Jim Rice’s retired number 14
When I was growing up, there was a time when Jim Rice was my favorite player. Really, he and Dwight Evans flip flopped for a while there. He was probably my first favorite Red Sox player. It’s a little odd, really, since I’m just a bit too young to have followed him in his prime. When I really started to follow the Sox, he was past his best years. I guess I just latched on to what he was.
And, what he was is pretty impressive. One of the most feared hitters in the AL during his prime. He finally ended up in the Hall of Fame, which isn’t too shabby at all.
I often wonder if the steroid era hurt or helped Rice’s chances in the Hall of Fame ballot. It would be easy to say that during the time he was eligible, all the numbers the juiced players were putting up made his talents look pathetic. But, his first years on the ballot were before the true steroid era came into play, right? The mid-nineties? Shouldn’t Rice have had a few years where he was only compared to the clean athletes? Once he got four or five years in, I can see how the Bonds and McGwire results would dwarf his accomplishments, and hurt Rice’s chances. But, I do think the steroids helped him get in on that last ballot. I think voters were scared. I think they saw that lots of great players who were on the juice and tarnishing their stats. They didn’t want to look foolish in years to come. If they suddenly threw out every stat from 1998 on, would Rice be a sure HOFer? They didn’t want to risk it, so they put him in.
It’s possible Rice deserved it all along. Like I said, I missed his prime years. I’ll leave that debate to people who know more about Rice in his era. But, I think it’s interesting that he didn’t get in during those first few elections.
Whatever the verdict, he was a fantastic Red Sox.
14 is for number 14, Jim Rice.