Still a hulking presence at 56 years old, Jim Rice worked to fight back tears as he stood at home plate at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.
"I never thought I'd even get into the Hall of Fame," said the long-time Andover resident. "I had pretty good numbers, but I didn't think it would be good enough for the Red Sox to retire my number. I thought they'd give it out the year after I was gone."
On Tuesday, just two days after he was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, Rice became a member of an even more exclusive club. The Boston legend became just the seventh player in Red Sox history to have his number retired by the club.
His No. 14 was unveiled on Fenway Park's right field facade in a ceremony before the Red Sox faced the Oakland A's. He was joined on the field by his family and former teammates, Hall of Famers Carlton Fisk and Dennis Eckersley and legends Dwight Evans and Fred Lynn.
Only Fisk, Ted Williams, fellow Merrimack Valley resident Carl Yastrzemsky, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Joe Cronin have their numbers retired by the team. Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier, has his No. 42 retired throughout the league.
"When you think about being in the same category as Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemsky," said Rice. "Playing your whole career in once city in left field like those two is amazing." Rice had long been a popular Hall of Fame candidate with fans, and he was finally selected this year in his last on the ballot.
His career was nothing short of legendary. In 16 seasons, all with the Red Sox, he was an All-Star eight times and won the 1978 Americ an League Most Valuable Player.