Jim Rice is in the Hall.
So much has been written about Rice from the vantage point of looking back on his career. I have nothing to add to that. Instead, I prefer to write about Rice from the perspective of my 10 year-old self, back in 1978, at the peak of his greatness.
The number 14 jersey always got picked first in youth sports. Why? Pete Rose and Jim Rice.
I can’t shake the sound of Sherm Feller announcing his name: “Number 14, Jim Rice. Left field, Rice.” And as his serious, imposing figure walked to the plate, ripples of anticipation would shudder throughout Fenway and over the TV 38 airwaves.
His batting stance — along with Dewey’s and Yaz’s — was the most emulated in neighborhood wiffleball games. Elbows down, then the emphatic half-swings as he cocked his bat, the expression of a stern school principal on his face, with the aura of tiger about to maul a smaller foe.
The Southwest Airlines ads that have the tagline, “Wanna get away?” could just as easily have been created to describe the feeling that pitchers had when Rice stood at the plate.
We knew we had the best three outfielders in the American League – Rice, Lynn, and Evans — and Rice was the Big Daddy of that trio.
I have Jim Rice’s autograph on about five different Red Sox programs, all procured while he was a player. Why? Because he was out there all the time, signing autographs for kids. I don’t think I ever saw him smile or even speak while he signed — he did it like a machine — but he was out there, taking a break from the game, to give something back to the fans.
87.4% of all children in New England had a poster of Jim Rice on their wall at some point between 1976 and 1987. We all wanted to be like him.
When Bruce Springsteen played at Fenway about five years ago, I ran into Jim Rice outside Fenway Park. I asked if I could have my picture taken with him, and he happily obliged. While my friend was taking the photo, I remember saying, “Here I am, with Hall of Famer, Jim Rice,” and Rice immediately replied, “Hey, I like this guy,” smiled for the camera, shook my hand, and headed into Fenway.
Soon, the number 14 will join numbers 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 27, and 42 above the right field grandstands. Where it belongs.
Oh, and the fact that Bert Blyleven was not elected to the Hall (again) is an utter travesty.