“My job was to get on base to score runs,” he said. “I was Billyball before Billyball. I got on base 300 times a year.”
He is just getting warmed up.
“The old saying was, ‘Boggs never drives in any runs.’ I played in 155 games. I led off. That’s 155 plate appearance where I come up with nobody on.”
There were charges that he sat out at the end of the 1986 season to win a batting title against the Yankees’ Don Mattingly.
“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” said Boggs. “Dr. [Arthur] Pappas stuck his thumb in my hamstring and I had a big hole in it. Nobody talks about the broken foot I played with or those two broken ribs I played with all year.’’
There was the embarrassing Margo Adams palimony lawsuit, which culminated in 1989 with Barbara Walters interviewing Wade and his wife Debbie on national television.
“Rod Carew told me once that for those that know you, no explanation is necessary, and for those that don’t know you, none is possible,” said Boggs. “That’s the philosophy I live by.”
Boggs said he and his agent have approached Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino and principal owner John Henry about a public relations role with the Sox, similar to the one Johnny Pesky had.
“We gave them a number, they gave us a number, and neither number worked,” said Boggs. “It was very time-consuming for not a lot of money.”
So when the opportunity came to invest in the Field of Dreams — the iconic baseball diamond carved out of a cornfield for the 1989 Kevin Costner movie — Boggs journeyed to Dyersville, Iowa.
“Ah, I had goose bumps,” he said. “It tears you up a little bit. It’s emotional. I mean, it’s everything that everybody dreams of. It’s playing with your dad in your backyard.”
Boggs is part of an investment group called Go The Distance Baseball, which recently purchased the 193-acre site for $3.4 million. The group plans to develop it as a mecca for tournament travel baseball. The original farmhouse and field will be preserved, just as they appeared in the film.
Plans are to build a $45 million complex of 24 baseball and softball fields, an indoor training center, and clubhouse space for 72 teams, including lodging. The first-phase grand opening is scheduled for May 2014.
“We’re going to leave the cornfield up, where the kids walk through the corn to their fields,” said Boggs. “It’s just going to be a neat project.”
Boggs is the face of the investment group, which is headed by Chicago real estate developer Denise Stillman and her husband, attorney Michael Stillman. The original owners, Don and Becky Lansing, will stay on as long as they like.
If they build it, Boggs believes, people will come.
“When I was approached with this concept, I was skeptical at first, because Cooperstown has the perfect model of this,” he said. “Then I started thinking. It gives the people on the West Coast a viable option and they don’t have to drive all the way across the United States. It made perfect sense.”
The group is still seeking investors. Actor Matthew Perry came on board at the end of January. Costner has been invited to perform with his band. Boggs says he will conduct baseball clinics there.
“Hopefully, people will learn now that Shoeless Joe Jackson was a lefthanded hitter and not a righthanded hitter,” he said with a laugh, referencing a factual error in the movie.
Boggs loves baseball in its purest sense. He is content to coach the high school team his son played for 12 years ago for zero money. Boggs also helped finance the high school field.
“I just enjoy it,” he said. “It’s 10 minutes from my house. I like the atmosphere. I still put on the uniform and don’t have to travel.”
He also singlehandedly stopped the water moccasin problem in the swamp behind left field.
“I went out there with the fungo bat, one shot, top of the head. Done,” said Boggs. “There’s also two alligator back there. I like alligator meat. Tastes like chicken.”
He still eats chicken five times a week.
“Not free range,” he says “Good ol’ Publix chicken.”
Before a recent high school game, Boggs schedules stretching for exactly 5:57 p.m. He then gets every player to tug on a knotted rope while they warm up. A team-building exercise, he said.
“In case you fall off the cliff, your teammate pulls you back to safety,” he said. “Everyone pulls for each other.”
Close to game time, Boggs grabs a bat and hits fungoes. His hair is perfect.
Alex Kranick, the third baseman, looks over at Coach Boggs and smiles.
“The other day, he was telling me don’t stick my butt out in the batter’s box, and it worked,” said Kranick. “I got a hit. What he tells you works every time.
“To us, he’s not a Hall of Famer, he’s just Coach Boggs.”
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at email@example.com.