Baseball legends enjoy small ball
By Samantha Carr
Wade Boggs turned to the crowd along Lake Avenue and asked them to cheer.
“What a shot!” said Boggs of his foursome teammate, who was playing in Saturday morning Hall of Fame Golf Invitational in Cooperstown. “C’mon, let me hear it!”
Boggs, Hall of Fame Class of 2005, was soaking up his fifth Hall of Fame Weekend while playing with 23 other Hall of Famers at the legendary Leatherstocking Golf Course on a sunny Induction Weekend morning in Cooperstown. After receiving a huge cheer from the fans along Lake Avenue – which parallels the No. 5 fairway – Boggs signed autographs before heading for the No. 6 tee to speak with about 40 assembled media members.
Class of 2009 member Jim Rice, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday along with Rickey Henderson and Joe Gordon, played in a group just after Boggs. Sporting a yellow shirt that was almost as bright as the smile he has worn since being elected in January, Rice used his prodigious strength to bash several long drives.
“The guy could break his bat on a check swing, he’s that strong,” said fellow Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers who believed Rice would have the longest drive of the day.
Fingers also remembered how much he enjoyed watching Rice slowly walk back to the dugout after Fingers struck him out.
“It didn’t happen very often, but when it did, I enjoyed watching him the whole way.”
Fingers struck Rice out seven times in 21 plate appearances, but Rice does have a home run and a .368 batting average against him.
Goose Gossage, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008, also remembers Rice’s strength.
“I always said nobody scared me, but Jim came the closest,” he said.
Gossage is the one guy that can relate to the nerves Rice and Henderson are feeling – because he went through it all just last year.
“It still doesn’t quite sink in being here,” Gossage said. “I am more relaxed this year, but I don’t know how many years it will take before it sinks in.”
Not everyone can hit the ball as far as Rice, but it didn’t stop them from some good old fashion fooling around among the Hall of Famers.
Lou Brock told onlookers to look away as he drove off the first tee. After hitting his shot, he announced that everyone was OK to look again because they can’t see where the ball went.
Dave Winfield talked about him teammate – and Class of 2009 electee – Rickey Henderson and what a leader he was on the field. When asked about Rickey’s speech, Winfield showed confidence.
“I think he’ll do fine. He is nice and relaxed this weekend and he’ll be fine.”
Of course, all the Hall of Famers gave speech advice to Rice and Henderson and it was all the same advice – keep it short.
The advice of Hall of Famers is always welcome to the newcomers.
“It’s great to be out here with these guys, some of them I played with and know well and some of them I really admire,” said Rice.
Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.