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Boggs ready for call from Hall

The trademark patience Wade Boggs exhibited at the plate throughout his career will serve him well this morning.

Shortly after noon, Boggs will get word about baseball's ultimate lifetime achievement award: election to the Hall of Fame.

Having spent most of his 46 years perfecting his craft, from his youth league days in Tampa through six long years in the minor leagues and during a stellar career that took him to Boston and New York and then back to Tampa Bay, waiting through the final hours may prove to be the hardest part.

Boggs is going to be so excited, he probably won't be able to eat. He is so concerned about jinxing things, he plans to have only a small group of family and special friends at his house. He is so humbled, there is part of him that still doesn't believe it can happen.

"It's not anything you can dream of. All of the stars and planets have to line up. And there are a lot of great players who aren't in the Hall of Fame who had great stats and played this game at a high level," Boggs said.

"You just sit back and reflect on the Little League days and growing up in Tampa and going, "Who would ever have thought at 46 years of age, on Tuesday, Jan. 4, you were going to get a phone call saying you're either in the Hall of Fame or you're not.'

"Just to be mentioned as a Hall of Fame candidate is a compliment, to be included in the likes of Henry Aaron and Ted Williams and all the great players who are in the Hall of Fame. And now that that day is finally upon us, you just sit back and reflect that there are only 258 people in the Hall of Fame. I think there are almost 16,000 people who have played the game. And the difficulty in reaching the Hall of Fame is probably, put into words, one in a hundred million. You're better off winning the lottery than you are making it into the Hall of Fame when you first start out as a Little Leaguer."

By all indications, Boggs shouldn't have much to worry about.

The 3,010 hits he accumulated during his stellar 18-year career is something of a Hall pass: Of the 20 other players who got 3,000 hits and are eligible for the Hall, all have been voted in.

"He should be a Hall of Famer," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "He will be a Hall of Famer."

The voting is done by 10-year or more members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, with 75 percent of the ballots cast needed for election. Last year, it took 380 of the 506 ballots cast.

Support for Boggs among media members who have revealed their ballots appears to be strong; for example, all nine voters who write for voted for him.

The support won't be unanimous, but the biggest hurdle Boggs may face is the belief of some voters that election in the first year of eligibility is an honor reserved only for the game's truly elite.

But again, history is on Boggs' side.

The last 12 players to get 3,000 hits were elected on their first ballots, from Stan Musial in 1969 (with 93.12 percent of the vote) to George Brett in 1999 (with 98.19 percent) to Paul Molitor last year (85.18). The last member of the 3,000-hit club who wasn't a first-ballot choice was Paul Waner, who went through five elections before being voted in in 1952.

Boggs has been hearing for months from friends and relatives who are offering congratulations and making plans to attend the July 31 induction in Cooperstown, N.Y. So many that he says "right now, we'd need 5,000 rooms up there."

Though Boggs has thought about it as well, such as making plans for a news conference in Tampa this afternoon and booking a flight to New York for the formal introduction Wednesday, he has also tried to temper his excitement in case the news isn't good.

"There is reality," he said. "You have to get 75 percent of the vote. And the one thing that keeps running through my head is "74.' It's one of those, "Sorry, you missed it by 1 percent' things, and then you're on the ballot for next year."

Boggs is the leading candidate of the 27 players on the ballot; top possibilities among returning candidates include Ryne Sandberg, Bruce Sutter, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and Rich Gossage.

By early this afternoon, Boggs will know if this is his year.

And what exactly would it mean for him to get the call?

"Oh, my gosh," his wife, Debbie, said. "Probably everything."

_ Times staff writer Dave Scheiber contributed to this report.