Boggs made history with 3,000th hit
More than 17 years earlier, Wade Boggs began his journey to 3,000 hits with what would become – for him – a typical at-bat.
He hit out of the No. 9 hole for the Red Sox that day: April 26, 1982 – playing first base in his third big league game. Facing the White Sox’s Rich Dotson at Comiskey Park, Boggs singled to left field between the third baseman and the shortstop, taking a 1-2 pitch the other way.
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For his historic 3,000th hit, however, Boggs did something totally atypical. And even unprecedented.
On Aug. 7, 1999 at Tropicana Field, Boggs homered off the Indians’ Chris Haney for hit No. 3,000. No player had ever before hit a home run to reach the 3,000 mark.
When he approached the end of his trip around the bases, Boggs knelt and kissed home plate.
“I’m doing something that sort of means something,” Boggs told the Tampa Tribune. “It sort of gives it substance.”
For 18 seasons, Boggs redefined the word “hitter” with a focus and plate discipline few had ever witnessed. Following six years in the minor leagues – many spent in front of scouts who believed his lack of power and speed would never allow him to excel in the big leagues – Boggs forced his way into the Red Sox’s lineup in 1982.
After hitting .349 in 104 games as a rookie, Boggs won four American League batting titles over the next five seasons, collecting 200-plus hits a year from 1983-89. But Boggs’s knowledge of the strike zone also produced walks – an average of 94 per every 162 games he played.
As a result, he led the league in on-base percentage in more seasons than he did batting average (six to five) and also paced the AL in OPS twice despite reaching double-digit home run totals in only two seasons. He reached base safely in 85 percent of his career games.
“When Boggs played in Boston, it didn’t really matter where you pitched him,” Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel told the Tampa Tribune. “Every time I looked to my left, he’d be pulling up to second base.”
Boggs played only 10 more games after recording his 3,000th hit – forced from the lineup by a knee injury.
His final totals: a .328 batting average, a .415 on-base percentage, 12 All-Star Game selections, two Gold Glove Awards at third base and World Series ring with the 1996 Yankees.
“After all the celebrating was done (following Boggs’ 3,000th hit), he came into the dugout and said: ‘Let’s go win a game,’” said Tampa Bay manager Larry Rothschild, whose team lost to the Indians 15-10 that day. “That’s what you respect about him – above his work habits and everything else, that desire to win.”
Boggs was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum