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10 moments that defined Jim Rice’s career

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10 moments that defined Jim Rice’s career

5:14 AM UTC

Few players in Red Sox history possessed the raw power of Jim Rice. Few played with greater consistency or durability. Few created a better variety of memories over a career spent entirely with the Red Sox.

Rice was the Boston Strong Man from the mid 1970s to the late ’80s. Every time No. 14 stepped to the plate, there was a sense of excitement for his team and the Boston fans, and one of utter fear for the opposing pitcher.

The Hall of Famer smashed 382 homers to go with 2,452 hits, 373 doubles, a .502 slugging percentage, a .298 average and 1,451 RBIs.

To mark his 69th birthday on Tuesday, here are 10 moments in which the legend of Jim Rice was on full display.

1) Moonshot helps put Sox in ’86 World Series

One of the great what-ifs in the history of Boston sports is wondering how the 1975 World Series would have turned out if Rice had been able to play. Instead, he was sidelined with a broken left wrist sustained on Sept. 21 when he was hit by a pitch from Tigers lefty Vern Ruhle. Without Rice, the Sox lost in seven games to the Big Red Machine.

It took 11 seasons for Rice and the Red Sox to have a chance to get back to the Fall Classic. And with the AL pennant on the line, Rice hit a monster three-run homer to left off Angels lefty John Candelaria in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to give the Sox a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning. Rice beamed as he got back to the dugout and his teammates enjoyed the moment with him.

This season wasn’t just a moment for Rice, but the pinnacle of his prowess. Playing in all 163 games for a team that won 99 games, Rice put on an absolute clinic from start to finish. He led the Majors that season in games, at-bats (677), hits (213), triples (15), homers (46), RBIs (139), slugging percentage (.600) and total bases (406). He also led the AL in OPS .970 and OPS-plus (157).

It was enough to beat out Yankees ace Ron Guidry for the AL Most Valuable Player Award. Unfortunately for Rice and the Red Sox, Guidry and the Yankees won the all-time classic that was Game 163 at Fenway Park, 5-4. But that didn’t diminish the epic feats of Rice, who remains the only AL player since 1938 to have 400 total bases or more in a season. One of the great days of that ’78 season was on May 28, when the slugger mashed a walk-off homer to beat the Tigers, 4-3, in Game 1 of a doubleheader. The Sox pulled off the sweep, winning by the same score in Game 2, led by two more hits from Rice.

3) Hello, Cooperstown (finally)

In his 15th and final year on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, Rice finally received the votes necessary to gain entry into baseball’s most elite group. Perhaps waiting so long made the accomplishment more memorable to Rice. “And here we are in 2009, and I’m standing among baseball elite in front of my family, friends and fans,” Rice said on that warm Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown. “I’m proudly accepting a baseball pinnacle. It’s hard to comprehend that I am in a league of only one percent of all professional baseball players. I am in awe to be in this elite company.” A couple of days later, Rice joined another elite class when his No. 14 was retired to the right-field façade at Fenway Park.

4) Rice races into stands to help ailing boy

Rice’s heroics weren’t limited to the playing field. Those who were there at Fenway on Aug. 7, 1982, will never forget Rice racing into the stands near the home dugout after a 4-year-old boy named Jonathan Keane was struck in the forehead by a hard line drive. It was amazing that Rice had the wherewithal to act so quickly amid such a scary situation. Rice cradled the young boy in his arms and rushed him into the dugout, where he was immediatly transferred by ambulance to a nearby hospital minutes later.

Doctors said that Rice’s quick action might have saved the boy’s life. Jonathan Keane was initially in critical condition and stayed in the hospital for five days. By Opening Day of ’83, Keane was healthy again and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. According to an article written in 2021, Keane is married with three kids and graduated from North Carolina State with honors in business.

5) Going deep in the All-Star Game

During the era Rice played in, the All-Star Game was a very big matter of price to both leagues, who badly wanted to win the Midsummer spectacle. The AL had just about enough of losing when they stepped on the field at Comiskey Park in 1983, having lost in 19 of the previous 20 games. Playing in his fourth All-Star Game, Rice clocked a solo homer in the bottom of the third to lead off the frame against Giants lefty Atlee Hammaker. It proved to be a big rally-starter as Rice’s former teammate Fred Lynn added the first grand slam in All-Star history later in the inning. The AL romped, 13-3.

6) Rice makes No. 40 count

Only once did Jim Rice reach the 40-homer plateau in his career, though he flirted with the mark several other times. Give Rice credit for making it count when he did it. In 1978, every game down the stretch was huge after the Red Sox let a 14 1/2 game lead in the standings slip away. On Sept. 11, Rice mauled homer No. 39 against Jim Palmer in the sixth, then ripped No. 40 off Joe Kerrigan to snap a 4-4 tie in the eighth after the Orioles had scored three in the top of the inning. With the win, the Red Sox stayed a half-game up on the Yankees.

7) A granny that had Fenway buzzing

It was the second game of the 1981 season. Fenway fans had suffered the ultimate heartbreak on Opening Day when Carlton Fisk returned to his former home as a member of the White Sox and mashed a go-ahead homer against Bob Stanley. Rice returned the favor two days later, in the second game of the season. With the Red Sox down, 3-1 with two outs in the eighth, he unloaded for a grand slam off Ed Farmer that lifted his team to a 5-4 win.

8) A granny that sent everyone home

On July 4, 1984, the Red Sox and Athletics were having one of those old-fashioned Fenway slugfests. The A’s scored two in the top of the ninth to make it a 9-9 game. When Rice stepped up with one out in the bottom of the 10th, he decided both teams had worked long enough on a holiday. The slugger dented a walk-off grand slam. Not only that, but it was Rice’s fifth hit of the day, marking the only time in his career he had five hits in a game. It also matched his career-high in RBIs with six.

9) A second Aug. 29 HR trifecta for Jim Ed

On Aug. 29, 1977, Rice hit three homers at Fenway against Oakland, but it was a hollow feeling as the Red Sox lost the game, 8-7. Rice had a much more enjoyable performance on that same date of Aug. 29 six years later. Facing the Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium, Rice again mashed three bombs for the second and only other time in his career. This time, his third long ball was a two-run shot with one out in the top of the ninth that overturned a one-run Blue Jays lead and put the Red Sox on their way to an 8-7 victory.

10) One last majestic longball

When Rice got off to a hot start in the 1989 season, nobody could have known how quickly his career was about to wind down. There was certainly no indication of that on April 25 when he hit a towering homer against White Sox righty Mélido Pérez that went over everything in left. It was homer No. 382 for Rice – the last in a memorable career. Rice played his final game for the Red Sox on Aug. 3 of that season.

original source: 10 moments that defined Jim Rice’s career

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