Jim Rice Is Going to Cooperstown!


jimrice1

I don’t normally post anything sports-related here unless it’s included as part of something that’s supposed to be humorous (with the emphasis firmly on “supposed”).  If that’s what you’re looking for, you might want to read my take on the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush.

I’m writing this piece because, yesterday, my favorite baseball player of all-time, Jim Rice, was finally elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, joining Rickey Henderson in this year’s class.

I started following the Red Sox in the early 80s when I was just a child, probably no more than 12 years of age.  Since our family had satellite television, we were able to receive the channels NESN (New England Sports Network) and WSBK.  This allowed me to watch a lot of Red Sox games and both channels carried Red Sox games at the time at about an even 50-50 split.  Jim Rice soon became my favorite player on the team.  He was a muscular hitting machine and probably the best all-around hitter in the big leagues from the mid 70s through the mid 80s.  I remember hearing a story about how he was able on one occasion to check his swing, thereby cracking the bat due only to the incredible bat speed that he could generate.    Now being 37 years old, I have to admit that’s probably just an urban legend but it sounded good to a baseball-crazed youngster at the time.

Anyway, Rice’s admission to the hall is tainted for some.  To be honest, his career stats are marginal considering that the best of the best are the ones who are supposed to be enshrined.  However, considering that Rice’s numbers are better than other HOF members, it shouldn’t be that big a deal.  Rice batted .298 with 382 home runs, 1451 runs batted in, won the MVP in 1978, and finished in the top five in the MVP vote five other times.  That, along with his 10-year run as the most dominant hitter in the game, make him worthy, in my opinion.  His MVP season in 1978 still ranks as one of the best offensive performances in the history of the game, in my opinion (46 HR, 139 RBI, 121 runs, 213 hits, 25 doubles, 15 triples, a .315 batting average, .600 slugging percentage, and 406 total bases, a number which even steroid-inflated players have had difficulty matching in the time since then).

Whether you agree with Rice’s selection or not, you have to respect the guy.  He didn’t have a cozy relationship with the media, that’s for sure.  However, the guy played the game the way it should be played, hard.  He played nearly every day.  He played hurt.  Despite his lack of speed, early in his career he was able to steal a few bases and leg out a  good number of triples for a guy his size.  He was respected by his teammates and opponents as well as being feared by opposing pitchers.  Congratulations, Mr. Rice!

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