JIM ED RICE, HALL OF FAMER
He did it!! This is from the Boston Globe, just now!!
In his final at-bat, Jim Rice has hit a home run.
"Rice, the fierce and feared slugger who spent his entire 16-year major league career with the Red Sox, was at last elected to to the Baseball Hall of Fame this afternoon on his 15th -- and final -- season on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. Rice was named on 76.4 percent of the ballots. Seventy-five percent is required for induction. Rice received 412 of 539 votes, just seven more than the minimum amount necessary.
He will be joined in this year's class by Rickey Henderson, who spent 25 years in the majors and ranks as the all-time leader in runs (2,995) and stolen bases (1,406), and who is widely regarded as the best leadoff hitter of all time. In his first year on the ballot, the 50-year-old Henderson received 94.8 percent of the vote.
Rice, who batted .298 with 382 home runs and 1,451 RBIs from 1974-89 while following Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski in the Red Sox tradition of superstar left fielders, is the first player to be elected in his final year of BBWAA eligibility since 1975, when longtime Pirates star Ralph Kiner was chosen.
It has been a long journey to Cooperstown for the 54-year-old Rice, whose candidacy had been a topic of intense debate among writers and fans since he first appeared on the ballot in 1995.
“You have no control over, when you have someone making the decision, not for you, but making the decision determining if you are a Hall of Famer or not. I think a lot of the writers that were voting, they never put a uniform on and went out there and played the game and saw how tough it was to accomplish some of the numbers that some of the players [put up],” Rice told the MLB Network shortly after the announcement. "You just take it with a grain of salt because there's nothing you can do."
Rice's supporters long contended that he was the game’s dominant slugger for a 10-12 year stretch, a notion that is frequently seconded by his peers. An eight-time All-Star, Rice was an elite hitter from 1975, when he was runner-up to teammate Fred Lynn for AL Rookie of the Year, until 1986, when the Red Sox felt to the Mets in the World Series.
He compiled 35 homers and 200 hits in three straight seasons, finished in the top five in Most Valuable Player voting six times, and led the league in total bases four times, including a staggering 406 in during the 1978 season, when he was named the American League MVP after hitting .315 with 46 homers and 139 RBIs in one of the finest individual seasons in franchise history.
His accomplishments became more impressive in retrospect considering they were compiled before the performance-enhancing drug era, which swelled home run numbers throughout the sport.
But those skeptical of Rice’s qualifications also had a reasonable case. His run of true greatness was brief for a Hall of Fame-caliber player, and his skills eroded quickly – he hit just 31 homers in his final three seasons and was essentially finished as an above-average hitter at age 34. Further, they argued, his numbers were inflated by playing half his games in Fenway (he batted .277 on the road in his career), he had little speed and was merely an average left fielder, and he never had a defining postseason moment. (He missed the '75 World Series with a broken wrist.)
Rice, whose reputation during his playing days as being aloof with the media may have hurt him with some voters, said today he doesn't comprehend where his naysayers were coming from.
"I don’t understand about being overrated, the numbers spoke for themselves, and during that time, you look at the guys that played the game and the numbers they put up [and mine stand up]," Rice said. "So as far as being overrated, I have no idea.
"I think what you’re trying to get at is that some of the writers probably said I was arrogant. You know that wasn't true. You want to talk about baseball, I talk about baseball, but I never talked about my teammates. I protected my teammates. I don’t think you should make any excuses, when I felt like as captain of the ball club, I took a lot of pressure off the guys because some guys could handle pressure, some guys couldn’t handle pressure, and I was the type of guy that I got paid to go out and play baseball."
Rice, who received 72.2 percent of the vote last year, falling 16 votes shy, had history on his side this year. Twenty other players have gathered between 70 and 75 percent of the vote and every one of them ultimately made it to Cooperstown – though some were voted in by the Veteran’s Committee. The highest percentage for a player who wasn't elected later was 63.4 by Gil Hodges in 1983, his final time on the ballot.
Peter here on a glorious afternoon. YES! YES! YES! FINALLY. We love you, Jim Ed.