Wade Anthony Boggs (born June 15, 1958 in Omaha, Nebraska) was an American baseball player whose hitting dominated the American League in much the same way as his contemporary Tony Gwynn dominated the National League in the 1980s and 1990s.
With 12 straight All-Star appearances, Boggs is second only to Brooks Robinson in number of consecutive appearances as a third baseman. (Mike Schmidt and George Brett also made 12 appearances, but Brett's final appearance was as a first baseman and neither man's appearances were consecutive).
A left-handed hitter, Boggs won a total of five batting titles starting in 1983, after batting .349 (which would have won the batting title but he was 129 at bats short of the minimum) as a rookie the previous season. From 1982 to 1988, Boggs only hit below .349 once, hitting .325 in his off season (largely due to the death of his grandmother with whom he was very close). During that same time frame, from 1983 to 1989, Boggs rattled off seven consecutive seasons in which he collected 200 or more hits. Boggs also had six of seven seasons with 200+ hits, 100+ runs and 40+ doubles. Although he would not win another batting title after 1988, he almost annually appeared in the league leaders in hitting. Although Gwynn is better remembered today, players who saw both men play in the 1980s said Boggs had the better batting eye and that while it was possible to get Gwynn to swing at a bad pitch, Boggs never did.
Boggs admitted in 1988 to adulterous affairs, and many baseball observers felt a lawsuit filed against Boggs by a former mistress in 1989 distracted Boggs and his team that year.
In 1992, Boggs slumped to .259--one of only three times in his career that he failed to reach .300--and at the end of the season left the Boston Red Sox, with whom he had spent his entire career, to sign with the New York Yankees. Boggs rebounded with four straight .300-plus seasons and even collected two gold gloves for his defense--his fielding statistics were close to the league average most of his career--but by 1997 he was no longer a full-time player. Boggs signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for the final two seasons of his career, where he collected his 3,000th hit. Boggs retired in 1999 after sustaining a knee injury, leaving with a career batting average of .328 and 3,010 hits.
Boggs was known for his superstitions as much as his hitting. He ate chicken before every game, woke up at the same time every day, took exactly 150 ground balls in practice, took batting practice at 5:17 and ran sprints at 7:17. His route to and from his position in the field beat a path to the home dugout, and he drew the Hebrew word "Chai" (meaning "life") in the batter's box before each at-bat.
Ironically, given his deserved reputation as a singles hitter with limited power, he was the first (and so far only) member of the 3,000-hit club to reach 3,000 with a home run.
Boggs is widely credited with teaching the Yankees their now famous extreme pitch-selection, i.e. swinging only at perfect pitches and fouling off close but tough to hit pitches, forcing teams to go to their usually weak bullpens. Before Boggs joined the Yankees, they were 14th in pitches per plate appearance, and 4th and then 1st after he joined. In addition, the Yankees were 12th and 8th in On Base Percentage the two years prior to Boggs joining the team and 2nd the year he came on board (1993), followed by 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 1st.
In 1987 Boggs, who was up for a new contract following the season, hit 24 home runs - easily the most in any year of his career.
Boggs will be eligible for induction into the United States Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.