Courtesy NESN.com -
Thank you. Good afternoon. I've only got a couple of minutes now, guys.
I'd like to start by thanking Jane Clark, the chairman of the board of directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Thank you, Jane, for welcoming us into your Hall of Fame family.Jeff Idelson, who is the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Thank you so much for a smooth transition into the Hall of Fame. I'd like to thank the Hall of Fame staff for their hospitality and impeccable attention to detail. Congratulations to Rickey Henderson, Joe Gordon and my fellow Hall of Fame inductees. Also, congratulations to Tony Kubek and Nick Peters as they receive their respective awards. Thank you Dick Bresciani, Red Sox historian, who kept my stats in the public eye.
I am a husband, called Rice. I am a father, called Dad. I am a brother, called Ed. I am an uncle, called Uncle Ed. I am a grandfather, called Papa. I am a friend that doesn't call -- some of my friends know that -- and sometimes best not call at all. Finally, I do mean finally, I am Jim Rice, called a Baseball Hall of Famer.
You always feel that after every great once-in-a-lifetime moment, there cannot be anything else to top it. You find your lifelong partner, that one true love. You have your first child, and you spend hours wondering at the perfection of tiny little fingers and toes. You rejoice and cry through pre-, elementary, middle and high school, and, if you're lucky, college graduation. You marvel at how sanity endures. Right when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you have grandchildren. And a new, astonishing love blossoms.
And then after 15 years, you get a phone call that you thought you'd never get. Your aspiration realized. Your tears overflow because you know now that the highest honor of your career means so much [more] than you ever thought it would mean before. Because what it feels like most is being welcomed at home plate after hitting a walkoff home run. You find yourself repeating the same phrases over and over: "We made it. We made it. We made it."
And suddenly you think: "Where’s my wife?"
And I really didn't think I would have gotten a newsflash while watching my favorite soap opera, The Young and the Restless -- every day at 12:30 -- and that's what I was doing. Jeff knows when he called I was watching The Young and the Restless.
To me, it doesn't matter that I got called this year versus getting it in my first eligible year. What matters is I got it. A call that 20 years from now will make a great trivia question.
It is hard to comprehend that I am in a league of only 1 percent of all professional baseball players. I am in awe to be in this elite company and humble to be accepting this honor. I am also one of the very few players that spent an entire career with the same baseball team. For that I thank the Boston Red Sox, a professional baseball club where any player would be proud to spend a career.
Of course I have many people to thank and share this honor with. To do that, we're going to have to go back to my hometown of Anderson, South Carolina. By the time I was heading into my senior year at West Side High School, I had lettered in football, basketball and baseball. In 1970, my senior year, integration finally came to town. I went to pick up my schedule at West Side High School and I was looking forward to graduating with my West Side class of 1971. Imagine how I felt when I was told that I had to go to T.L. Hanna High School, which had the majority of non-blacks. Integration had come to town and the lines were drawn in such a way that kept schools as segregated as possible. I simply would not be allowed to attend my alma mater for my senior year. Evidently the city of Anderson wanted me to attend T.L. Hanna my senior year. I lived on Reese Street and the integration line stopped at Murray Avenue, excluding most black students. The line would have extended to my street, but my sister was allowed to go Hanna, not me. I was forced to leave West Side High. What could have been worse? I had to leave everything that I knew: my future wife, my friends, my coaches, my everything. I showed up at Hanna and it was like a walk in the park. I was received with open arms and so were my fellow West Side High transplants. I was even voted co-class president.
Nearing the end of my senior year, I had some decisions to make. Nebraska was offering me a four-year scholarship for football. I talked to my dad about it. My dad said, "I think you've got a better shot at becoming a professional baseball player than a professional football player." So that was it, the life-defining decision that led me to being drafted by the Boston Red Sox at the age of 18 years old and eventually being called up to the big leagues in 1974.
In the minor leagues, I went from being Ed Rice to being Jim Rice. I was a quiet leader, not a follower. I played through the pain and I suffered. No regrets. Well, wait a minute. Maybe those last few at-bats in 1989 that saw my .300 average drop to .298. That I do regret.
Along the way, there were many people who gave me encouragement and shared their wisdom.
First and foremost, my wife, who after 37 years of marriage, still gives me relevant tips and advice whether I want it or not.
Julia Mae and Roger, my parents. If they were alive today, they would be so proud.
Thomas MacDuffy, who treated me like his own son, always helping me out, even giving me a kangaroo glove. And I think it was a Willie Mays glove at the time. I think at the time Willie Mays and Hank Aaron both had the kangaroo gloves, but they both were great.
John Moore, my West Side High School coach from the seventh grade. John taught me things that they were teaching me in minor leagues, so I learned techniques that minor league coaches were teaching players when I got there.
Olin Saylors. I played American Legion ball for Post 14. He came by my house every day and picked me up. I didn't really want to play ball, but Olin was very [determined] to make me play baseball for American Legion Post 14.
Mitch Brown and Sam Mele. I really thank those guys for signing me.
Rac Slider took me up under his arm as far as being an Instructional League manager of mine and I went to Florida to work on my skills. The things I remember the most about going to the Instructional League were those hot wool uniforms where you had to go down to spring training and work every day.
Don Zimmer. He believed in me. He was my mentor. Zim was more of a manager and a father figure to me.
Johnny Pesky was my personal hitting instructor. Don Zimmer, the manager at the time, told Pesky to stay with me day and night. Pesky took me under his wing when I was still a kid, kept me grounded and we could always talk. And he's still with me today.
And, of course, a good friend of mine, Cecil Cooper. My roomie, my ace, my buddy, my friend to the end.
By now you may be wondering how did I get such a notorious reputation with the media. Well you see, the media often asked me questions about my [fellow] players. I refused to be the media's mouthpiece. Of course my stance didn't really make any media friends. I came to Boston to play professional baseball and that's what I did, and I did it well until I retired in 1989. And who would have ever guessed that I would be working in media at NESN sitting across the desk from Tom Caron, allowing all of you to see my winning smile.
And here we are in 2009 and I'm standing amongst baseball elite, in front of my family, friends and fans, proudly accepting baseball’s pinnacle, a professional achievement. I cannot think of anywhere I would rather be than to be right here, right now, with you [the fans] and you [my fellow Hall of Famers].
Back to politics on Monday...