By TOM JONES, Times Staff Writer
Published July 31, 2005
EYES: The secret to Boggs' success. He had superhuman eyesight: 20-12 vision. His vision was so keen that he could see the blue dot of the Major League Baseball emblem as the ball rotated toward the plate. He rarely swung at a pitch outside the strike zone because he never had to guess at the pitch. "Because when you guess, you get fooled," Boggs said. "If the guy has got four pitches ... and you're guessing, you have a 75-percent chance of being wrong when you guess."
MOUTH: Boggs kept his mouth shut. Even though he says he knew the strike zone better than most umpires, Boggs rarely complained. Eighteen years after being ejected as a kid by his dad in a Little League game, Boggs was tossed for the only time of his major-league career in 1989 when he argued with umpire Eric Cooper on a called third strike. "That's when 18 years of aggression just jumped down his throat," Boggs said. Boggs still claims Cooper blew the call.
STOMACH: Everyone knows Boggs ate chicken practically every day. But he never ate right before the game. He would eat lunch around noon and then wouldn't eat again until after the game. "I would love to play on an empty stomach," he said. "Sort of makes you hungry."
HANDS: Boggs said he honed his hand-eye coordination playing old video games. "Pong," Boggs said, "was the greatest game ever." When he wasn't playing video games, he was playing baseball using broomsticks as bats and wine corks wrapped with surgical tape as balls. Thrown underhand, the ball would zigzag in crazy directions, but Boggs was on it. How good were his hands? He rarely swung and missed. One season, he had 719 plate appearances and swung and missed only 11 times.
ARMS: Boggs never hit for much power (118 homers in 18 seasons), but that's because in order to hit home runs, a hitter has to make contact in front of the plate. Boggs preferred to swing at the last possible moment, giving him more time to determine whether the pitch was a strike. He kept his arms back, creating a late swing and causing most of his hits to result in line shots to left or left-center. "If I hit a ball really good, it was over the center fielder's head, but it didn't go out of the ballpark," Boggs said. "Or if I hit a ball really good to left-center in Fenway Park, it was off the wall." In 1987, Boggs hit 24 homers, but says his swing was messed up that year.
WAIST: Most of the time when a hitter looks silly at the plate, it's because his hips have opened up and that short-circuits his timing, often leaving a hitter flailing at a pitch. Boggs almost never looked silly. He kept his hips locked in until he fully committed to a swing. Because he waited so long to commit to a swing, the worst he would do was foul a pitch into the third-base dugout.
LEGS: What's incredible about Boggs' five batting titles is he did it with virtually no speed. He rarely beat out infield hits or attempted to bunt. His strategy of "hitting them where they ain't" wasn't perfected in a batting cage. Boggs hated hitting in a batting cage because he could never tell whether a batted ball would have been fair or foul.
FEET: Legendary Red Sox hitter Ted Williams hated Boggs' hitting approach because Boggs didn't take a long stride - transfering his weight from the back foot to the front - that Williams preached. Sometimes Boggs would wait so long to swing that he ended up taking a cut with his weight still on his back foot. With Williams set in his ways, he and Boggs spent endless hours talking about ... fishing.