Hall would be seven heaven to Boggs

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

Only once do we remember reliever Tom Henke dodging a challenge in his eight years as the Blue Jays closer. Usually, he'd adjust his glasses, rear back and throw a pitch which bore in on the hitter's hands.

The American League East Division pennant was up for grabs on Sept. 28, 1990 at Fenway Park, when Henke walked Wade Boggs, representing the winning run, with a one-run lead and a runner on second.

That was a sign of how much respect Henke had for Boggs, who hit third in the Boston Red Sox lineup.

And Boggs should receive still more respect tomorrow when the 2005 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees are named.

Boggs is on the ballot for the first time and his 3,010 career hits should earn him election from the eligible Baseball Writers' Association of America voters.

This is not a crowded field of newcomers -- how many will vote for the likes of Darryl Strawberry, Mark Langston and Willie McGee? -- entering the ballot, which may allow for some players overlooked in the past to gain entrance to Cooperstown, N.Y. Names such as Ryne Sandberg, Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, Jack Morris and Andre Dawson will try again to be named on 75% of the ballots.

Boggs was a superstitious creature of habit during his 18 seasons, 11 with the Sox, five with the New York Yankees and his final two with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The 12-time all-star third baseman and the number seven were never far apart. He left the dugout, like clockwork each night, at 7:17 p.m., for outfield wind sprints.

Once, in Anaheim, the Angels had the digital clock jump directly from 7:16 to 7:18, messing up Boggs' routine. That night, he went hitless, but he wasn't hitless many nights.

No. 7 dots his career stats, as well. He had his playing weight listed at 197 pounds; was selected in the seventh round in the 1976 amateur draft; had seven triples and 74 RBIs in 1983; at age 27 in 1985, scored 107 runs and knocked in 78 runs; scored 107 runs with 207 hits, 47 doubles and 71 RBIs in 1986; had seven triples and 107 walks in 1989; had 187 hits and 87 walks in 1990; in 1992 he had seven homers and 74 walks; earned 74 walks in 1993; in 1995 he scored 76 runs and walked 74 times and in 1998, he had seven homers.

Would he want 77.77% of the vote, or would that be calling it too close?

Boggs always ate chicken before games and always ran to third base by the same route. By the end of the season, his foot prints were worn in the grass.

Going back to 1990, the Jays and Red Sox were tied with identical 84-72 records. Junior Felix hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to give Henke a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth.

Henke walked Jody Reed, who was bunted to second. Next, Henke walked Boggs on a 3-2 pitch.

"That was a semi-intentional walk," Henke said. "I know it's a cardinal sin to put the winning run on base, but I'd rather face the next two guys."

Ellis Burks and Mike Greenwell, the next two hitters, each singled, and then Jeff Stone, who entered the game as a pinch-runner for Dwight Evans, singled in Boggs with the game winner.

Boggs shouldn't need any help from Stone tomorrow.


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