Wade Boggs had an illustrious Hall of Fame career over 18 seasons (1982-1999), with 12 All-Star Game appearances, 2 Gold Glove Awards, 8 Silver Slugger Awards and 5 American League batting titles.
But it’s chickens and horses that, to this day, he still always gets asked about.
“I love chicken and I’m not a horse aficionado,” he said, laughing.
Let’s start with chickens … back in 1983, a friend wanted to write a cookbook and name it “Fowl Tips,” an obvious play on words. The friend also suggested that Boggs eat chicken every day, if only to help sell the book.
Well, Boggs wound up winning the AL batting title in 1983 … and Boston teammate Jim Rice fittingly dubbed Boggs as, Chicken Man.
The name stuck.
Dining daily on chicken was one of his many superstitions.
Boggs, at age 25 in 1983, his second season in the majors, batted a league-leading .361 for Boston, with a league-leading .444 on-base percentage. He had 74 RBI that year, the third-most of his career, and also 210 hits, also the third-most of his career. He finished 12th in MVP voting in ’83.
Boggs reports, with a smile, that he has now cut back to eating chicken to only five days per week.
As for horses, well, that drama started at age 5, when his parents took him to a horse farm – and he actually got bit in the middle of his back by a horse.
“Since then, I’ve been deathly afraid of horses,” he said.
After 11 seasons in Boston, Boggs joined the hated New York Yankees in 1993, for the first of five seasons in the Bronx. In 1996, Boggs helped the Yankees win their first World Series title in 18 years – the only World Series title he’d claim in his career.
The Yankees won the ’96 Series in Game 6, and Boggs celebrated by jumping on the back of an NYPD horse, touring the field.
So much for his fear of horses.
Boggs played his final two big league seasons for his hometown Tampa Bay Rays. In fact, Boggs hit the first home run in Devil Rays history, in the 6th inning of the inaugural game on March 31, 1998. Plus, on August 7, 1999, Boggs collected his 3,000th career hit – a home run. Boggs is one of only three players whose 3,000th hit was a home run (along with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez).
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005, on the first ballot, receiving 91.9 percent of the votes.
“When I was in the minor leagues, I was told that I have no power, can’t field and am too slow. Those are three criteria that will get you out of the big leagues in a hurry. Well, I ultimately landed in the Hall of Fame,” Boggs said. “I was a leadoff guy who never stole bases, but I never had to worry about that; I was fortunate to have a lot of thunder (behind me in the lineup).
“When you look at what it takes to get that far, to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame … it’s not something in Little League that you state is your goal. Your ultimate goal (in Little League) is to make your high school team, then to go to college (to play) or sign professionally, then you play professionally.
“Ultimately, less than one percent of those who have ever played the game are in the Hall of Fame. There are a lot of good players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame.”
Boggs certainly is a Hall of Famer – and when he appeared at a Tristar Productions’ card show in 2017, he wore his Hall of Fame ring and his 1996 World Series ring, which he tagged as a “very special” season.
Boggs, for the past 17 years, has been coaching high school baseball in Tampa, which he said is “very enjoyable.”
“I’ve got a World Series ring. I also would like a high school state championship ring; that would be really nice,” he added.
Boggs also spent time years ago coaching for Tampa Bay.
“The enjoyment I get out of these high school kids is, they are like lumps of clay; you get to mold them how you want to (be and play), teach them the game the way it should be played,” Boggs said. “As I always tell the kids, it takes no ability to hustle, and I learned that early on in my Little League career, watching Pete Rose. You play the game one way: all out.
“It sort of irritates me now when a player who makes $15 million (per year) pops up a ball in the infield and he just jogs to first base. So, I give my kids a little incentive: I tell them, ‘I’ll give you $50 if you hit a pop up in the infield and wind up on second base.’”
Boggs, who coaches first base in the high school game, has handed out $200.
More Wade Boggs:
• On his favorite chicken dish: “If it’s fowl, it’s for me.”
• On Jeff Bagwell, a 2017 Hall of Fame inductee: “Jeff was a terrific player; I’m really, really happy for him.”
• Hitting .400: From May 17, 1985 to May 20, 1986, which was 162 consecutive games, Peter Gammons calculated that Boggs hit .403.
• On Hitting .400: “I don’t think it’s possible anymore because guys don’t walk enough; that’s a lost art now. The last person to do it was my idol, Ted Williams.”
• TV Star: In 2011, he appeared in the Psych episode ‘Dead Man’s Curveball.’ “They are just as funny off camera as they are on-camera; they really are,” Boggs said.
• Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry: “It is one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. The people in Boston weren’t too happy with me for leaving Boston for New York, and they let me know it. Thankfully I’m back in the good graces of the Boston fans.”
• Pro Wrestling: “I’m a huge fan,” he said. Boggs has attended countless WWE and WCW shows in person. One of Boggs’ fondest, most memorable wrestling-related stories revolves around a time he went deer hunting in Iowa with the late Curt Hennig. They were walking and Boggs got entangled in barbed wire, cutting himself from his knee to his ankle. “I’m hanging on this barbed wire, bleeding profusely. Curt proceeded to use his strength (to) get me off the barbed wire and then carried me over a mile on his shoulders. The doctors said I probably would have bled to death if no one was there. Curt was my guardian angel,” Boggs said. Years later, Vince McMahon called Boggs and asked if he would induct Hennig into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.