'Thrill beyond thrills': Sox legends recount HOF call

Boggs, Eckersley, Martinez, Rice and Fisk talk Cooperstown at Winter Weekend

'Thrill beyond thrills': Sox legends recount HOF call

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Put five Hall of Famers who all played for the Red Sox on a stage together, and you're going to get some great stories.

The captivating "Call to the Hall" panel was a clear highlight of the festivities at Red Sox Winter Weekend.

Carlton Fisk, Dennis Eckersley, Wade Boggs, Jim Rice and Pedro Martinez did their best to explain to the audience what it was like to get the official call from the Hall of Fame, as Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Tim Raines did just a few days ago.

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"I grew up in New Hampshire in a little town of about 1,000 people, and our baseball program was a 12-game season. We played 12 games in the spring, and I ended up in the Hall of Fame," said Fisk, who was inducted in 2000. "I don't know how that happened, other than being too stubborn to give up."

In 1999, Fisk's first year on the ballot, he fell short, as Robin Yount, George Brett and Nolan Ryan formed one of the great Hall of Fame classes ever.

"I was a second-ballot Hall of Famer," Fisk said. "It didn't make me feel too bad when I looked around and realized it took Yogi Berra three years and Joe DiMaggio two years and Jimmy Rice should have been in long before he was selected.

"When I first got in, I thought, 'I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy.' You see the guys who you know were the best to ever play the game, and here I am standing amongst them. It was a thrill beyond thrills."

Fisk's former batterymate Eckersley (Class of 2004) was able to get in on the first try, but even that was stressful.

"It's a frightening thing. People tell you they think you'll make it. Easy for them to say. They're not the ones sitting on pins and needles waiting," said Eckersley. "It's funny, I was expecting the call at 2, and then a friend of mine calls at that time. I said to him, 'Get the hell off this phone. I'm waiting for the call.' Anyway, then the guy calls and says, 'You're a new member of the Hall of Fame, and your life is changed forever.' The feeling inside was so emotional.

"I cried. What a moment in your life. You think about all the people right away, my dad, how happy he was, all the people who love and care about you, it adds to the emotion. It's just humbling to say the least. Then it gets better and better as you go on. I'm just really, really happy and proud."

Boggs, a five-time American League batting champion who went into the Hall of Fame in 2005, had a similar experience as Eckersley. Only it was his nanny who called.

"She called at 11, and the call was supposed to come between 11 and 2," said Boggs. "Coincidentally, the call came at 12:26, which is was pretty ironic considering those were the two numbers I wore in the big leagues. My father was sitting in the big chair, and the call does come and your eyes immediately fill up with water. You start tearing up.

"You don't say anything, really. They say, 'Congratulations, you've been inducted into the Hall of Fame.' You're speechless. And I looked at my dad and thinking about the whole journey, him coaching me in Little League and doing all the things that dads do. I was just looking at my dad going, 'Wow, we made it.' Not I -- we. That was a special part of having all your family around and having them celebrate it with you is the biggest part."

Rice has just two regrets. The first is that it took him 15 years to get there, meaning he had to sweat it out on his final year on the ballot. The second is that the call from Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson came during "The Young and the Restless," a soap opera Rice has watched daily since he was a player.

"I said, 'Jeff, thank you, I'll call you back'," chuckled Rice at the recollection. "It really didn't hit me until later. Carl Yastrzemski had always told me that if I ever got into the Hall of Fame, he'd be there. And Yaz very seldom goes out of his house. He told me I had 10 minutes for my speech. And sure enough, after my 10 minutes were done, and my speech was over, Yaz was gone."

The memory is still fresh for Martinez, who got the call two years ago. He just wishes he had brought some dental floss.

"I got the phone call at about 1:30. It was supposed to be at 2, and it caught me by surprise. I had a piece of sea bass in my mouth," Martinez said. "If you asked me personally, I never expected to be in the Hall of Fame. I had to overcome so much. I pitched every day like there was no other day. Every time I took the ball, I went out there thinking this might be my last day. I didn't have time to think about making it anywhere but the next game."

The five Hall of Famers gathered together all spoke about the thrill of hanging out at the yearly induction festivities at Cooperstown.

"I was sitting down by Johnny Bench, and he wanted to get me a drink," said Martinez. "He said, 'Pedro, sit down here, in the rocking chair, take a deep breath and look to the lake and just sit down.' My biggest thrill about being in the Hall of Fame was the fact that sitting down in the rocking chair -- and at the time I'm the youngest Hall of Famer -- and he went and got me a drink. That meant so much because the great Johnny Bench took his time to sit me down and go get me a drink."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.