Born June 15, 1958, in Omaha, Neb., the last of Winfield and Sue Boggs' three children, Wade lived the childhood of something like a military brat. Win was a career military man, serving in the Marines during World War II and then as a master sergeant in the Air Force, retiring in 1967. The family moved from Omaha to Puerto Rico to Georgia, then settled in Tampa in 1969. Wade's older brother, Wayne, and sister, Ann, still live in Tampa as well. Wade's mother, Sue, was killed in a 1986 car accident. Wade married Debbie Bertuccelli, his high school sweetheart, at the end of his first season in the minors (1976) and they have two children, 20-year-old Meagann, a student at USF, and 12-year-old Brett, who was named after Hall of Famer George Brett.
Much to his disappointment, the self-described "scrawny, skinny kid" was not taken until the seventh round of the 1976 draft after a stellar career at Tampa's Plant High. Typical of many teenagers away from home the first time, he struggled in his first season as pro, hitting .263 at Elmira, N.Y., and showing so little promise that manager Dick Berardino told the organization that, at best, Boggs would make it to Triple A or maybe as a fringe major-leaguer. Another Sox official supposedly recommended that he be released. Even without the special handling usually afforded prospects, Boggs began a steady _ albeit slow _ climb to the majors. He spent five more full seasons in the minors, never hitting below .306 and finishing among the top four hitters in his league each time. He won the 1981 International League batting championship with a .335 average, including a league-high 41 doubles, but didn't even warrant a September call-up.
The Boston years
With his inside-out swing, Boggs was a natural fit for Fenway Park, pounding ball after ball off the Green Monster. He earned a spot on the 1982 team as a utility man but got a big break when Carney Lansford was injured, and Boggs moved into the starting lineup for good June 25. Boggs went on to set an AL rookie record by hitting .349, launching an impressive 11-year run. He won five AL batting titles over the next six seasons and, more impressively, ran off seven consecutive seasons of 200-plus hits, the only player to do so this century. His 240 hits in 1985 are the most since Bill Terry had 254 in 1930. He left as a free agent after the 1992 season, his .259 average the worst of his professional career. Boggs' .338 career average is second in Boston history, behind only Ted Williams. And at Fenway Park he is even better _ a career .369 average.
Boggs spent a fair amount of time in the headlines in Boston, and it wasn't only because of his on-field accomplishments. He went through what he has called the worst year of his life, finding out in October 1985 that his sister, Ann, had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was in need of considerable care. Boggs had health problems of his own the next season, slowed by a sore back and then sidelined by a broken rib he says happened when he fell trying to pull off his boots. During the summer of 1986, Boggs' mother, Sue, was killed in a freak accident in Tampa, broadsided by a cement truck driven by a work-release inmate who ran a red light. And that October, the Red Sox suffered an excruciating seven-game loss to the Mets in the World Series.
The pain was one thing. The embarrassment of the Margo Adams incident over the course of 1988-89 was another. Boggs had a four-year affair with Adams, she sued him for breaching an oral contract, seeking reimbursement for lost wages. He fought it, she told all _ and bared all _ in a Penthouse magazine expose and did the talk shows. He initiated a round of snickers by saying his sex drive may have been increased by a disease. It all got settled out of court and _ eventually _ all went away.
The Big Apple
His days in Boston over, Boggs weighed an offer from the Dodgers but signed a three-year pact with the Yankees. His five seasons there were productive (he hit .311) and produced his two most cherished accomplishments: winning a Gold Glove in 1994 (and another in 1995) and celebrating his first _ and only _ World Series championship in 1996. He also made four more AL All-Star teams, giving him 12 in his career, and made his big-league pitching debut, throwing a scoreless inning in an Aug.
19 game at Anaheim.
Boggs, to put it simply, is by nature a superstitious sort. He eats chicken _ in some form _ before every game. He keeps his bats at his locker, rather than with those of his teammates, to prevent theft and _ ostensibly _ so they don't pick up any bad habits. Even though he was raised Episcopalian, he scratches the Hebrew letter Chai _ a sign of prosperity and life _ in the dirt before stepping into the batter's box.
And then there is the "cocoon," Boggs' way of finding a comfort zone and relaxation amid the hectic lifestyle of the major leagues. A product of a military-oriented and time-regimented upbringing, Boggs sticks to a rigid schedule, allowing him to avoid the uneasiness of being rushed. He eats his pre-game meal (always some form of chicken) at the same time every day (about 12:30 for 7:05 home games), leaves his Tampa home for the ballpark at the same time (1:47), and goes out on the field at the same time.
There, it's more of the same. He takes the same amount of ground balls, retraces his steps each time he takes his position (stepping over the foul line on the way out and on the line on the way in), comes in for his batting practice turn at the same time (5:07 p.m.), goes out to run pre-game sprints at the same time (6:47). "Everything on the sevens," Boggs said. Why? To represent a 7-for-7 night.
He started eating chicken every day in the minor leagues and stuck with it, even writing a cookbook, Fowl Tips.
Sometimes the timing is just right. Boggs was limited to platoon duty during the 1997 season in New York and didn't seem to be in the Yankees plans any longer. It just so happened that an expansion team was starting up in his hometown. It was a natural fit: a team with no history and a player with plenty, suddenly given the chance to finish his illustrious career _ and log the final 200 hits needed for 3,000 _ by playing at home.
In the books
Boggs went into the 1999 season holding or sharing four major-league records (games with one or more hits, 135 in 1985; intentional walks in a game, three; and years and consecutive years leading a league in intentional walks) and four AL records (batting average by a rookie, .349 in 1982; plate appearances in a season, 758 in 1985; consecutive seasons with 200-plus hits, seven; singles in a season, 187 in 1985). He is the only player this century to have seven straight 200-plus hit seasons, with 1,749 hits in the stretch. His 240 hits in 1985 are the most of any player since 1930, including his record singles. He is one of four players to begin his career with 10 or more consecutive .300 seasons. He also had the best strikeouts to walk ratio (.525) among active players, the most doubles (575) and the highest lifetime average (.329) of any 3B. That average also was the third highest of any post-World War II player, trailing only Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn, and 34th overall.
_ MARC TOPKIN