BOSTON — Jim Rice waited 15 years for his induction into the baseball Hall of Fame and only two days to have his number retired by the Boston Red Sox.
Rice’s No. 14 went up on the facade at Fenway Park along with the team’s other Hall of Famers in a pre-game ceremony before Boston’s game against the Oakland Athletics. On his way to the ballpark, it finally sank in that he was one of the team’s greats.
“When I was driving in, I had my window down and I was relaxing,” Rice said. “It was, ‘Hey, Jim Rice. Hall of Famer. How you doing?”’
Rice played parts of 16 seasons for the Red Sox, batting .298 with 382 homers. He was inducted into the Cooperstown, N.Y., shrine over the weekend after being elected on the 15th and final ballot by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Tuesday’s ceremony was more relaxed than Sunday’s, he said.
“I think I was more at ease,” he said. “Being in front of the (other) Hall of Famers, there was nervousness.”
Rice walked in from left field, where there was a giant “14” mowed into the grass. He got a hug from former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, then joined friends, family and former teammates behind home plate.
Among those at Fenway to wish him well were Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk and Dennis Eckersley. Longtime Red Sox player, coach and manager Johnny Pesky pulled the red curtain off the No. 14 plaque that was hanging on the right field facade.
Rice’s is the seventh number to be retired by the team, joining Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Pesky, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams and Fisk. The No. 42 that was retired by the major leagues in honour of Jackie Robinson.
Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek presented him with a replica of the No. 14 plaque that was signed by the whole team.
“You look at playing your whole career with one team, being in the Hall of Fame with Yaz and Ted Williams — two left fielders that played their whole careers in the same city,” Rice said.
“That’s a lot.”