Jim Ed's Signature

The Allented Mr Ripley

holden
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Oct 2, 2003
11,918
South Shore, MA
One of the only benefits of the current shutdown is that all of the sports networks are running old, classic content. As a result, my DVR is recording stuff around the clock on all the channels, and my online video library now rivals any Hall of Fame's. I was flipping through the MLB Network's offerings and stumbled across the 1978 Sox-Yanks one-game playoff, and hit play, outcome be damned. It was baseball, and it featured many of my childhood baseball heroes; the chance to see them again outweighed having to relive the tantalizing yet ultimately tragic see-saw battle fought that day. It's been over 40 years and 4 World Series titles since then, I figured I could appreciate the game for what it was.

And I rejoiced at seeing Yaz, ever the warrior, hit that 2nd inning homer off Guidry, stepping up when it mattered most. Ortiz before Ortiz.

The score remained 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when Burleson doubled, Remy bunted him over to third, and then the 1978 MVP-in-waiting came to the plate. And as Rice singled cleanly into center to drive The Rooster in, I saw it: saw it for the first time in many, many years. The signature casual bat toss after the follow-through. Not even a toss, really, just sort of a hand flick to get the piece of ash out of the way, the coda to a compact swing, the dot on the i that was a well-struck sphere of horsehide. That spry release that sent the bat suspended in midair for what seemed like an eternity, a gently falling space station from Kubrick’s 2001, Strauss providing the soundtrack.

That was Jim Rice to me. And that flip is embedded in my memory, as much anything from that era is.

Watching the broadcast, Rice actually seemed small in comparison to today's sluggers. Not tiny, but he wasn’t a hulk. He wasn’t 6’ 4”. He didn’t have improbably bulging arms. But he wasn't small or wiry, either. He wasn’t Hank Aaron, a slight Everyman whose supernatural gift was lightning wrists. He was a carnival strongman in a normal-sized athlete's body. And he was a beast. For three years (1977-1979) he was the Most Feared Hitter™ in baseball, rightfully so, driving baseballs out of the park with impunity and leaving PTSD-wracked pitchers in his wake. Had some good-to-very-good seasons outside of those years as well, even if he never reached that Beast Mode pinnacle again (who could?), but his career fizzled out rather abruptly at the age of 36, which denied him the opportunity to pile up the kind of counting stats that would have made him a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. He was finally inducted in 2009, in his 15th and final year of eligibility. I'm glad for that. Glad for him.

Rice was drafted and signed by the Sox three weeks after I was born. As I watched the MLB Network rebroadcast, I pondered this man whose professional career (both on-field and up in the TV booth) encompassed my entire existence.

My 11-year old son, watching the game with me and subjected to all of this, asked me at one point, “You saw him play?”

“Yes. He played when I was a boy. Like you.”

And I looked at the TV screen as Jim Rice sent a frozen rope up the middle, knocking in Burleson and chugging up the first base line in a polyester double-knit V-neck, bold cherry red helmet leaving a technicolor streak across the screen due to the bad late-'70s video production.

He played when I was a boy.

 

The Allented Mr Ripley

holden
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Oct 2, 2003
11,918
South Shore, MA
That one goes a little end-over-end, though. Sometimes he'd release and the bat would just stand straight up in midair for the briefest moment, it was gorgeous. You just knew he had hit the crap out of the ball based solely on the bat's hang time.
 

Over Guapo Grande

panty merchant
SoSH Member
Nov 29, 2005
1,785
Worcester
Thanks for these Rip. Jim Ed was my favorite player growing up-- I got that from my grandmother-- she would be sitting in her 2 bedroom ranch in Florence, MA, smoking cigarettes, watching games on a TV with the volume down and the radio on (that is the place where I saw the Doug Flutie Hail Mary-- lots of great sports memories there). My dad got tickets to a game in 1983 when I was just a tot, and brought her and me. She said "OGG, watch, Jimmy is going to homer tonight'. First at bat... nothing. But coming up in the 5th against Denny Martinez, he hit #250 into the center field bleachers (I had to look up those details). Paternal Grandmother surpassed maternal Grandmother in terms of reveration, at least for one day.
 

cornwalls@6

Less observant than others
SoSH Member
Apr 23, 2010
1,632
from the wilds of western ma
Earlier in the summer of ‘78, I and some of my buddies, all around 14/15 at the time, met and shook hands with Rice at a shopping mall autograph session. He definitely was not the combination of tall, and hugely bulked up that so many sluggers in recent years are. But he was built like, a proportional, Sherman tank. I remember him having serious forearms, and hands like a catchers mitt. It was easy to see how he generated so much power with that compact swing. And contrary to the simplistic, and frankly racially tinged media portrayals at the time of him being sullen, or surly, or whatever, he could not have been nicer or more patient with a bunch of knuckleheads who were lingering and talking to him for too long, as a long line waited in back of us. One of my absolute favorite Red Sox of all time. His ‘78 season, as has been discussed often here, was one of the epic campaigns in baseball history. And no one will ever convince me that the Sox wouldn’t have beaten the big red machine in ‘75, had he been healthy and available.
 

Saints Rest

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
For me, the signature Jim Rice image was snapping a bat by checking his swing. I was only something like 12 when it happened so to say "I had never seen anyone do that before" is pretty faint praise. However, I don't think I have ever seen anyone do it since. And IIRC, Rice did it more than once.
 

Doug Beerabelli

Killer Threads
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Another sharing of your multiple gifts with SoSH, Rip. Thank you, as always.

I was 8 years old when I ran home after CCD class to watch what was left of this game. Wearing my prized Red Sox jacket I got for my birthday a few months prior. For bette it for worse, my first indelible Red Sox memory. The pain endured over the subsequent decades made the last 16 or so that much sweeter.

Dewey is my favorite player of that era, but that is a result of what he did the rest of his years, and a more considered analysis of that time as I hit my teens and beyond. And also because I felt Dewey didn’t get the credit he deserved at the time.

But Jim Ed was my first favorite Sox player. For all the reasons you describe. The best and most feared player on a great team with some all-time players. Seeing that 77-79 run of play in my baseball formative years - it really got the imagination going, and the stance/swing imitations, and desire to get the #14 shirt when I played LL. And the lifelong fire of love for baseball, and the Sox, was for this CT suburban boy with the funny-accented East Boston born grandfather and father.

Did you hear he could hit a golf ball 400 yards?
 

thestardawg

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 30, 2005
550
Section 38, Row 13
I joined a golf club last year where Jim is a member. He typically will play by himself in the early morning. One morning he had caught up to me because there was a twosome in front of me and instead of playing a lightning fast early round it was merely tremendously fast and I had to wait on the 14th tee for a few minutes and Jim came up while I was preparing to tee off. Now typically he would just go around me and play the 15th but there were a couple people on 15 too.

I asked if he wanted to play the last few holes with me and he said he would.

Jim Rice hit an approximately 350 yard drive on hole 14.

So yes I believe he at one point could hit a golf ball 400 yards.

(He airmailed his second shot, took two shots to get out of the bunker and 3 putted for a 7)
 

pedro1918

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 5, 2004
4,084
Map Ref. 41°N 93°W
I would just like to add that I knew exactly what Mr. Rip would be talking about. That bat would just hang there for a millisecond. It was a thing of beauty.

I loved Rice. He will always be one of the stars of the first team I really fell in love with. I was devastated when he broke his wrist before the ‘75 postseason. I had a “Gold Dust Twins” button that I wore everywhere.

The funny thing is when I think of “Most Feared Hitter” I think of Eddie Murray. He scared the crap out of me. I guess it was just a laundry thing.
 

h8mfy

lurker
Jul 15, 2005
291
Orange County, CA
On June 26,1978, my Yankee-fan best friend, whose 14th birthday was the day after mine, took us to YS to see the Sox/Yanks game. His Dad got us seats in the second row, directly behind the plate - I'd never been that close.

I've seen a lot of homers in my 50 years of baseball fandom, but Rice hit a line-shot homer that night unlike any I saw before or since, and still can picture it vividly. Most shots have a fairly predictable trajectory, but from my perfectly-aligned vantage point this one started out looking like maybe a gapper to left-center. But he hit it so hard that it not only kept going on a line, but he must have missed it slightly because it tailed toward center until it landed in the batter's eye section, like a well-controlled fade on the golf course.

I hadn't thought of that memory in a while, but it came right back reading this thread. Rice was amazing at his peak.
 

bigq

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
4,806
He was by far my favorite Red Sox player when I started following the team Around 1980 which was about the time I was learning to read. I remember watching a game with my dad and asking why they were pronouncing his name as Rice. It didn’t make sense to me because in the lineup it was spelled RiceLF.
 

staz

Intangible
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 2, 2004
14,071
The cradle of the game.
Nice work, Rip. When Jim was dialed in, I swear there was a half-smirk underneath that mustache. "Go ahead, throw that shit over the plate" He was running the show. He also hit a solo shot off Larry Sorensen in my first Fenway game (which was also the MLB debut of Don Aase*) in '77, so yeah. https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1977/B07260BOS1977.htm



*Not to hijack, but FYI, in all of MLB history, Aase (4th from top) is almost the exact opposite of Zupcic (6th from bottom) aphabeticaly.
 

The Long Tater

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Aug 1, 2001
2,745
Great thread. Lots of highlights already mentioned, like the check swing bat break, the golf legends, the saving the kid? And the little smile. He was awesome to watch. Didn’t he hit some rare total bases mark in 1978 too?
 

Ferm Sheller

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 5, 2007
8,864
I have Jim Rice's bat in my bedroom. I won it in 1978 in the Colonial Franks Jim Rice Hitting Contest. "Every time Big Jim gets a hit, one lucky fan . . .".

I'm not a gun guy, so if you come into my house in the dead of night, you're gonna be messin' with Jim.

This thread is timely -- I was just thinking about the time in the toilet when he went up into the stands to get his hat back from a fan. CHB had a great line afterward, something to the effect of, "The incident occurred on Lucky Fan Day, where a lucky fan won [whatever], and an unlucky fan was pursued by Jim Rice." (I'm sure I didn't do the line justice.)

EDIT: Meant to add that that's an amazing drawing. You're incredibly talented.
 
Last edited:

Bernie Carbohydrate

writes the Semi-Fin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 2, 2001
2,869
South Carolina via Dorchestah
I would just like to add that I knew exactly what Mr. Rip would be talking about. That bat would just hang there for a millisecond. It was a thing of beauty.

I loved Rice. He will always be one of the stars of the first team I really fell in love with. I was devastated when he broke his wrist before the ‘75 postseason. I had a “Gold Dust Twins” button that I wore everywhere.

The funny thing is when I think of “Most Feared Hitter” I think of Eddie Murray. He scared the crap out of me. I guess it was just a laundry thing.
I was only five years old in '75, so I'm not sure I understood what was going on, but by '78 I was all in on the Red Sox, and Jim Ed was my favorite. My mother was from South Carolina,so he became her favorite as well.

I recall watching hundreds of Rice-era Sox games on TV 38, and never turning them off even if the Sox were down by a ton, because there was always a chance the Rice would get another at-bat and do something amazing.

Later I learned that Rice was so good as a teenage athlete that his hometown of Anderson, SC changed the attendance lines of the school district so that Rice was forced to transfer from the from the black high school to the white high school. This was ostensibly to integrate the white school, but the line cut through a black neighborhood and angled right through the street on which the Rice family lived. Rice starred in three sports at the (still primarily white) high school, but knew he was being used. I wonder if that contributed to his supposed surliness-- he grew up having to wonder whether people were trying to exploit him.
 

StupendousMan

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 20, 2005
1,139
Didn’t he hit some rare total bases mark in 1978 too?
Yes, he accumulated 406 total bases in 1978; it was one of three years that he led the majors in that statistic, but the only time he reached 400. It was the first time anyone had broken the four-century mark since Hammering Hank had touched it in 1959, and the largest number of total bases since Stan the Man had collected 429 (sixth all time) in 1948. So, at the time, it was quite a feat.

It still is. Since 1978, only four players have beaten Rice's total. Larry Walker (409), Barry Bonds (411), Luis Gonzalez (419), and Sammy Sosa twice (416 and 425). No one has reached 400 since 2001, so it's likely that Rice will retain his current position, tied for 21st all time, for quite a while.
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

Red-headed Skrub child
SoSH Member
Jul 21, 2005
4,396
Seacoast NH
After he gets back to the dugout - "High fives for the great traveling salesman, Jim Rice". I've never heard that and have no idea what that means.

I'm a few years older than you so when when I started getting into baseball as a 8 year old it was 1977 and Jim Rice was the man in that year and the years that followed. Obviously his offense is the first thing that got my attention - combining average with power and even speed (the list of guys to lead the league in triples and HR in the same year is pretty small), his compact swing that really didn't look like much but the ball would fly off the bat. There were other things outside of his actual baseball playing that made him stand out to me as well - going into the stands (both to rescue a child, and later in his career his hat); carrying Remy off the field like he was a 5 year old; the 406 total bases that matched up so well with Ted's .406. Seeing his career drop off a cliff as quickly as it did disappointed college aged me as I was hoping to see him hit the 400 HR/.300 avg threshold and every year he was eligible I was rooting for him to make the HOF. I know there are many who feel he doesn't belong but they will never convince me of that.

Also, thanks to RIP's artistic ability I have this picture sitting in my office at work.

29706
 

Ramon AC

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 19, 2002
2,713
What?
My first favorite player was Jim Rice. I took markers and turned a plain white T-shirt into a Jim Rice jersey for my Halloween costume when I was 10. I have had a Jim Rice sticker on the back of my electric guitar for 2 decades now.

I love Jim Rice. The SI cover of him sliding into home and scoring during the 1986 WS is my favorite image of him. Even sluggers have to slide sometimes.
 

StupendousMan

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 20, 2005
1,139
Obviously his offense is the first thing that got my attention - combining average with power and even speed (the list of guys to lead the league in triples and HR in the same year is pretty small),
I wondered about that, so I spent a bit of time looking it up.


Code:
Year:   Player                   HR            38
--------------------------------------------------------
1880   Harry Stovey (BSN)        6 (tie)       14
1891   Harry Stovey (BSN)       16 (tie)       20
1904   Harry Lumley (BRO)        9             18
1928   Jim Bottomley (STL)      31 (tie)       20
1955   Mickey Mantle (NYY)      37             11 (tie)
1955   Willie Mays (NYG)        51             13
1978   Jim Rice (BOS)           46             15
A hitter has led his league in HR and 3B only seven times, as far as I can tell, with Rice being the most recent. Another Boston player (though for the Beaneaters, not the Red Sox), Harry Stovey, is the only one to do it twice. 1955 was a particularly good year for this statistic, as two players achieved the feat, one in the AL, one in the NL.
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

writes the Semi-Fin
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 2, 2001
2,869
South Carolina via Dorchestah
I am a 50 year old man. If I got to shake Jim Rice's hand today I'd probably cry like a baby. I have such clear memories of playing Whiffle Ball in the backyard of Dorchester triple-decker, Gossage vs. Rice, Rice going deep....

It's funny --Shank became the leader of the Rice For HOF campaign, and probably helped get Jim Ed the attention he needed. But boy did CHB give Rice the business in the late 80s ... calling him out for lack of hustle, the "huge" contract, the many GIDPs, the disinterest in being a quote machine.

I was sure, in 1988, that Rice would be a difference maker in the playoffs, but he could no longer pick up the ball, and the A's pitchers ate him alive in the ALCS (of course, they were dominating everyone that year).

In Game One of that series, (a 2-1 loss), Rice worked a walk off Dave Stewart in the 7th, and Morgan sent in Kevin Romine as a PR. Romine eventually scored, but Rice was out of the lineup.

That meant in the bottom of the 9th, Sox down by a single run, looking to tie, when Rice's lineup spot came up, it was Peak Eck vs.....an also-washed-up Larry Parrish. Strikeout swinging. I was so pissed. I was such a Rice fan I figured he'd summon up the old Spirit of '78 and tie the game if he'd been given a chance. I was irrational.
 
Last edited: