Wade Boggs talks steroids, Yankees, Red Sox and Gamecocks
Wade Boggs was dubbed “The Chicken Man” for his steady diet of various chicken dishes consumed before baseball games. The longtime Tampa resident is better known for his 3,010 hits and .328 lifetime batting average compiled over 18 major league seasons from 1982-1999.
Hot Stove Banquet
When: Friday, 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. dinner
Where: Charleston Marriott
Proceeds: Benefit The Citadel, College of Charleston and Charleston Southern baseball programs and the MUSC Storm Eye Institute
Info: 577-DOGS, www.riverdogs.com
Boggs played primarily for the Boston Red Sox. But the third baseman won a World Series ring with the 1996 New York Yankees and got his 3,000th hit — and appeared in Charleston for an exhibition game against the RiverDogs — as a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Looking forward to his Friday appearance as featured speaker at Charleston’s 9th annual Hot Stove Banquet, Boggs, 54, talked about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, steroids, the South Carolina Gamecocks and food with The Post and Courier’s Gene Sapakoff:
How often do people approach you with chicken recipes?
“Oh, all the time. People always ask if I still eat chicken every day. I say, ‘Being retired, I’ve cut back to about five days a week.’ I don’t have to do it seven days a week anymore.”
All-time favorite chicken dish?
“I don’t have a specific favorite, but I’d have to say my wife’s fried chicken. It’s kind of hard to beat.”
There was so much steroid buzz going into and coming out of the 2013 Hall of Fame vote this month. What did you think?
“First, you have to understand it’s going to be a tough process for the writers. Guys are going to be linked to that era, and some guys are linked to steroids. It’s kind of difficult to vote in this era.”
You played with Roger Clemens. You played with or against all these guys somehow linked to steroids. What do you specifically think about Clemens and Barry Bonds as Hall of Fame candidates?
“Clemens has gone through some trials. (Former strength coach) Brian McNamee has said he injected Clemens with steroids, and that’s an ongoing battle. Barry Bonds, I guess, was convicted of lying to a grand jury about steroids. Like I said, it’s a tough era to vote on.”
Do you have sympathy for guys like Dale Murphy and Fred McGriff who are not linked to steroids but whose statistics might get overshadowed in the steroid era?
“I don’t think they’re getting overshadowed. The Hall of Fame is less than one percent of guys who have ever played the game; it’s not like football. When you talk about McGriff and Murphy and guys like that, when you compare them to Hank Aaron numbers or Willie Mays numbers, they don’t stack up. Are you going to start putting borderline guys in the Hall of Fame because they didn’t use steroids?”
One more Hall of Fame question: Sounds like you’re fine with no one getting elected in 2013?
“That’s the way it goes. But I thought (Craig) Biggio was going in. I guess some of the older writers feel if Joe DiMaggio didn’t get in on the first ballot, no one gets in on the first ballot.”
What’s your single favorite Boston Red Sox moment?
“I would have to say us making it to the World Series in 1986. Coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Angels and going on to the World Series and the battle we had with the Mets, that’s probably the fondest memory.”
I think I know the answer to this one. Your favorite Yankees moment?
“Oct. 26, 1996, Yankee Stadium, absolutely.”
After you guys came back to beat the Braves and won Game 6 of the World Series, you rode around the field on a policeman’s horse. What went into that decision?
“I have no idea. We were all standing around the mound hooting and hollering and thanking the fans, and we were going to do a victory lap and slap some high fives. Next thing I know, about halfway down the left-field line, I’m on the back of a horse. To this day, I really don’t know how I got up there.”
You won two Gold Gloves at third base. Do you think your hitting made your fielding underrated?
“No, I think I finally got the recognition for all the hard work and ground balls I took. It paid off. That’s really all a ballplayer wants, to be known as a complete player. It was very gratifying.”
Your career coincided with Tony Gwynn’s, and you guys had such unique hitting styles. What was it like, all those comparisons?
“We were similar; we both sprayed it around a lot. I walked a lot more than Tony did. Our careers were so parallel; he got his 3,000th hit on a Friday night and I got mine that Saturday night.”
Who was the toughest pitcher?
“Randy Johnson. He’s big and wild, and there was an illusion that he didn’t know where he was throwing the ball. I think 3 for 27 with a bunch of strikeouts speaks for itself.”
You were headed to South Carolina to play baseball before signing with the Red Sox out of high school in 1976. How did that come about?
“(Former Gamecocks head coach) Bobby Richardson signed me to a letter of intent, and had I not signed with the Red Sox, I was going there to play shortstop. (Former Gamecocks assistant coach) Johnny Hutton and Bobby did a lot of scouting down in Florida, and Johnny watched me play two or three times and in some private practices. My dad and I looked at the facilities up at South Carolina and they were spectacular; I was going to be a Gamecock. I also was recruited by The Citadel to play quarterback. But the only thing I ever wanted to do was play professional baseball.”
You probably know as much about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry as anyone. The Charleston RiverDogs are a Yankees affiliate, but they have a lot of New England transplants as fans. What about the rivalry?
“It’s heated back up, that’s the good thing. It’s really good for baseball. Back when I was playing, it was really hot in the minor leagues, too. Once I got to the big leagues and we started winning, and the Yankees started finishing in last place, the rivalry sort of went out the window a little bit.”
Did you recently purchase the Field of Dreams site in Iowa?
“Yes. A group I’m in bought the field, the house and 193 acres, and we’re going to build youth fields there in Dyersville, Iowa, and host travel ball tournaments there throughout the summer.”
Last thing: Would you be disappointed if they don’t serve chicken at Charleston’s Hot Stove Banquet?
“Well, I’ve probably done about 5,000 banquets in my lifetime, and I would say 4,998 of them have had chicken. If they mix up the menu and serve prime rib or something, I wouldn’t be too sad. But I’m looking forward to a good piece of chicken.”
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff