When Jim Rice took over as Boston’s everyday left fielder in 1975, the Red Sox already had a proud tradition of outfielders patrolling the Green Monster in Fenway Park. Ted Williams spent two decades establishing himself as one of the greatest hitters of all-time before giving way to Carl Yastrzemski, who had a Hall of Fame career himself over 23 seasons with the Red Sox.
When Jim Rice retired following the 1989 season, the Red Sox had played more than half a century with a future Hall of Famer in left field.
With Yastrzemski at first base and designated hitter in 1975, Rice took over in left field at age 22 and led the Red Sox in home runs with 22, finishing third in the American League MVP voting and second in Rookie of the Year voting to teammate Fred Lynn, who also took home the MVP award.
Like Yastrzemski, Rice spent his entire career in Boston, where he proved himself to be one of the most dangerous power hitters of his generation. Over a 12-year period from 1975-86, Rice hit 350 home runs. During that period, only Mike Schmidt and Dave Kingman hit more homers. No one during that stretch had more RBI than Rice's 1,276.
Rice led the American League in home runs three times, total bases four times and slugging percentage and RBI twice during that span.
Rice helped lead Boston to two World Series appearances – and although he didn’t play in the ’75 World Series due to injury, he hit .333 in seven games against the Mets in 1986.
Rice’s best season came in 1978 when he was named the AL’s Most Valuable Player. Rice led the major leagues with 46 home runs, becoming the first Red Sox to hit that many home runs in a single season since Jimmie Foxx hit 50 in 1938. Rice also led the AL that year in hits (213), triples (15), RBI (139), slugging percentage (.600) and OPS (.970). His 406 total bases not only topped the majors but made him the first AL player to reach the 400 total bases mark since Joe DiMaggio in 1937.
“He had tremendous power, but yet he was an excellent hitter who could hit to the opposite field or go up the middle," Hall of Fame reliever Goose Gossage said. “Most power hitters have holes (in their swing). Jim Rice had no big holes.”
Rice hit over .300 seven times and ranked among the Top 10 in the AL in average six times. An eight-time all-star, Rice finished among the Top 5 in AL MVP voting in six seasons and won two AL Silver Slugger Awards. Defensively, Rice ranked in the Top 5 among AL left fielders in assists 11 times and putouts seven times.
Rice was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.