You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 1982, Wade Boggs got his first hit in the major leagues.
There would be 3,009 more hits for Boggs in his Hall of Fame career. And No. 3,000 was a home run, the first player to hit a homer for No. 3,000. And he did it for his hometown team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Rays retired his No. 12 even though he only played 213 games for them.
Boggs had seven consecutive 200-hit seasons. He won five batting titles. He hit .328 lifetime. He made 12 All-Star teams. He had power, but often chose to use the whole field rather than pull the ball.
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“The best way to defend him,” Rangers coach Rich Donnelly said of Boggs’ remarkable prime in the 1980’s, “is to line up the eight players behind second base, then as soon as the pitch is delivered, have them scatter. No other way has worked.”
Boggs put the bat to ball as well as any American Leaguer of his era. His strikeout high for a season was 68. He finished his career with 667 more walks than strikeouts.
“My dad used to tell me, ‘You can’t get behind, 0-2, so often,”’ Boggs said. “My dad really knew my swing, but I finally had to tell him, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not afraid to hit with two strikes.”’
Boggs told me that in his eighth year in the league, he hit a foul fly ball deep into the stands down the right-field line.
“I looked at the umpire,” Boggs said. “He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘What?’ I told him that was the first time in my career that I had ever done that.”’
Boggs rarely pulled a ball in the air, especially that far foul. In the 1985 season, he popped out to an infielder in fair territory only three times. He hit line drives and hard ground balls, which explains why, in 1988, he led the league in batting (.366) and grounded-into-double plays (23). The only other player in history to that point to do that was Ernie Lombardi (GIDPs were counted in the NL in 1933, the AL in 1940).
Boggs was a man of great superstition. Before night games, he took ground balls at third base the exact same time every day: 3:17 p.m. He ate chicken before every game. “My dad used to have me take exactly as many swings off a tee as Wade Boggs did, but I didn’t eat chicken before every game,” said veteran outfielder Matt Diaz. “I don’t like chicken.”
Other baseball notes for April 26
In 1900, outfielder Hack Wilson was born. He drove in 191 runs in 1930. He wore a size 5½ shoe.
In 1947, outfielder Amos Otis was born. He was the center fielder in the 1970 All-Star Game. He threw the ball home when Pete Rose ran over catcher Ray Fosse.
In 1992, Aaron Judge was born. Ken Singleton, who has been a player or broadcaster for 53 years, told me, “I’ve never seen anyone hit a baseball harder than Aaron Judge.”
In 1972, pitcher Brian Anderson was born. In spring training 2003, 30 minutes into a long bus trip, Anderson realized that he had left his hat, spikes and glove back in Winter Haven. “When we got to Vero [Beach], I was in full panic mode,” he said. “I borrowed a car and went to a mall, but there wasn’t one glove in the whole mall. On the way back to the park, I saw a Walmart. I thought, ‘Walmart has everything … tires … produce. It must have a baseball glove.’ I found one: $29.95, already broken in. It was a softball glove. It was awful. Of course, I got three comebackers to the mound because my new glove was as big as a butterfly net; it made Greg Maddux’s glove look small. That day reminded me of when I was 17 and playing legion ball. That is spring training to me.”