When Wade Boggs gave me the evil eye at Tiger Stadium

Wade Boggs won a Gold Glove for his play at third base in 1994 and 1995.

Everyone has the right to jeer when they go to a baseball game. Once you buy the ticket, you can scream your lungs out, positive or negative. As long as you keep it fairly clean, you can holler all you want.

I never was much for that, but there was a game at Tiger Stadium when I got carried away. As a result, a future Hall of Famer singled me out. I had no idea that years later I’d meet him when I worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and he was inducted in 2005.

It was the late 1980s and the Boston Red Sox were in Detroit to face the Tigers. A few school buddies and I got tickets for the weekend series. We were seated directly behind   the home dugout on the third base side for Friday’s game. We consumed more than a few cups of beer and by the early innings we were full of liquid courage.

That’s when Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs booted a routine groundball, leading to two runs for my Tigers. It was a dreadful miscue, the sort you’d expect to see on a Little League field, not in a big league park. I proceeded to bombard Boggs with my very specific opinions on his defensive play. I felt it was my duty to point out how overrated the Red Sox star was.

With five batting titles to his credit, I couldn’t tease Boggs about his hitting, but his defensive play was fair game.


So proud of my rant, I repeated it (and other anti-Boggs invective) for the next four innings. By the 8th, with the Tigers in control of the game, Boggs turned his attention toward me. He looked over at our section between pitches, cupping his glove hand in front of his face, glaring at me. He saw it was me who was hounding me. Obviously, he wasn’t impressed.

Egged on, I continued to hurl insults at Boggs, earning the attention of most of the spectators seated near us. Boggs kept learing over, giving me a look that could have stopped a Nolan Ryan fastball. I was proud. It was stupid, but I was proud.

Fast forward about 15 years, I’m working in Cooperstown at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Boggs and Ryne Sandberg are both being inducted into the Hall. Each Hall of Fame inductee is treated like a king during their special weekend in Cooperstown. As the web producer for the Hall of Fame, I was afforded a behind-the-scenes view of the festivities: covering events, snapping photos, conducting interviews, updating the web site.

There’s a special dinner that weekend for Hall of Famers only. No spouses, family members, agents, girlfriends, no one else is allowed. The president of the Hall of Fame is the only other person allowed to be in the dining room. Except for the official photographer, and for this one time – me. I was only in the dining room for about 15 minutes, but I got to see the special camaraderie between the Hall of Fame legends. There was Johnny Bench toasting and roasting the new inductees; there was Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton arguing over which one of them had brought the better bottle of wine; there was Willie Mays (WILLIE MAYS!) chatting with Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson in what I imagined to be the greatest dream outfield in National League history.

In the middle of it all were Boggs and Sandberg, both rookies one last time. Boggs pushed his chair over to that of Stan Musial, the seven-time batting champion, St. Louis Cardinal legend, and one of baseball’s finest gentleman. Musial was one of Boggs’ heroes. Now, Boggs was Musial’s peer. I was standing across from that table as Boggs talked with “Stan the Man”. Boggs sheepishly asked to have his photo taken with Musial. Milo Stewart Jr., the fine Hall of Fame photographer, arranged the shot as I peered over his shoulder to snap one as well. Boggs beamed. He looked like the happiest man in the world. When Milo was finished, Boggs shook Musial’s hand and draped his arm over the shoulder of the Hall of Fame outfielder. Then the new inductee stood up to visit other legends as a tear ran down his cheek.

Who knew? Wade Boggs was a sentimental man. Instantly I remembered the night at old Tiger Stadium when I’d mercilessly heckled him after his error. I’d seen seen genuine emotion from Boggs, and it confirmed for me just how special baseball is.

But damn, he still should have made that play.