BOSTON -- During his Hall of Fame career, Wade Boggs belted 1,173 of his 3,010 hits at Fenway Park. But when the red covering was removed from the right-field façade on Thursday evening and No. 26 became visible with the other retired numbers, Boggs felt like he witnessed the final
BOSTON -- During his Hall of Fame career, Wade Boggs belted 1,173 of his 3,010 hits at Fenway Park. But when the red covering was removed from the right-field façade on Thursday evening and No. 26 became visible with the other retired numbers, Boggs felt like he witnessed the final hit of his baseball life.
The five-time batting champion -- also known as the Chicken Man -- joined Ted Williams, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Johnny Pesky, Jim Rice and Pedro Martinez as the only Red Sox players to have their numbers retired at Fenway.
"I think I said it best out there that this was the last piece of my baseball puzzle," said Boggs. "My journey has ended and I've come back home. This is where I started my career. And, today is the end. To have my number up there with all the greats to ever put on a Red Sox uniform, including Ted, he's my idol growing up. I wore 9 in honor of Ted in Little League."
Though it had been five months since the Red Sox informed Boggs they would retire his number, he was still swept away with emotion once the moment actually happened.
He was overcome by thoughts of his late parents -- Win and Sue -- and of Williams, who died in 2002.
"My father was very instrumental. He was basically my hitting coach. He was alive in 2005 when I went in the Hall of Fame," said Boggs. "My mother was killed in '86. They were smiling down at me today. They were sitting at the table with Ted, smiling down. They had the front-row seats and they got to see it. When the red covering came off of the number and I pointed up and blew my mom a kiss, I didn't think I could hold it together then. But somehow I did. Very emotional."
A day after the 1986 Red Sox were honored for the 30-year anniversary of their pennant-winning season, the starting third baseman from that team took center stage before Thursday's Red Sox-Rockies game.
Many former teammates sat on the field for the ceremony, including Yastrzemski, Rice, Dennis Eckersley, Jerry Remy, Oil Can Boyd, Ellis Burks and Mike Greenwell.
Ryne Sandberg, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame with Boggs in 2005, flew in as a surprise guest.
Fittingly, Boggs took the microphone at third base and addressed the crowd.
"Wow, I never thought any day could top July 31, 2005, but today just did," said Boggs. "For a player to have their number retired is not a right, it's a privilege; it's the highest honor any players can receive from an organization.
"In closing, my number may live up there forever with all the greats to put on a Red Sox uniform, but you, the great fans of Boston, will forever live in my heart. Thank you for sharing this wonderful day with me and my family."
Before finishing his career with the Yankees and Rays, Boggs won all of his career batting titles with Boston. At Fenway Park, Boggs was a machine, hitting .369 with a .464 on-base percentage and a .991 OPS in 854 games.
Red Sox manager John Farrell was one of the many pitchers Boggs tormented in his career, going 9-for-24.
"The ultimate in bat control," said Farrell. "Incredible hand-eye coordination, bat manipulation, all of that; a true artist when it came to hitting."
Rockies manager Walt Weiss looked on at Thursday's ceremony, remembering what it was like to stand at shortstop for the Athletics while Boggs was in his prime with Boston.
"I remember him hitting a lot of low line drives at me. I hated it when he came to the plate because he always hit the ball hard," said Weiss. "He smoked these low line drives that would either just get to you in the air or short hop you and eat you up. One of the best hitters I ever saw in my career. Amazing hitter, amazing bat control. Just seemed like he barrelled up everything."
Boggs was noticeably elated by the events of Thursday.
"It's the last thing that I needed," Boggs said. "Now my whole career has an exclamation point on it. I'm extremely honored, extremely proud to have played here in Boston."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Facebook.