Wade Boggs was an artist whose medium was the National Pastime, whose tool of choice was a bat, and whose canvas was a ball field. His mother may have summed it up best when she said, “It seemed like he was born to hit just like some kids are born to play the piano.”
A 12-time All-Star third baseman, Boggs ended his 18-year (1982-99) major league career with 3,010 hits, a .328 batting average and a .415 on-base percentage. In his 2,432 career games, Boggs reached base safely in 85 percent of them.
Drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1976, the left-handed-hitting Boggs soon was able to showcase the inside-out swing taught to him by his father.
"Everyone was looking for the perfect player, and he wasn't a good runner, he didn't have great hands, or an outstanding arm," George Digby, the Red Sox scout that signed Boggs. "But I liked his bat. I scout bats. I never saw anyone yet that can steal first base."
Ensconced as an everyday player by 1983, Boggs rewarded Boston's faith in him by batting a league-leading .361.
“Can that guy hit ropes,?” said Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson. “He’s one of the best-looking young hitters I’ve ever seen.”
Boggs continued to spray line drives to all fields throughout every American League park. In 1985, his .368 batting average, a career best and the highest mark by a Red Sox player since Ted Williams hit .388 in 1957, not only led the big leagues but his 240 hits were the most in baseball in 55 years.
After the 1985 season, Williams was quoted as saying: “Boggs is as smart a hitter as I’ve ever seen. The next five or six years will tell the tale, but if he keeps up like he’s going now, he stands to be one of the greatest hitters of all time.”
Boggs would remain with the Red Sox for 11 seasons (1982-92), winning five batting titles, finishing second once, and third twice.
Next for Boggs was a five-year stint with the New York Yankees, where he not only batted .313 during his stay in the Bronx but won Gold Glove Awards at third base in 1994 and ‘95, at 36 years of age becoming the oldest first-time winner among non-pitchers.
It was with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he signed prior to the expansion franchise’s first season in 1998, that Boggs would not only play his final two seasons but also become the 23rd member of the 3,000th hit club.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005.