the ice cube. They all said, 'You'll fit in with the Bronx Zoo. You'll be on the back page.' It never happened. And it wasn't because I changed."

The presence of Don Mattingly, New York's own object of fascination, allowed Boggs to slip into this camouflaged life. Until 1993 the two All-Stars had been respectful rivals but never friends. In '89, for instance, Mattingly laughed wickedly when he heard that Boggs had played through injuries late in that season to reach 200 hits. Mattingly recalled how Boggs had edged him for the '86 batting title by sitting out the final four games to rest a leg muscle. "He did the same thing with Paul Molitor the next year," Mattingly said at the time. "He had minor knee surgery before the end of the season that everybody else would've waited to have after the season."

But Mattingly immediately welcomed Boggs as a teammate. "And when Donnie steps forward to accept somebody," Showalter says, "he's immediately accepted by the whole clubhouse." The two veterans developed a smooth professional relationship, built mostly on their frequent conversations about hitting.

"When I came over," Boggs says, "Donnie's walk totals shot up. From watching me in the past, he said he didn't understand why I'd take those 2-and-0 and 2-and-1 pitches and eventually walk. I said, A lot of times at 2-and-0 a pitcher gets you to swing at his pitch. You get so anxious, you swing at a ball.' And he said, 'Yeah, I'd look for a fastball and wind up swinging at a forkball.' "

Says Mattingly, "Boggsy is the best hitter I've ever seen, day in and day out. I've seen Gwynn a little bit, but this guy is amazing."

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