TAMPA — Wade Boggs already owns a piece of the Field of Dreams. But he still dreams that the Red Sox will ease his pain and retire his No. 26 at Fenway Park.
“It would be nice,” said Boggs, 54, who is currently the assistant baseball coach of the Wharton High School Wildcats here, wearing pinstripes. “Am I bitter? I thought when I wore a Boston hat in the Hall of Fame I’d be up there.
“It’s been eight years now. I used to be bitter. But I think those days are over. Was I bitter? Absolutely.”
Boggs won five batting titles with the Red Sox and spent 11 of his big league 18 seasons in Boston. He hoped his father would live to see his number join Ted Williams’s No. 9 up on the right field facade. But Winn Boggs died in 2009.
Williams was Winn’s hero. A Marine, Winn once gave young Wade a copy of the classic Williams book, “The Science of Hitting.” The Splendid Splinter once saw a photograph of an 18-month-old Boggs swinging a baseball bat and declared that he had “an absolutely perfect swing.’’
Williams hit .361 at Fenway Park, but Boggs hit .369 there.
But the Red Sox, who inducted Boggs into their team Hall of Fame in 2004, won’t go the distance.
“They told me there’s criteria,” he said. “You have to end your career as a Red Sox.”
Boggs left the Red Sox in 1992 and won a World Series with the Yankees in 1996. The 12-time All-Star got his 3,000th hit — a home run — as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray in 1999, and they retired his number 12 the following year.
Boston fans still cringe at the indelible image of a giddy Boggs riding on horseback with a police officer at Yankee Stadium, an index finger jabbing skyward. Not exactly Carlton Fisk waving his 1975 World Series home run fair. But Fisk, who played more seasons for the White Sox than the Red Sox, eventually was hired back as a special assistant in Boston, and his No. 27 has been retired at Fenway.
Boggs says he never wanted to leave.
“Mrs. Yawkey called me and Debbie over in the parking lot in 1991 after the last game,” said Boggs. “She said, ‘Wade I want you to follow in the same steps as Ted and Carl [Yastrzemski]. I want you to be a Red Sox for life.’
“I said, ‘Mrs. Yawkey, that would make me extremely happy.’ She said, ‘Would seven years, $35 million be adequate?’ I said, ‘I’ll sign it right now.’ But then she slips in the tub, she dies, and everything washes away.”
The new brass took the offer off the table. Boggs signed a three-year, $ 11 million deal with the Yankees in December 1992 and played five seasons in New York.
But he missed hitting at Friendly Fenway.
“You took away the greatest place in the world to hit,” he said. “You said, ‘There’s the door — don’t let it hit you on the way out.’ ”
According to Boggs, former Red Sox CEO John Harrington eventually apologized to him at a reunion.
Answering his critics
The number 26 has been issued to more than a dozen players since Boggs left the Sox.
“Lou Gorman gave my number to a nonroster player the year after I left,” he said.
Lou Merloni, Wes Chamberlain, and the immortal Chris Snopek all have worn it. Scott Podsednik wore No. 26 last year.
This spring, Brock Holt, an infielder acquired from Pittsburgh, was assigned the number. He didn’t ask for it, he says. And when he tweeted the news, he received obscene messages from some Sox fans in return.
Boggs wonders about Rogers Clemens’s No. 21, which never has been given out since he left the Red Sox in 1996, though it hasn’t been officially retired by the team.
“I think his jersey is retired, isn’t it?” said Boggs. “They’ve never given it to anybody.”
He dodges a question about whether he would vote for Clemens for the Hall of Fame.
“I don’t vote, the writers vote,” he said. But then he added, “He was found not guilty of lying. He was not found not guilty of using steroids.”
Boggs says he never needed steroids, even after his average dipped to a career-worst .259 in 1992.
And he has no sympathy for Alex Rodriguez.
“It’s a shame he got a half-billion dollars to play baseball,” said Boggs.
He thinks Kevin Youkilis, another Red Sox third baseman who wound up with the Yankees, will flourish in pinstripes.
“He’s a hard-nosed, nose-to-the-ground player,” said Boggs. “New York is going to love him. He’s a gamer.”
He’s still angry at former teammate Oil Can Boyd, who called Boggs a bigot.
“You don’t think Jim Rice or Don Baylor would’ve beat my ass if I was?” he said.
Some of his critics, including teammates, have said that Boggs was selfish, obsessed with individual statistics. That makes the Chicken Man furious.Continued...