Jim Rice, who played his entire career with the Red Sox, was named into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday.
I was just a young boy when Rice started his career in Boston. At that age,my brothers and I would spend many summer days playing some form of baseball. Whether it be a simple game of catch, or a 3 on 3 baseball "game" in the parking lot of the local J Homestock (furniture) store, we would often pose at the plate as Jim Ed Rice, Yaz or Fred Lynn. My brother Pete comes to the forefront of my mind when I think of those days. Forever passionate and nostalgic about Boston sports, Pete was always ready to toss a baseball, shoot hoops or a play a game we called three flys out. With a basketball in hand, Pete could be Pistol Pete Maverich or maybe I was Bobby Orr when I held a hockey stick.
Pete took me to one of my first games at Fenway Park, back when Rick Burleson played shortstop, Denny Doyle second base, and Rice and Lynn were in the outfield. Going to Fenway was a big deal as a kid - it wasn't a given right, like it seems to be for so many kids today.
Pete and I often recount the memory of attending a night game at Fenway back in the 70's. We were sitting in good seats near the left field wall. Rice was playing left field for the Sox, as he often did before moving to the DH role later in his career. Keep in mind this was the "old" Fenway - no Monster seats, no digital scoreboard, no NESN, ESPN, etc. You could get a hot dog, pretzel, ice cream and a soda. There was no Pizza Hut or Haggen Dazs available at Fenway. You had to wait in long lines to use the bathroom. It would also not be unusual for the fan next to you to be smoking a cigar and have two or three beers under his seat.
Anyway, at some point that night at Fenway, a nearby fan yells "ice cream" to the kid selling ice cream sandwiches. As was customary back then, the vendor tosses the requested ice cream sandwich to the fan. The pass from vendor to fan was incomplete. I cannot recall if the fan fumbled, or if the ice cream vendor threw a bad pass. But somehow, the ice cream ends up on the field! In Manny Ramirez fashion, Jim Ed Rice trots over toward the left field foul line, picks up the ice cream and tosses it into the waiting hands of the fan!
After a small cheer for Rice subsides, a fan yells "Jimmy Ice"! Since that game, whenever my brother Pete and I get into a conversation involving Jim Rice or the Sox games of past, we end up recalling the "Jimmy Ice" story.
So, congratulations to Jim Edward Rice(Ice) on your long-awaited, somewhat debatable election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. And thanks to my brother Pete for all the great sports-related memories.