New York Yankees Legends: Wade Boggs excellent hitter and knuckleballer

One of the New York Yankees‘ greatest players was Wade Boggs, even though he was only with the Yankees for five years. He is the holder of the best batting average record (.328) of all living hitters with at least 1,000 plate appearances. He spent the majority of his Hall of Fame career with the Red Sox, But he spent five years during the height of his career with the New York Yankees. While with the Yankees, he was an All-Star four times, an MVP candidate twice, a Silver Slugger twice, and a Gold Glover twice. Wade was born to Winfield and Susan Boggs in 1958 in Omaha, Nebraska. Winfield was a Marine and Susan a mail pilot. Being from a military family, the young Boggs moved a lot with his family. He was used to a very regimented life, something that would come in handy later in his baseball career.

When his father finally retired in 1967, young Boggs would play in the Little Leagues in Tampa, Florida. Later he would attend Henry B. Plant High School in Tampa, where Wade played baseball and football. He was a quarterback in football until he switches to a kicker. He was so good he got the offer of a football scholarship from the University of South Carolina. In his junior year of high school, Wade would hit .522. That’s when baseball scouts started to take notice and watch his games. As he gained a reputation as a hitter, pitchers wouldn’t throw him strikes, and he would struggle. The young Boggs would read Ted William’s book “The Science of Hitting.” He basically learned from the book not to swing at balls out of the strike zone, forcing the pitcher to throw strikes or walk him. H finished the season hitting .485.

Even though Wade was a hitting machine, scouts weren’t sure it would translate into a professional career, as he didn’t run well and had poor range at third. Red Sox scout George Digby had seen him play and persuaded the team to select Boggs in the seventh round of the 1976 amateur draft. Wade had to choose between college ball and the majors; he selected the majors and signed with the Red Sox in 1976. He played for the Class A rookie Elmira team, where he hit .263 but was below average in almost every other category. But they saw enough in him to promote him to Winston Salem in 1977. While there, he would hit .332 and would walk more than striking out. Nevertheless, he was told he didn’t run fast enough, didn’t have enough range to play defensively, and didn’t hit for power. One thing he did have was drive and ambition. He wasn’t discouraged and just kept honing his skills.

He moved slowly through the minor league system, playing in Bristol, Connecticut, in 1978 and 1979. That was followed by two years at the Pawtucket Red Sox. There in 1981, he would play in the longest ever professional baseball game. It was 33 innings until it was finally suspended early in the morning. When playing winter ball in Puerto Rico, he hit .354, and the Red Sox finally would add him to the 40 man roster. He would play eleven years in the Red Sox majors and become one of the more dominant hitters in the game. In his major league career with the Sox, he would hit .338, be an 8-time All-Star, an MVP candidate seven times, and a Silver Slugger six times. He still, to this day, holds the Fenway Park batting average title of .369. After the 1992 season, he slumped below .300. It would be the same year he would become a free agent.

The Dodgers and the New York Yankees would battle to sign him, with the Yankees winning out due to the contract’s length, which the Dodgers would not match. He was again a multiple-year All-Star and MVP candidate but would achieve two Gold Glove awards that had eluded him as a Red Sox. He would handle third base for the Yankees for five years. In five years, he would have 702 hits while hitting .313 over his Yankee career. He was single and doubles machine though he seldom hit home runs. He only hit over 11 in a season, which 24 in 1987. Boggs helped the Yankees win their first World Series title in 18 years, becoming his only world title in 1996. In-game 4 of that series, Boggs would pinch-hit in the tenth, coaxing a walk that eventually led to the Yankees’ 8-6 win over the Atlanta Braves. The Yankees would win the series in six games, and Boggs would famously jump onto the back of a police horse and tour the field with his winning finger in the air.

He would again play for the New York Yankees in 1997. It would be only the third year in this 18 year career that his average would dip below .300 (.292). It would also be only the second year that he would receive no end of the year awards. He ultimately lost his third-base job to Charlie Hayes. But in his last hurrah in the postseason, he would hit .429 in seven at-bats, but the Yankee would lose the ALDS to the Indians. After the season, he would not be renewed and went home to play for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays with only 210 hits between both years. Boggs would finish his career with a batting average of .328 and entering the 3,000 hits club with 3,010 hits.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that he had an amazing knuckleball? That’s right, move over, Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunyan, Wade Boggs is the real American hero. On Aug. 19, 1997, Boggs finally got his first chance to show off that magical pitch. With the Yankees trailing, 12-4 in the eighth inning against the Angels, Boggs finally got his chance to shine. Working behind a bullpen/the fence housing the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, the third baseman could barely hide his excitement. View the amazing video below.

Wade Boggs was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. His number with the Red Sox and Rays would be retired. His Hall of Fame Cap was a Red Sox cap, primarily because he spent 16 years in the organization. When asked about his time with the New York Yankees, he would say, “My tenure in New York was wonderful,” the five-time batting champ said. “I enjoyed every minute in New York.” In the pregame ceremony for the 2008 All-Star game, the ailing George Steinbrenner brought out the ball in the golf cart to start the game; he was met at the mound by Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, and Wade Boggs and a few others. It was an emotional moment and a highlight of the festivities.