Boggs, Sandberg Set for Baseball Shrine

Two hard-hitting infielders are entering baseball's Hall of Fame: Wade Boggs, the longtime Boston Red Sox star, and Ryne Sandberg, the Chicago Cubs legend. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Ron Rapoport and Scott Simon review two brilliant careers.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Time now for some real sports.

Tomorrow the Baseball Hall of Fame will induct two greats as members: Wade Boggs, one of the greatest hitters of all time, five times the American League batting champion, played most of his career--missing out on the World Series in those days 'cause he was with the Boston Red Sox. But he subsequently sold his services to the Yankees, finally the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. And Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs, a 10-time All-Star, the best-fielding second basemen, one of the best-hitting also in major league history. We're joined now by our own Hall of Famer, Ron Rapoport.

Ron, you get a vote in this stuff, don't you?

RON RAPOPORT reporting:

I did. I did. I voted for both those guys. Do you think I did the right thing?

SIMON: Yes. I think as soon as people knew where you were headed that that's where the groundswell of support began.

RAPOPORT: Well, these were really no-brainers, Scott. I mean, very popular choices in Boston and Chicago. You know, Boggs makes it on his first ballot; nobody can quarrel with that. My goodness, the man hit .328 for his career. We were a little surprised here in Chicago when it took Sandberg two ballots. Maybe it was because he didn't get to the World Series. You think that's a possibility?

SIMON: Oh, that's always a possibility. Always a possibility. I want to ask you what hat you think Wade Boggs is going to be wearing when he goes into the hall, because I didn't know this. Used to be the players pick it, and now apparently the baseball Hall of Fame picks it.

RAPOPORT: Well, what's funny is Boggs says he'd be happy to have his Little League cap. I mean, that's what so great about these two guys. You know, they're bona fide Hall of Famers; nobody could deny a thing about it. Yet when they got to organized baseball, it was not at all clear they were going to even have careers.

SIMON: Yeah.

RAPOPORT: The Red Sox kept Boggs in the minor leagues for five years, and Sandberg, you know, was a throw-in to this trade from the Phillies to the Cubs for Larry Bowa, of all people. So they made themselves great players, and that's kind of the spirit of the game, what the Hall of Fame is all about, don't you think?

SIMON: And as we all remember, Wade Boggs always ate chicken before he went out in the field, don't we?

RAPOPORT: Creature of habit.

SIMON: Who do you think got overlooked in the balloting this year?

RAPOPORT: Well, I've been campaigning for years by saying that there aren't enough relief pitchers. You know, the big change in the game is the way closers have come along. And yet there are only two who've been inducted in the last few years: Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley. You know, Bruce Sutter started with about 30 percent of the vote; now he's moving up with--as his time's growing short--40, 50, this year he got 66.7 so he's getting close. I asked him about it once and he said, `I must have had some good years lately.'

SIMON: Well, Ron...

RAPOPORT: But guys like Sutter, Gossage, Lee Smith--I think that the...

SIMON: Yeah.

RAPOPORT: ...Hall of Fame is really underrepresented when it comes to relief pitchers.

SIMON: Yeah. I would agree. Well, maybe we can start a groundswell that way. Look, from the sound of things, Ron, they're coming for you. We hear those sirens, so talk to you soon.

RAPOPORT: Chicago has the summer festival, Scott.

SIMON: So talk to you soon. Ron Rapoport, our sports guy here on WEEKEND EDITION and a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Twenty-two minutes before the hour.

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