Wade Boggs is getting his due. Sixteen years after retiring from baseball, Boggs will have his number 26 placed on the Fenway Park right field facade, alongside the numbers of eight other Red Sox greats and baseball legend Jackie Robinson. The delay likely had something to do with Wade Boggs jumping ship and winning aWorld Series with the Yankees.
The Hall of Fame third baseman was one of the best hitters to ever wear a Red Sox uniform. His .338 Red Sox batting average is second to only Ted Williams. He won five batting titles and six Silver Slugger awards to go along with seven consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits during his 11 years with the Red Sox. His great eye at the plate combined with high batting averages produced remarkable peak seasons. From 1983-1989, Boggs hit .352 with a .446 on-base percentage, leading the AL in OBP in six of those seven years.
A model of consistency at the plate, Boggs produced a slashline of .328/.415/.413 with 3,010 hits in 18 big league seasons. A poor fielder his rookie season, Boggs worked to become one of the game’s better fielding third basemen, earning two Gold Glove Awards. Boggs also made 12 All-Star Game appearances.
Boggs is a key player in the popular 1983 Topps Baseball Card Set. Considered by many collectors to be the top series of the ‘80s, the ‘83 Topps set includes rookie cards of Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Ryne Sandberg as well as the second-year card of . The dual-photo format — an action or posed photo behind a small circular head shot in the lower righthand corner — has been a fan favorite over the years. Borrowed from the 1963 Topps series, the format allowed Topps to feature a wide-array of action photos without neglecting the traditional head shot.
Midway through the 1982 season, Boggs took over third base from reigning AL batting champion Carney Lansford, who landed on the disabled list with an injured ankle. Lansford never regained his job and was eventually traded to the Oakland A’s. Boggs made him expendable by hitting .349 for the season.
After quickly establishing himself as one of baseball’s premier hitters, Boggs — like Gwynn — was somehow excluded from the 1982 Topps Traded Set. Following a brilliant rookie campaign, Boggs was featured prominently in the 1983 Topps, Fleer and Donruss rookie checklists. Boggs’ elite status continued on the field as the second-year rising star lead the AL with a .361 batting average.
Relative newcomers to the world of baseball card collecting in 1983, Fleer and Donruss played second fiddle to Topps in production, marketing and distribution of their baseball card sets. As a result, Boggs’ rather drab-looking Fleer and Donruss rookie cards were not received with the same fanfare as the first-year Topps issue. Decent versions of the Fleer and Donruss rookies are available for $3-$5.
Because Boggs never hit for much power, except for that one season in 1987 — when many observers suspected baseballs had a little extra “bounce” — his rookie cards may have never reached their full potential. Traditionally, the rookie cards of sluggers are more sought after than the rookies of high-average hitters. Gwynn rookie cards may be slightly undervalued for the same reason. Never known for power, Boggs hit 24 homers in 1987 — when home runs were hit at an unprecedented pace — but never collected more than 11 in any other season.
The 1983 Boggs Topps rookie currently sells for $8 in decent condition with highly-graded versions commanding as much as $50. Because of minor production flaws and gum-stained card backs, the highest-graded versions are extremely rare.