Baseball Digest Birthdays: Wade Boggs

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

Wade Boggs is the only player in Major League Baseball history to launch a home run for his 3,000th career hit. It’s not surprising that the Hall of Famer, born on this day in 1958, joined the elite ranks of the 3,000 Hit Club in such a dramatic fashion. Whether winning four consecutive batting titles(five overall), climbing on a horse for a World Series victory lap, or being the reason the National Baseball Hall of Fame limited control over a player’s cap choice, Boggs has always had a flare for the dramatic.

Drafted out of high school by the Boston Red Sox in the 7th round of the 1976, Boggs tore up the minor leagues at every level he played. Over five seasons in the minors, Boggs hit .318 and collected 774 hits in 662 games. One of those games included the 33 Inning Pawtucket Red Sox – Rochester Red Wings game that became the longest baseball game in history. By 1982, it was clear the Red Sox could no longer keep Boggs in Pawtucket. In 104 games, Boggs hit .349 with a .407 OBP and finished third in the Rookie of The Year balloting.

During his 11 seasons in Boston, the third baseman led the American League in hitting five times, and had seven straight seasons with 200 hits or more. He hit .290 as a member of the 1986 Red Sox in the World Series against the New York Mets. He hit close .385 and .438 in his two other playoff appearances with Boston.

After hitting a career low .259 in 1992, Boston elected to let Boggs explore free agency. He signed a three year deal with the rival New York Yankees, and found his second wind, hitting .302 in his first season in pinstripes. He hit .313 over five seasons with New York, but may be best remembered as a member of the 1996 Yankees that ended an 18 year championship drought.

Terry Price of the Hartford Courant wrote about Wade Boggs’ hitting ability early way back in high school, in a November 1985 Baseball Digest issue. Click here to read the full article!

In 1998, when MLB expanded and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays came into existence, Boggs signed with his home town team. At the age of 40, he still managed to hit .280 in his first Tampa Bay season. In limited play, he hit .301 in his last season in 1999. On August 7th, 1999, Boggs slugged his 3,000th hit into the right field stands at Tropicana Field.

Before and after retirement, there were reports that Wade Boggs had planned on requesting a Tampa Bay Devil Rays hat for his Hall of Fame plaque. Due to these reports and others involving other players, the National Baseball Hall of Fame changed the practice in 2001 to give the hall more control over proper cap choice, and Boggs was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005 with a Boston Red Sox cap on his plaque.

Regardless of which cap he wore, Wade Boggs will be remembered as one of the most impressive hitters. A twelve time All-Star, Boggs earned two Gold Glove Awards later in his career, a testament of his ability to evolve as a ballplayer. Boggs ranks among the best in many categories, but perhaps most impressive is his .328 career batting average, which is bested by only 34 other players in history. His career on-base percentage of .415 is better than all but 14 other major leaguers. Twelve years after his last game, Boggs remains one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Also Born On This Day:

Billy Williams(b.1938), a Hall of Fame left fielder who spent his entire career with the Chicago Cubs, was also the 1961 National League Rookie of The Year. He played in 1,117 consecutive games between 1962-1971, establishing an N.L. record that stood until Steve Garvey broke it in 1983. He played alongside Cubs greats Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, and had his number 26 retired by the club in 1987.

Dusty Baker(b.1949) has logged more than four decades in Major League Baseball. Much of his nineteen seasons playing were spent with the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he won a World Series Championship in 1981. He has won 840 games and counting over eighteen seasons as manager of the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and currently as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He has guided each of his teams to at least one playoff appearance, and won the N.L. Pennant with the 2002 Giants.

Andy Pettitte(b.1972) retired after the 2010 season as one of the best postseason pitchers in his era, and arguably in baseball history. His 19 postseason wins ranks him first, and he has played in seven World Series, playing on the winner’s side five times. His 149 wins during the 2001-2009 decade are the most of any pitcher during that time.

Tim Lincecum(b.1984), with just five seasons under his belt, he already ranks first in San Francisco Giants history with the most 10 strikeout games. To go along with his 2008 and 2009 N.L. Cy Young Awards and 2010 World Series Championship, Lincecum has led the N.L. in strikeouts for three straight seasons.

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