Rice calm as Hall results draw near

By Ian Browne
Updated: January 11, 2009

BOSTON — Much like Jim Rice doesn’t speak in any detail about the sting that came with falling short in his first 14 attempts at being elected into the Hall of Fame, he doesn’t discuss the anticipation and nerves leading into Monday, when the vote could finally go his way.

Rice came agonizingly close to getting in last year, garnering 72.2 percent of the vote. Another 16 votes and he would have had the necessary 75 percent.

While the debaters continue to be passionate about the issue, Rice puts up a wall to the emotion of the matter.

The way Rice looks at it, he will find out soon enough. The official announcement will be made on Monday at 2 p.m. ET, and Rickey Henderson is considered a first-ballot lock. Rice? He’s down to his last at-bat, after which his fate would have to be moved to the Veteran’s Committee.

“Wait until Monday, then see what happens,” Rice said Thursday. “I’ve been there before. It’s not any different. Wait until it happens. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t happen, I’ve been there 14 times before, it’s no big deal.”

What would it mean if it did happen this time for the man who kept the legacy of great Red Sox left fielders alive after Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski?

It’s almost as if Rice won’t let his mind go there.

“I can’t say,” Rice said. “I have to wait until it happens, because then everything changes. It depends on who you are and what people think about you. If they love you, they’re going to want you to come. If there’s no love, you don’t go any place.”

Speaking of not going anyplace, Rice still takes pride in the fact that he was with the Red Sox his entire career (1974-89), just like those other two Hall of Famers who preceded him in left, Ted and Yaz.

Carrying on that lineage still seems to mean more to Rice than even a ticket to the Hall of Fame.

“I was able to play for one franchise, play in one city,” said Rice. “With me, I think it’s a little different because I played the game not for recognition. I got recognition, but it wasn’t for that. I played the game for the team, for the fans, to win.

“I don’t think you can talk about Williams or Yaz wanting to be high-profile guys. They played the game because it was their job. Whatever happened after that happened. I don’t think they went out and campaigned. Just like I didn’t do that. You went out and played the game every day — put your uniform on, that’s what you got paid for. Play the game one way — hard. And you leave it. That’s the way it works.”

Rice didn’t play or thrive as long as Williams, who belted 521 homers, or Yaz, who clubbed 452 homers to go along with 3,419 hits. But while he was at his peak — from 1975-86 — he was feared and he was dominant.

Hall of Fame or not, Rice is at peace with what he did, and for whom he did it.

“Since 1971, when I was drafted out of high school, I was with the Red Sox,” Rice said. “It’s the only organization I’ve ever played for. That’s a Hall of Fame [accomplishment] right there, to be able to do that and to still be able to be recognized as part of the history of the Red Sox.”

If Rice is indeed a recipient of that needed 75 percent on Monday, he will join another chapter of the club’s history — those fortunate enough to be Hall of Famers.