One of the first images to pop into my mind when remembering the Red Sox of my childhood is Wade Boggs’ smooth left-handed swing. I can still see him spraying the ball all over the field, peppering the Monster with those line-drives to the opposite field. Like Ted Williams or Manny Ramirez or Ken Griffey Jr., Boggs swing was a true work of poetry.
On Dec. 21, after years of begrudging Boggs his place, the Red Sox announced that they will finally—and rightfully—retire Boggs’ number. On May 26, 2016, Boggs’ “26” will join Ted Williams (9), Joe Cronin (4), Bobby Doerr (1), Carl Yastrzemski (8), Carlton Fisk (27), Johnny Peski (6), Jim Rice (14), Pedro Martinez (45) and Jackie Robinson (42), hanging in immortality from the right field rafters.
Given Boggs’ decade-long career numbers as a Red Sox player—aside from the fact that he went into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown wearing a Red Sox hat—the fact that they’ve waited this long is preposterous and a blight on the organization.
However, it’s not his statistics, rather some of his mystifying off-field feats that make Wade Boggs one of my favorite baseball personalities of all-time.
Let’s start with his Herculean beer-drinking. Fans of the television show Always Sunny in Philadelphia are aware of the legendary West Coast flight. Story has it, and some sources corroborate, that Boggs once drank 107 Miller Lites in a twenty-four hour span while flying to the West Coast for a road trip. Not only did Boggs pound triple-digits in one day, he went out and played the next day.
It’s fair to say if I drank 100 beers in twenty-hours, I’d either be dead or confined to a couch for the next week trying to find my own ass with both hands. So not only is Wade Boggs in Cooperstown, he’s a first ballot inductee into The Beer Drinking Hall of Fame as well.
Along with his alcohol heroics, Boggs also took a punch for husbands everywhere when he did a 1989 interview with Barbara Walters after one of his paramours, Margo Adams, blabbed to Penthouse.
Contrite and tearful, Boggs explained the Walters, his wife and the nation that problem was fairly simple: He was addicted to sex. Alcohol? No. Sex? Affirmative. While the idea of a man being addicted sex is about as absurd as someone claiming to be addicted to breathing, Boggs went on national television and stuck to his story. There is something admirable—and slightly sordid—about that.
There are dozens of other stories about the man who once claimed to will himself invisible in front of mugger, but one of my favorite Boggs’ story actually took place in a Yankee uniform.
Like most Red Sox fans, it pained me to watch Boggs perform the ultimate act of treason—which could be why it has taken so long for his number to be retired—and put on pinstripes to win a ring. It was bilious and despicable but I’ve found it in my heart to forgive him, unlike Clemens and Damon who I still hate.
But when Boggs decided to jump on the back of a police horse and take a victory lap around Yankee Stadium after the 1996 World Series, it was bold and brazen and freaking hilarious. One can only imagine how many Miller Lites were pounded before arriving at that decision. Most people would only think about jumping on the back of horse and taking a victory around Yankee Stadium, but not Boggs. He jumped on the fu**er and went for it.
This is precisely why I will be celebrating with Miller Lites on May 26—although it’s unlikely that 107 of them will be in play.