Rice remains the biggest of stars

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The hand enveloped mine like a huge oven mitt: firm, secure and warm. I reminded myself not to wince.

Jim Rice remains as powerful as ever, though at 6-foot-2, he easily blends into most crowds. But after one handshake, you quickly realize why this man hit 382 home runs en route to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Rice spent Friday touring the Hall of Fame in preparation for his July 26 induction. Alongside his wife, Corine, Rice strolled through the Museum’s timeline and down into the archives, marveling at the history of the game.

5-15-09-Muder_Rice.jpgIt seems that, in the 124 days since his election to the Hall of Fame, Rice has yet to stop smiling.

“Looking at these guys [the plaques of the Hall of Famers], you remember how special it is to be here,” Rice said. “I never even thought I’d get to the big leagues. So this is just incredible.”

Rice was elected to the Hall of Fame on Jan. 12 in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. An All-Star in eight of his 16 big league seasons, Rice led the American League in home runs three times and total bases four times and won the AL Most Valuable Player Award in 1978.

Yet Rice downplays his own success in comparison to the legends he will soon join in the Hall of Fame.

“Guys like Ruth and Cobb, they wore wool uniforms and played every day,” Rice said. “They were men. We were just kids.”

That “kid,” however, was the most feared hitter of his generation. And someday, another new Hall of Famer will feel the same way about the legendary Jim Rice.

Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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