Wade Boggs reflects on starting his career in the Boston organization as a 1976 draftee and playing for the Red Sox from 1982-92 before leaving after a contract dispute and signing with the Yankees.
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published July 31, 2005
When I first started out in the Red Sox organization, my manager at Elmira, Dick Berardino, had called the front office in August and said that we've got to send this kid home, that he's not cutting it. I wound up hitting .263 that year and I was a skinny, scrawny kid.
They all collectively said, well, give him another year and see what happens. I kept going through the minor leagues and finishing second in batting title races and then in '81 eventually won it (at Triple-A Pawtucket with a .335 average). I think that year they called up nine guys. I wasn't one, so I went home and decided that I'd better go to winter ball to try to get better.
I went to spring training in '82 with the big club, walked in, the very first guy I see when I walk in the clubhouse in Winter Haven is Carl Yastrzemski. And I went over to shake his hand and he just kept walking.
The day before we broke spring training at Al Lopez (Field), we were playing the Reds, they called me over and said, congratulations, you're going north with us. So that was the beginning of fulfilling the dream. It took 51/2 years, but I made it.
I was on the team and I didn't care, but I hated to pinch-hit. We get to June and Carney Lansford breaks his ankle and that sort of starts the whole ball rolling. Now I was the guy. We were playing Milwaukee, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount were the first two hitters, and the first two ground balls hit to me were right through my legs. Then we had two outs and Gorman Thomas hit me a ground ball, and I threw to first and got a standing ovation, so I said, boy, these people love me already. . . .
I started winning batting titles and sort of became a poster child for the players association because they always wanted me to go to arbitration because of my stats and various things like that. I was trying to negotiate a long-term deal to sort of develop some type of security. I think my first seven or eight contracts were one-year deals and then finally I signed a three-year deal that took me into the last contract that I had in Boston.
My best day with the Red Sox? Let's see, I would have to say Game 7 of the '86 playoffs against Anaheim when we won, to go to the World Series because that's why you play the game is to go to the World Series. '86 was the start of our run because up until then, we were finishing in fourth and fifth place and really weren't very good. And from where we came, from that 3-1 deficit and then beating California and then making it to the World Series, I mean, you sit there and you walk into Shea Stadium and you're in the World Series, and it's like, wow.
The death of my mother during the 1986 season was the worst. It seems like everything bad happened in one year, in '86. Everything was all balled up in one year. Watching Jesse Orosco throw that glove up (when the Mets came back to beat the Red Sox in the World Series).
But in '88 and then '90 we went back to the playoffs and we just ran up against buzz saws in those two years, those big powerful Oakland teams.
I loved playing in Boston. We lived just north of Boston and had so many great friends. Everybody goes, well, the media was so tough. I didn't know any different because I had come from the minor leagues where there was one guy and you might talk to him once a month. I think the one reason why the media liked me was because I was honest.
TOP FIVE MOMENTS WITH THE RED SOX
April 19, 1982: The pride of Tampa's Plant High makes his major-league debut at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium in the second game of a doubleheader. Starting at first base, Boggs goes 0-for-4 against starter Dennis Martinez and reliever Sammy Stewart.
April 26, 1982: Boggs gets his first hit, a single off White Sox starter Rich Dotson in the first game of a doubleheader at Comiskey Park. Less than a month later, Boggs gets his first homer, a game-winner in the bottom of the 11th against Detroit's Dave Tobik.
May 20, 1986: Boggs collects his first five-hit game, going 5-for-6 with four singles and a double against the Twins at Fenway. Against the Twins 11 days later, he goes 5-for-5 with four singles and a double. Only once more (for the Yankees vs. Oakland in 1991) does he get five hits in a game.
1987: Which day? All of them. Boggs has the best all-around season of his career. He hits .363 to win his third consecutive AL batting crown. He has 200 hits and 105 walks with only 48 strikeouts, 40 doubles, six triples, a career-high 24 homers, 89 RBIs (despite batting leadoff most of the time) and 108 runs. It should be noted Boggs considers 1985 (.368, 240 hits) his best season.
Oct. 27, 1986: It's not a favorite moment of Boggs, but the sight of him sitting on a bench with tears in his eyes is memorable. Boggs goes 1-for-4, and the Red Sox fall to the Mets in Game 7 of the World Series, one game after the infamous Bill Buckner blunder. Boggs' championship ring would have to wait.