Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg elected to Hall of Fame by BBWAA

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Alex Coffey

There may have been a two-year disparity in waiting periods and 81 votes between them, but once Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg got their Hall of Fame calls on Jan. 4, 2005, their reactions were perfectly similar.

“I thought it was my friends pulling my chain,” Boggs said in a conference call with the media. “So I asked if anyone was around I might know, and (Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark) said [then-Hall of Fame vice president of communications and education] Jeff Idelson. And he came on and I recognized his voice and he said: ‘Boggsie, congratulations, you’re in.’ – I knew it was true.”

Sandberg, who received 76.2% of 516 ballots casts during his third year of eligibility, was also taken aback.

“It came a bit earlier than I expected and in some ways it caught me a little bit off-guard,” Sandberg said in the conference call. “That was my initial reaction, but total elation set in shortly after that.”

Ryne Sandberg looks at photos taken during his 16-year long career while on his Hall of Fame Orientation Visit. (Milo Stewart Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Combining for 34 years of MLB experience, Boggs and Sandberg had seen most everything the game had to offer. But the Hall of Fame was in a league all its own. For Boggs, who had first visited the Hall while playing in his first minor-league season with the Elmira Pioneers of the New York-Penn League, it seemed only fitting that his career end in Cooperstown.

“I was pretty mesmerized,” he recalled, while speaking with the (Oneonta, N.Y.) Daily Star. “When I got the call, there were a lot of flashbacks. The first trip to the Hall was on my mind…it has more or less come full-circle.”

With his 474 votes marking the third-highest vote count at the time – behind Nolan Ryan (491) and George Brett (488) – Boggs didn’t just enter the Hall of Fame, he busted through the ballots. But that seemed fitting, since his career was nothing short of legendary. A member of the 3,000 hit club, the 12-time All-Star won five AL batting titles, one World Series championship and posted a career batting average of .328.

His offensive prowess was complimented by Sandberg, a defensive stalwart at second base. With a .989 career fielding percentage – the best by a second baseman at the time – he was voted to 10 All-Star teams, won nine Gold Glove Awards, and set an MLB record for consecutive errorless games in a season with 90 in 1989. His 277 career home runs as a second baseman were the most in history at the time of his retirement.

Wade Boggs holds the bat he used to hit the first home run in Tampa Bay Devil Rays history in 1998 while on his Hall of Fame Orientation Visit in May of 2005. (Milo Stewart Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

“Defense had everything to do to get me into the Hall of Fame,” Sandberg said to the Daily Star. “I always took pride in my defense. I always said I had good range and was quick.”

But regardless of their differing paths to Cooperstown, both Boggs and Sandberg expressed gratitude to the writers for rewarding their years of hard work.

“It’s mind-boggling to be put in the same category as a Nolan Ryan or a George Brett to receive that many votes,” said Boggs to MLB.com. “I think the writers understood how I played the game. What kind of a dedication I had for it, what kind of a drive I had for it, and what kind of love I had for it. That’s the part that is so rewarding.”

Alex Coffey was the communications specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series