Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the career of Hall of Famer Jim Rice.Rice spent 16 seasons frequently below the Green Monster, playing
Over the course of February, which is Black History Month, MLB Network and MLB.com are looking back at some of the most prominent African-American players in MLB history. Today, we look back on the career of Hall of Famer Jim Rice.
Rice spent 16 seasons frequently below the Green Monster, playing all his home games at Fenway Park. He manned left field in 1,503 of his 2,089 career games with the Red Sox.
One of the greatest hitters of his generation, Rice clubbed at least 20 home runs 11 times, batted over .300 seven times and totaled 100 or more RBIs eight times.
The longtime Boston slugger began his career as a first-round Draft pick (No. 15 overall) of the Red Sox out of Anderson, S.C., in 1971. He made his Major League debut three years later, on Aug. 19, 1974, vs. the White Sox at home.
Rice joined the Boston lineup as the team's everyday left fielder in 1975, batting .309 with 22 homers and 102 RBIs. His breakout campaign earned him a runner-up finish in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting and third place in the AL Most Valuable Player Award balloting. The Red Sox made the playoffs that fall, but an injury kept Rice out of action for the AL Championship Series and World Series, which Boston lost in seven games to the Reds.
Rice made the first of four consecutive AL All-Star teams in 1977, when he batted .320 and led the AL with 39 home runs. He enjoyed the best season of his career in '78, leading the Majors with 46 home runs, the most by a Red Sox player since Jimmie Foxx's 50 in 1938. He batted .315/.370/.600 with 139 RBIs and was the first player to eclipse 400 total bases (406) since Hank Aaron in '59. Rice was also the last player to do it for nearly 20 years -- until Larry Walker (409) in 1997 -- and he's still the last AL player to accomplish the feat.
Rice was again named to four straight AL All-Star teams from 1983-86, also picking up two Silver Slugger Awards, which were established in '80, in that stretch. He led the AL with 39 home runs for a third and final time in 1983. In '86, the Red Sox made it back to the World Series with Rice healthy and able to contribute in all 14 of Boston's postseason games. He hit .333 (9-for-27) in the Fall Classic, but the Red Sox lost in seven games to the Mets.
Rice retired after the 1989 season at 36 years old. The eight-time All-Star finished his career with a .298 average, 382 home runs, 1,451 RBIs and 2,452 hits. He was inducted into Cooperstown in 2009, his 15th and final year of eligibility, appearing on 76.4 percent of ballots, and his No. 14 was retired by the Red Sox soon after.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.