Wade Boggs reflects on leaving the Red Sox after a contract dispute and going on to sign with the Yankees after the 1992 season, playing five seasons in New York and winning his first World Series and first two Gold Gloves.
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published July 31, 2005
I was never really a big Yankees fan. I was a Braves fan growing up and in Little League, and then Oakland, '72, '73, '74. I was a huge Oakland fan. And then you're taught to hate the Yankees in the minor leagues with the Red Sox.
But the way that I treated it is that now I've played for two of the organizations that had the most rich history, the Red Sox and Yankees. Now I've been a part of both of those, and probably the two teams that have the most people in the Hall of Fame.
The honor in playing for the Yankees is putting on the pinstripes. That's the thing. When you get the pinstripes with the N.Y. on your chest, they put the N.Y. on the left side for a reason - they put it over your heart.
You feel that sense of pride because the aura that comes with the Yankees - Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle - all of these great players that ever played for the Yankees were in this clubhouse, stood in the batter's box where I'm standing.
And now I've got the same uniform on as they had, and then you go to Monument Park out in centerfield and walk through there and just get the goose bumps. And you've got Yogi Berra coming in, you've got Whitey Ford coming in, you've got Oldtimers Day, all of these players that come back, just legends of the game. And now you're part of it.
The reception I received from the New York fans was horrible. I was a hated Red Sox. They warmed up, but it took about three months. I started out really well, but because everything that they were led to believe was that I was washed up and done because of what Boston (media) had written. They said that I'll never hit .300 again, his All-Star days are done and everything like this.
Well, I went to New York and won two Gold Gloves, made four All-Star teams, and wound up hitting .324 in New York, so I was far from done.
And it was just the change of scenery. They said that I would never hit in Yankee Stadium, that he couldn't have picked a worse place to go. But I spent an offseason learning how to hit Yankee Stadium-style. I completely adapted my swing to low to left and high to right, which is the complete opposite of Fenway Park, which is low to right and high to left.
My very first game back at Fenway Park with the Yankees, I was 4-for-4 with a walk. It started out with 35,000 fans booing, my second at-bat it was about 31,000 booing, third at-bat it was about 27,000 booing, and my last at-bat when I singled, I got a standing ovation.
It was probably the worst team that I could have played for and gone back. I mean, their favorite word was "traitor," that I was a traitor now in going to the Yankees, but you've got to find work somewhere.
When I went to the Yankees, I sensed a total chemistry overhaul, that they wanted to overhaul the attitude of the team. They went out and got a lot of like personalities - Jimmy Key, myself, Spike Owen, Paul O'Neill, and got rid of a lot of players. And then that's when it all turned around.
Winning the 1996 World Series, that is the greatest moment that I've had, when the last out went up and there were no more innings, no more games. Tomorrow we wake up and read the paper that we're the world champions. Then going to the ticker-tape parade and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and having the ring ceremony the next year.
That's that one piece of the puzzle that so many players don't have, that so many great players don't have.
TOP FIVE MOMENTS WITH THE YANKEES
May 21, 1993. After 11 seasons with the Red Sox, Boggs plays at Fenway Park for the first time as an opposing player. He turns boos into cheers and, finally, a standing ovation with a 4-for-4 (with a walk) hitting display.
Oct. 2, 1993. Needing a hot streak to avoid missing a .300 average for the season, Boggs goes 3-for-4 on the next-to-last day of the season (one day after going 2-for-5) to raise his average from .299 to .302.
Nov. 15, 1994. In the early part of his career, Boggs had the reputation of being a good hitter and subpar fielder. But years of practice, endless days of taking grounder after grounder pay off when he wins a Gold Glove. At 36, Boggs becomes the oldest first-time winner among nonpitchers. He wins another in 1995.
Aug. 19, 1997. In the midst of a 12-4 loss to the Angels, the Yankees, trying to avoid blowing out their bullpen, need someone to pitch. Enter Boggs. Using a knuckleball, Boggs pitches one inning, allowing no hits with one walk and, yep, a strikeout. He pitches 11/3innings with the Rays in 1999, giving up a run on three hits with a strikeout.
1996 World Series. Boggs finally gets his ring. Though he hit .273 in the Series, he has one of the key at-bats, drawing a bases-loaded 10th-inning walk in Game 4 in Atlanta to put the Yanks ahead to stay and even the series at 2. Two games later, Boggs does a victory lap around Yankee Stadium on a horse after the Yankees win the Series.