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From Tampa to Cooperstown

One of the greatest pleasures in sports is watching the best practice their craft. Tampa's Wade Boggs, who was elected Tuesday to baseball's Hall of Fame, reached for perfection in hitting for a generation of fans.

In an era of steroid scandals and tainted home run totals, Boggs represents old-fashioned effort and consistency. Statistics tell part of the story: 3,010 hits in 18 seasons, seven straight 200-hit seasons, five batting titles and a .328 career batting average. Then there are the memories, of countless clutch hits in Boston's Fenway Park and New York's Yankee Stadium. The most exciting moment in the short history of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays was a Saturday night in 1999 when Boggs hit a home run over Tropicana Field's right-field fence for his 3,000th hit.

Boggs, who grew up in Tampa and graduated from Plant High, is the first from a city with a proud baseball legacy to be elected to the Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a player. He joins Tampa's Al Lopez, who made it in primarily for his work as a manager. Other Tampa products, including Fred McGriff and Gary Sheffield, may one day be considered for Cooperstown as well.

But this is Boggs' moment, an opportunity to relive the glory days of the gritty player with the red moustache and to reflect on his a town's love affair with baseball. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, winning 92 percent of the vote. Almost perfect.

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