When Boggs won his first Gold Glove, it was Mattingly who broke the news to him with a telephone call at 10 minutes to midnight. Mattingly had milked the information from a representative of Rawlings, which sponsors the award, and then asked to deliver the news himself because, says Mattingly, "I knew how much it meant to him."
With Mattingly in semiretirement—and almost certainly not returning to the Yankees if he does play in 1996—much of Boggs's cover is blown. The reporters obligated to keep watch on Mattingly's corner locker will need some other place to go. The younger players and those without New York know-how will need to find another source of leadership. Boggs, the most experienced major leaguer on the team and now a Yankee fixture, will inherit much of that responsibility. What he chooses to do with it is another matter. "If we're in a three-game losing streak and reporters want to know what's wrong with the team," Boggs says, "they shouldn't go to me. Go to [manager] Joe Torre for that. If they want to ask me about something within the game, fine. My locker is always open. But go to the manager for state-of-the-world quotes."
Boggs is only 459 hits short of 3,000, his sacred goal, which at his current pace he would reach during the 1998 season, when he will turn 40. Though he once planned to retire at that age, now he says, "I can go beyond 40." He has 3,500 hits in mind. His swing, a heaven-sent gift, hasn't changed. Nobody keeps the bat flat through the hitting zone longer than he does.
And when each workday ends, when he has deposited one or two more hits into his account, he will peel off his sanitary socks—made by a different company than those worn by his teammates—and tie them just so in his usual way, so that the clubhouse man knows not to mix them up with the others. Such is the pleasure he has found in New York that his soiled socks are among the greatest of his worries. He has found his comfort zone.