Major Leagues: Rice takes last shot at Hall of Fame
BOSTON ó Jim Rice would stand in front of the tin-and-concrete Green Monster with its funky caroms. Johnny Pesky would smack balls off it with his skinny fungo bat.
Day after day, the diminutive Boston Red Sox coach and the powerful youngster worked together ó Pesky swinging away at Fenway Park’s left-field wall and Rice learning to field the balls cleanly. It wasn’t that tough, the slugger said.
Certainly not as tough as making the Hall of Fame.
For 14 years, the answer was “no.” Today when the results of voting by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America are revealed, the 55-year-old native of Anderson, S.C., will find out if that’s changed. It’s his last year of eligibility before his case is passed on to the Veterans Committee.
He doesn’t plan to wait by the phone.
“If I was in South Carolina, I’d probably be playing golf,” Rice said. “If I’m in Boston, I hope I’m not shoveling snow.”
Some things, he said, are certain: He’s not anxious and he won’t be bitter if he doesn’t get in. After 15 years, he’s a veteran at taking it in stride.
Last year, he was named on 72.2 percent of the ballots with 392 votes, up from 63.5 percent (346) in 2007. He was 16 votes shy of the 75 percent needed.
“There always can be that one that may not get in,” Rice said. Many people think it already should have.
“Jim Rice deserved to be in there a long time ago,” said Pesky, a longtime Red Sox coach and instructor who turned 89 in September and still plans to go to spring training. “Jim Rice worked as hard as any ballplayer we’ve ever had here.”
Fred Lynn was Boston’s center fielder who won the AL rookie of the year in 1975 when Rice was runner-up.
“My biggest question is, what’s taken so long?” he said. “I think he’ll make it. I thought he would make it last time.”
From 1977-79, Rice batted .320 with averages of 41 homers, 128 RBIs, 207 hits, 114 runs, 31 doubles and 12 triples per season. He had at least 200 hits in each season and had 15 triples in both 1977 and 1978.
Rickey Henderson almost certainly will get a ticket to Cooperstown. The question is if baseball’s career leader in runs and stolen bases will have any company. Henderson is a near lock to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
This is also the 15th and final chance for Tommy John.