Rice talks Fenway, Red Sox at Fan Cave
Hall of Famer poses for photos with Series trophies in tow
NEW YORK -- One-thousand-forty-eight times, Jim Rice suited up for a Major League home game. One-thousand-forty-eight times, he took the field at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox home yard turns 100 years old this season, and few know the intricacies of 4 Yawkey Way better than Rice. The 2009 Hall of Fame inductee called Fenway home for each of his 15 Major league seasons and retired in 1989 among Boston's career leaders in games played, hits, homers and most other statistical categories.
For Rice, it was the fan-friendly dimensions that set Fenway -- an old-school "ballpark" -- apart from newer luxury-focused "stadiums."
"It seems like as a player you can almost throw yourself up into the stands," he said on Tuesday at the MLB Fan Cave. "And the fans can almost throw themselves onto the field."
There's also the 37-foot high Green Monster in left field and right-center's uncommonly deep Triangle -- unique features that have long aided well-accustomed Red Sox hitters and frustrated unprepared opponents. While most visitors tried to hit the ball over the Monster, Rice and his teammates were taught to smash line drives "through the wall." Plus, as Rice noted, few fan bases can provide the emotion and electricity of a chilly October night at Fenway.
"Being an outsider, you get yourself up a little higher because of the fans at Fenway Park. And, of course, by being almost in a stadium where you're a gladiator," he said.
Now 59 years old and an instructor in Boston's baseball operations department, Rice spent Tuesday at the Fan Cave chatting with fans and posing for photos behind the Red Sox 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies.
Some visitors had marked the day on their calendars and came decked out in Red Sox apparel -- or Patriots and Bruins gear -- to meet one of their baseball heroes. Others trickled off Broadway for a spontaneous midday photo op with a Hall of Famer. Carlton Fisk's home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, which Rice named as one of his favorite Fenway Park memories, was a popular topic of conversation. A few Yankees fans in attendance were quick to joke with Rice about Bill Buckner's error in 1986.
While the Hall of Famer reminisced with fans, Wally the Green Monster entertained the Cave Dwellers. Boston's mascot proved that he does in fact know how to Dougie in an impromptu dance-off with Kyle Thompson, then banged out a drum line while Gordon Mack jammed on electric guitar. Wally appeared flattered to learn that Benjamin Christensen has his likeness tattooed on his side, although he probably wasn't thrilled with the Buckner pose.
Fenway Park's 100th anniversary celebration will continue with the Ultimate Red Sox Viewing Party at the Fan Cave on Friday afternoon. Fans can RSVP at email@example.com or win tickets by following @RedSox, @MLB, @MLBFanCave or @fortysevenbrand on Twitter.
Ian Kay is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.