Boggs visits Cooperstown

Boggs visits Cooperstown

COOPERSTOWN -- Last week, it was smooth-fielding Ryne Sandberg's turn to examine the premises; this week, virtual hitting machine Wade Boggs took a first look at his future baseball residence.

No, Boggs won't actually be living at the Hall of Fame and Museum. But his immortalizing bronze plaque -- currently in the process of being made at a Pittsburgh foundry -- will be taking up permanent residence this summer at the famed 25 Main Street address in the tiny upstate village.

Boggs toured the Hall of Fame and Museum on Tuesday as part of the orientation process for his July 31 induction into the Cooperstown shrine. Reverent of baseball history, Boggs and his wife Debbie spent several hours at the Hall, greeting Hall of Fame employees, touring the Museum, and watching a video tribute compiled by the Hall's multimedia department.

It didn't take long for the Tampa resident to feel taken aback by his new surroundings.

"The goosebumps are remarkable," Boggs says. "I was walking down the hall where all the plaques are -- the goosebumps started overwhelming me. I think the wall of plaques is probably the most moving when you walk in there. It's just mind-blowing."

While Boggs' bronze plaque won't be installed in the Hall's gallery until Induction Sunday, several pieces of Boggs memorabilia have already made their way to Cooperstown. Over the years, Boggs has donated a number of artifacts, including the Boston Red Sox jersey that he wore in 1984, the bat that he used during a remarkable 1987 season (when he hit a career-high 24 home runs), and his Tampa Bay Devil Rays ensemble (cap, jersey, batting gloves and spikes) from August 7, 1999, when he collected the 3,000th hit of his illustrious career. Yet, the artifact that remains most special to Boggs is one that he won't be handing over until later this summer.

"The one thing that I am giving the Hall of Fame is the 'Elephant Ear,' the glove that I used for 15 years," says Boggs. "That's my pride and joy right there; I won two Gold Gloves with it. It actually looks like an elephant ear, it's so old."

Another one of Boggs' most cherished artifacts will remain in his home. It's the Gold Glove that he won for his play at third base in 1994. Boggs remembers well the day that he learned of winning his first prize for fielding prowess.

"That was the big thing, when Don Mattingly called me at 12:30 in the morning congratulating me on winning the Gold Glove," says Boggs, who's better remembered for his .328 career average and five American League batting titles. "I just started crying. Right there in the middle of the bed, I started crying. I never cried after winning a batting title."

Though Boggs had never previously toured the Hall of Fame and Museum, he is no stranger to Cooperstown. In fact, he is a veteran of two Hall of Fame Games. In 1985, Boggs had a relatively quiet exhibition game, going hitless in two at-bats as the Red Sox (who started a 22-year-old Roger Clemens that afternoon) fell to the Houston Astros. Four years later, Boggs underwent a more memorable Hall of Fame Game experience, as the Sox returned to Cooperstown -- this time in a scheduled meeting with the Cincinnati Reds. When the Reds, managed by an embattled Pete Rose, failed to show in Cooperstown for the game, the Red Sox staged a kind of intrasquad contest so as not to disappoint the sold-out crowd. The informal game was dubbed the "BoSox" vs. the "Yaz Sox," in honor of Carl Yastrzemski, who was elected to the Hall of Fame that summer. Showing Yastrzemski-like power, Boggs reached the seats at Doubleday Field.

"I wound up hitting a home run in the intrasquad game, and I think I only had one or two going into June that year," Boggs recalls. "And that was coming off a couple of years before that when I hit 24. I always said that was the tune-up for the All-Star Game, because I homered in '89 in the All-Star Game. It was neat playing in the Hall of Fame Game."

More memories of the Hall of Fame -- far more substantial ones -- will be formed for the history-minded Boggs within the next three months. Now that both Boggs and Sandberg have received their Cooperstown orientations, the countdown to Hall of Fame enshrinement for the class of 2005 -- just a tick under 90 days away -- can officially begin.

Bruce Markusen is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.