Boggs could do it all

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:58 PM ET

Ernie Whitt caught 1,133 games for the Blue Jays in the 1980s.

A few of the pitches headed his way never reached his mitt. Line drives to left, right and centre.

The toughest out in those days, a decade which saw the Jays average 82 wins -- 87 wins if you throw out the 37 in the strike-shortened 1981 season -- was then Boston Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs.

For the Jays, Boggs was a tougher out than Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees, or Rod Carew of the Minnesota Twins.

"He was by far the toughest for me, as far as trying to figure out how we were going to pitch him," said Whitt, now the current first-base coach or bench coach, depending upon the Jays opposition.

"We had to try to get him to put the ball in play early in the count, or else it was even tougher," Whitt said. "We had a difficult time putting him away. He was a tremendous two-strike hitter.

"I'm not talking about power, but he was a tough out."

Boggs, who later played with the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown tomorrow along with former Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg .

Peter Gammons, formerly of the Boston Globe and now of ESPN, will be presented the J.G. Taylor Spink award for excellence in baseball writing and Jerry Coleman, the voice of the San Diego Padres, will receive the Ford C. Frick award for broadcasting, one that longtime Blue Jays announcer Tom Cheek should soon win.

Boggs won five batting titles in the 1980s hitting .361 in 1983; .368 in 1985; .357 in 1986; .363 in 1987 and .366 in 1988.

Boggs is one of two players to achieve 200-hits, 100-walks and 40-doubles' seasons four times according to STATS, Inc. Lou Gehrig and Boggs each did it four times. There have been just 16 unique seasons in major-league history in which a player has collected at least 200 hits, 100 walks and 40 doubles.

John Olerud hit the same numbers in 1993 and he was the same type of hitter as Boggs, spraying the ball into the left-field corner in one at-bat and then pulling a pitch into the right-field corner in his next at-bat.

Of the Hall of Famers, Boggs, at 23, was the third oldest to make his major-league debut. The two older players were knuckleballers Hoyt Wilhelm (28) and Phil Niekro (25).

Boggs had 200 or more hits in seven consecutive seasons between 1983 and 1989. Neither Pete Rose, Ty Cobb or Tony Gwynn ran off a string of more than four 200-hit campaigns.

Wee Willie Keeler, with eight consecutive 200-hit seasons (1894-1901), is the only hitter to top Boggs' run. So what if he only had 160 career homers, he could hit and he ranks 16th on the career double list with 578, a better doubles-to-at-bat ratio than Barry Bonds.

How good was Boggs? Well, we remember former Blue Jays closer Tom Henke admitting he semi-intentionally walked Boggs one night at Fenway Park. He thought he was the potential winning run.

TOUGH OUT

With a 6-5 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning Sept. 28, 1990, Henke walked Jody Reed, who was then bunted to second. Next, Henke walked Wade Boggs on a 3-2 pitch.

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

The next two -- Ellis Burks and Mike Greenwell -- each singled, with Boggs holding at third, Jeff Stone, who entered the game earlier as a pinch runner delivered the single.

Boggs scored the game winner allowing, Boston to move a game up on the Jays for the American League East lead with five games remaining.

Yes, Boggs had an impact on the Jays from his first game in April of 1982 until he retired in 1999. 


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