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What Rice really meant is that he does not like baggy pants ...

New HOFer Jim Rice probably realizes now that being a new member of one of the most exclusive clubs on the planet means your words are going to be reported and scrutinized to a degree that might not have been the case before.

Rice is taking a bit of heat about a comment he made to some Little Leaguers at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Gee, it seemed to me to be little more than the traditional old geezer commentary about how my generation was better than the current ones, though in Rice’s case I suspect he just got careless in tossing out a trio of modern names for the comparison.

(Rice is shown in Dick Perez original artwork at left;


Herewith his quote: “You see a Manny Ramirez, you see an A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez), you see Jeter ... Guys that I played against and with, these guys you’re talking about cannot compare.”

Once the uproar ensued, he was described as flabbergasted that anyone would think he was talking about the two Yankee stars. “Anybody who reads that story knows I wasn’t talking about Jeter or Rodriguez,” he said. “Look at them. Do you see any baggy pants? Do you see any dreadlocks?”

See? He wasn’t really saying our guys were better than yours, but merely that he doesn’t like baggy pants ... and he accidentally included the two Bronx Bombers in the sentence. And I’m with him on that one, hating the baggy pants part, that is.

Christy Mathewson looked like a baseball player. Lou Gehrig looked like a baseball player. Joe DiMaggio looked like a baseball player. Henry Aaron looked like a baseball player. George Brett looked like a baseball player. Don Mattingly looked like a baseball player. Derek Jeter looks like a baseball player. C.C. Sabathia looks like a retired postal worker wading sleepily across the front lawn to pick up the morning newspaper in his pajamas.

That’s like five or six generations that all managed to still sorta look like baseball players despite the passage of 100 years or so and all of the changes that go with it. My suspicion is that’s what Rice was talking about.

I don’t give a hoot about dreadlocks, since baseball history offers a fascinating range of hirsute shenanigans from the House of David to the crew cuts of the 1950s and 1960s and the uh, more complicated stylings a decade later. I suspect dreadlocks aren’t aerodynamically useful, but I concede that may not be much of a concern for the Yankees’ ace moundsman.

When I ventured online to investigate this stuff, I saw quote attributed to Jeter seeming to express some agitation that Rice would say such a thing. Phooey.

Jeter should know better than any of us what happens when you spend your waking moments with virtually all of your comments – in almost any setting – being duly recorded, reported and analyzed. I wouldn’t even charge Rice with an error on this one; I’d regard it more like missing the cutoff man.

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