The Red Sox announced last week that they would retire the number 26 uniform number, worn by Wade Boggs, in a ceremony at Fenway Park on May 26, 2016, before the Sox game against The Colorado Rockies . Boggs will join former Red Sox Greats Bobby Doerr, Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk and Pedro Martinez whose numbers were previously retired.
Boggs played for the Red Sox from 1982 through the end of the 1992 season when he signed with the New York Yankees as a Free Agent. In his eleven years with the Sox, he had a batting average of .338, a career number with the Red Sox exceeded only by Ted Williams, who had a career average of .347. He won five American League batting titles while there, hitting .361 in 1983, .368 in 1985, .357 in 1986, .363 in 1987 and .366 in 1988. He had 2,098 hits as a member of the Red Sox and a total of 3,010 in his career.
In announcing the planned retirement of Boggs’ number, Red Sox President Sam Kennedy said Boggs was ‘arguably the best pure hitter in Red Sox history’. Many Ted Williams fans would probably argue that point but, although he lacked the power of Ted and some other sluggers, Boggs probably hit line drives more frequently than almost anyone who ever played the game because of his remarkable eye hand coordination and his ability to concentrate on and follow the ball almost to contact with the bat.
He was drafted, at age 18, by the Red Sox in the seventh round of the Amateur draft of 1976. The Sox had Butch Hobson at third until 1980 when he was traded, along with Rick Burleson to the California Angels, for another third baseman, Carnie Lansford, who hit .336 in 1981 and .301 in 1982 before the Sox traded him to Oakland at the end of the 1982 season.
In the meantime, Boggs was making his way from Elmira in Low A ball, where he hit
.263 in just 57 games, to Winston Salem in A ball, where he hit .332, to Bristol in AA, where he hit .311 and .325 in 1978 and 1979 and then to Pawtucket in AAA where he hit .306 and .335 the next two years, winning the International League batting title in the second year, before finally being called up. In his six years in the Minor Leagues, he hit .318 with a 4.12 OBP. In his first year with the Sox, he divided his play between third base and first base
Much has been written about his .338 career average in the 11 years with the Sox. Somewhat overlooked has been his unbelievable start in Boston. In his first seven years, he had a combined average of .356, with 1,392 hits in just 3,913 at bats, and won five batting titles in that period, hitting .357 or better all five times. From his rookie year in 1982 until 1988, he won the batting title five of the seven years. In the years he didn’t win, 1982, he batted .349 which would have been enough to win the title but he didn’t have enough at bats to qualify and 1984 he finished third with a .325 average. In addition to leading the league in hitting five times, he also led the league in on base percentage five times including a .476 OBP in 1988. In his career, he walked 1,412 times and only struck out 745 times.
With Boggs at third base the Sox won the Eastern Division Title three times and made one World Series appearance, losing to the Mets in 1986 in seven games.
After he signed with the New York Yankees as a Free Agent, he played five years there and had a combined batting average of .313, including an average of .346 in 1994 at the age of 36 and .332 at age 37. He played in the 1996 World Series for the Yankees when they beat the Atlanta Braves in the Series for the World Championship.
In 1997, after being granted Free Agency by the Yankees, he was signed by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays and played two more years for them, hitting .301 in 90 games in his final year, at age 41.
He was named to the American League All Star Team in every year from 1985 until 1996. He was named to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2004 and in 2005, in his first year of eligibility, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame with 91.9% of the vote.
Boggs was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 15, 1958 and went to high school at H. B. Plant High School in Tampa, Florida. He was named 95th among the 100 Greatest Baseball Players by the Sporting News in 1997.
Despite having left the Sox for the hated Yankees, Boggs has always been a favorite with Red Sox fans and retiring his number has been long overdue. Few ballplayers in the history of the game have been the instant success that Boggs was in Boston. If the Red Sox had needed a third baseman when he was at AA or AAA, so that he would have been promoted to Boston earlier, there is no telling how many total hits he would have amassed in his career.
If there ever was a hitter in Major League history whose style and approach to hitting could be called ‘Textbook’ it was Wade Boggs.