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Wade Boggs

July 16, 2008
 Untitled 

We carried you
in our arms
on Independence Day.
And now you throw us all aside
and put us all away.
– “Tears of Rage,” Richard Manual and Bob Dylan

I’ve had this propensity to weep for aging male athletes waving to crowds since I was ten years old. That year I got choked up watching the long ovation for John Havlicek during his last game, even though to that point I hadn’t really followed basketball very closely. It didn’t matter, I guess. I was still moved by all the gratitude and sadness of the roaring mob’s goodbye. As the years went by I began to anticipate these moments—last games, retirement ceremonies, the hanging in the rafters of numbers, limping arthritic reunions—the way some other person might anticipate going to a sappy movie to “have a good cry.”

And so I was looking forward to last night, when dozens of Hall of Famers would be introduced prior to the All-Star Game. And things were looking good. I was taking it slow, working myself up to a nice happy wet-eyed moment in which I would stand there in my living room alone, clapping and croaking hoarsely “Yeah! Yeah!” In fact, I had already risen from the sofa and was pacing around the room by the time they got to the third basemen, so I think I looked away from the screen before getting a good look at all four Former Greats standing there. All I saw, besides the unmistakable figures of Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt, and George Brett, was some bearded guy in a Yankees cap.

“Graig Nettles?” I wondered. That didn’t seem right, but who else could it be?

Turned out it was the guy pictured here.

I’m pretty sure he was the only Former Great on the field who chose not to wear the cap that is on his head in his Hall of Fame plaque. Shortly after Boggs’s introduction, Dave Winfield was introduced wearing a Padres cap, but he acknowledged his bond to the Yankees by producing a second cap and holding the two caps up together. Gary Carter did something similar a bit later. This seemed the classy thing to do, the only way to pay tribute to both fan bases that had supported those players for many years.

Of course, it would have taken a bit more courage to stand there in Yankee Stadium in a Red Sox cap than in a Padres or Expos cap. Before I describe a few of my immediate reactions to Boggs’ failure to display such courage, let me just say that I hate it when the ritualistic sentimental fugues I lapse into during Former Great moments get marred by baser emotions. Spite. Hurt. Anger.

Gutless, I said. You’re dead to me, I said. You’re a nauseatingly sycophantic ass-kisser, I said. Nobody thinks you’re cool, I said, tears of rage starting to form.

We carried you in our arms, Wade Boggs. It was on Independence Day, as a matter of fact, right there in Yankee Stadium, and a real Yankee, Dave Righetti, struck your ass out to clinch a no-hitter. It was humiliating for this Red Sox fan to see, salt in deep wounds, but I stuck with you. I stuck with you when they started to write that you weren’t a team player. I stuck with you despite your robotic lack of flair, despite your abundantly obvious self-absorption, despite your embarrassing involvement in the Margo Adams mess, despite the hints of cowardice in your “pulling a hamstring” to protect your batting title lead over a real Yankee, Don Mattingly. When you wept in the dugout in 1986, I wept too. And if you’d had the guts to wear the cap that is on your plaque in the Hall of Fame, I’m sure I would have wept again, but happily, joyfully.

It took a while, but I had finally become able to accept the existence of the harrowing image of you up on a goddamn horse in pinstripes. You got yours, I could finally say (though it took a World Series win or two for me to be able to say it; I don’t deny that I’m a small man). After all, you deserve it. You were a fantastic hitter, a scientist so devoted and pure that you turned science into art. You came along during a rough stretch in my life and the life of my team, my awkward adolescence coinciding with the dreary, lonely Last Days of Yaz, an era that would have been devoid of hope and light without your yearly assault on the summit of the Sunday batting averages. I want to see you in my mind in a Red Sox uniform, peppering doubles off the Monster. But now all I see is you in pinstripes, up on that horse. So Wade Boggs, here’s my response to your appearance last night: Fuck you and that horse you rode off on.

33 comments

  1. 1.  My wife is a Yankees fan, so she used to have that damn framed photo up in the living room. Every time a certain friend — and CG devotee — cat-sit for us, he’d turn the picture facedown.

    Yesterday afternoon, Boggs was driven up Sixth Ave. with media lover and onetime Met Eddie Murray, but not on horseback. (here’s my faraway photo: http://tinyurl.com/57qban)

    Being a Mets and Orioles fan, I always liked Murray, no matter how dour he was. But I can’t have chicken for lunch without thinking about the dreaded Boggs and his facial hair, so I hate him for that, among other things. And last night at the stadium, he was one big chicken.

    Amen, brother.

    P.S. By the way, care to explain the Boggs autograph?


  2. 2.  1 : The card was a nice gift from my wife’s aunt. She gave me an array of Red Sox cards a couple years ago, most of them from a fairly recent vintage and all of them encased in protective plastic. They and some other plastic-encased gift cards from my mother-in-law form a sort of fancy suburb of my decrepit childhood city of cards.


  3. 3.  You tell ‘em.


  4. 4.  I was about 10 feet from Boggs as he was driven down 6th avenue. Once I saw the interlocking NY on his head, rage took over. Coworkers couldn’t understand the anger; who cares? You got yours, twice over, why care about what a retired ballplayer does? It’s irrational I guess, but that didn’t stop me from yelling out to Wade that he should’ve rode a horse down the street and that Boston still thinks he’s an F’n A.

    Would you have ever guessed in the late 80′s that Roger Clemens & Wade Boggs would be held in such low regard?


  5. 5.  Wow. Such vitriol. I sort of love it, if I only cared more about the whole Red Sox-Yankees thing.

    In fact, the media and ESPN conspire to make me tire of it, playing out any game between these two teams as if it were the only thing going on in baseball.

    Last night’s over-glorification of the artificially lame-duck edifice called the same thing that the replacement will be called was another example of that which will make me ardently support the Tampa Bay team, whatever the heck they want to be called, now and forevermore.

    Go Rays.


  6. 6.  Josh, if it makes you feel any better, my mother – a die-hard Yankees fan who’s favorite player was Thurman Munson – to this day, still refuses to accept that Wade Boggs ever wore pinstripes. Usually, bringing his name up results in some choice curse words. Followed by more of the same concerning one R. Clemens. Somehow, Sparky Lyle escapes such condemnation – perhaps because he joined the Yanks before my mom became a fan.

    Oh, and she hates that Boggs on horse photo as well – maybe more than you do.

    Who would have ever thought that Wade Boggs, of all people, would bring Yankee fans and Red Sox fans together – in their hatred of him.

    My own opinions are vastly different than my mother’s.


  7. 7.  A-fucking-men, Josh.


  8. 8.  6 : My Yankees friend fan Akim marvelled last night that Yankees and Sox fans are bonded together by a mutual dislike of Boggs. I was ready to claim Boggs, but now, forget it.


  9. 9.  boggs and his chicken and his 6 cases of beer.


  10. 10.  Boggs IS a horse’s ass.

    I do not dispute that. At all. And his classlessness last night was par for his sorry course.

    As a Yankee fan, what moved me to frothing rage was the appearance of Steinbrenner, drooling, wheeled out on that cart . . . I choked with my usual inarticulate frustration at that venal, disgusting convicted felon.

    But the horseback picture is a mixer I can’t resist; exhibit it to a certain fan and it’s an explosive combo as inevitable as a bundle of dynamite and a fuse in a Warner Bros cartoon.


  11. 11.  Great writing, as usual.

    But I bet to differ on Boggs — I think he’s hugely underrated as a player, and don’t really care what hat he wears at a symbolic exhibition game in the Bronx. I’m sure he’l wear a Rays cap when he’s a guest at the celebration of their first pennant or the opening of their new stadium, and I seem to remember Boggs being all sentimental at Fenway several times in the past few years too. This behavior doesn’t bother me a bit.


  12. 12.  You’re just jealous of Wade’s new hair:

    http://www.medicalhairrestoration.com/images/wade_polaroid5.jpg


  13. 13.  My only warning would be to watch your use of “real yankee” which is pretty close to the term “true yankee”.

    http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2005/04/glossary-of-terms.html

    you have to scroll down a ways (sorry not technically savy enough to give you a link directly to the term).


  14. 14.  Hey Josh, great piece and I love the passion of the writing. It was both funny, reflective and a bit gut wrenching. If it makes you feel any better, my older sisters boyfriend was great at heckling and made no bones about doing it one night when I went to a game with him. Boggs and the Red Sox roll into Anaheim to play the California Angels back around the time that he was going thru that whole Margo thing and Mark just lit into him about it the whole night. That was back when the it was the Big A and about 40 people showed up for the games. Getting up close to the field was not a difficult thing at all. I guess that kind of makes me a dick for reveling in my sisters boyfriend berating the guy, but that whole horse thing seemed like a calculated punch to the gut by Boggs at Sox fans. But anyway, great piece!


  15. 15.  Excellent piece.

    It’s hard not to respect Boggs as a player-for me, the prototypical Boggs hit was that 180 foot single to left, just over the shortstop’s head and just in front of the left fielder.

    As a person, he’s that guy who you meet at your kid’s playdate who tries to sell you something.


  16. 16.  Josh, you’re a genius–doing this post on 7/16 instead of 7/17, as one final shot at Wade. As much as he’ll try to hack into your site and change it to 7/17, he won’t be able to. It’ll just sit there at the top of the post, never, ever changing to 7/17.

    “I seem to remember Boggs being all sentimental at Fenway several times in the past few years too. This behavior doesn’t bother me a bit.”

    Sentimental about Fenway? Again, just look at the horse picture. The guy’s a scumbag.


  17. 17.  Remind me to never, ever piss you off.


  18. 18.  “Fuck you and that horse you rode off on”

    As a fellow Sox fan of similar vintage…I couldn’t have put it more succintly.

    Thank you


  19. 19.  and crap, I spelled succinctly incorrectly….


  20. 20.  I agree that Boggs just should have worn a Devil Rays cap, period.

    Now if Roger Clemens had been invited, and hadn’t been nabbed red-handed as a steroid-cheat and consigned to some minimum-security purgatory, what cap do you think he would have donned?

    Blue Jays?


  21. 21.  Clemens actually has a legit claim to the Blue Jays, having won two of his Cy Youngs with them.


  22. 22.  Josh, will you feel this way when we get Papelbon, Youkilis, Beckett and Pedroia to come play in our new ballpark?

    ;o)


  23. 23.  Why would those world champions want to play for the chokers? You’ve got it backwards. Or you’re living in the wrong century.


  24. 24.  Wasn’t Boggs paid to wear the Tampa cap at Cooperstown? Maybe he got a nice check from Boss Jr. the other night. Chicken’s getting expensive.


  25. 25.  Wade should’ve worn a Sox cap, NYY championship ring and a Rays Jersey. Sums up the career, dontcha think? (Yanks fan here – could care less about Wade Boggs and what hat he wears).


  26. 26.  24 : I can’t recall for sure, but Boggs’ case, which may have involved monetetary wrangling (I don’t remember), might have been the one that prompted the Hall to decide that THEY would determine what cap went on the player in the plaque. (He is wearing a Bosox cap.)


  27. 27.  23 so 2 championships reverses 26? Time will tell.


  28. 28.  Jeb, the Red Sox now have 7 championships. 2004 wasn’t the first one, just the first one since 1918.


  29. 29.  28 I know that but y’all weren’t arrogant in 2003 when you had 5 titles dating back to 1918 and before. It’s the two titles that have given you the swagger.

    In any event it appears that 7 is also greater than 26.


  30. 30.  Jeb, It’s not that we feel like we are the greater franchise. It’s that we are the current World Champs, and like how our Team is positioned for the future. That is why we are arrogant right now.

    This reminds me of a story. When I was a teenager (98 I think the year was) I went to Sox-Yanks game at Fenway. Pretty good seats, but unfortunately right in front of 2 extremely arrogant Yankees fans. As they came to their seats (in the 2nd inning) they were holloring, “World Champions in your row! Excuse us, we’re WORLD CHAMPIONS in your row!” All the way to their seats. It burned me to no end. I can’t even describe how angry I was. I vowed to have revenge one day. Well in ’05 I had my chance. Sox-Yanks tickets in NY. Of course I got to the game on time, with a good hour to spare, but I could see it all unfolding in my head. Approaching my seats and saying the exact phrase that spun me up so long ago. I couldn’t do it. I still wish I had, and it wasn’t out of fear or stage fright. I just saw younger yankees fans with their Dad’s sitting around and couldn’t bring myself to that level. I really wish I could have done it. Anyway, my point is, let us be arrogant. It’s our time in the sun.


  31. 31.  Yanks fans werent rallying around ’26 Rings, Baby!’ until 2004. ’96-’00, Yanks fans swagger was a result of their team kicking the ass of every other team. After 2004, Yanks fans learned to count. Their pile is bigger than our pile. Though 20 WS championships came 45+ years ago. Live in the now huh?

    The funny part is the ’26 ring’ T-shirts are wrong. The Yanks only have 23 rings, the first WS rings were issued in 1932 by the Yanks.


  32. 32.  30 It couldn’t have been 1998 or those would have been marlins fans finding their seats.

    31 Rings on a t-shirt only symbolize championships. If you’re really bothered by that then I think you might want to see someone.


  33. 33.  Josh, nice…Fuck Boggs, Amen



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