Wednesday, November 2, 2011

#30 Jim Rice

Card:  Rice's 9th Topps card.  He shared a '75 rookie card with three less accomplished guys. 

Picture: Topps shows Rice following through with one of his powerful swings.  Topps liked using this action shot of Jim Rice.  They used similar shots in '87 and '89:

Player:  Jim Rice rolled through the minors after being drafted by the Boston Red Sox in '71.  Rice posted .304/.350/.534 stats in three and a half seasons of minor league action and made his BoSox debut August 19, 1974.  Rice batted .269 with a home run in 67 at bats. 

Rice didn't start the '75 season in the starting lineup, but was the primary DH by the end of April.  By mid-season he was starting in LF, displacing a Bernie Carbo and Juan Beniquez platoon.  Rice, along with fellow rookie Fred Lynn helped the Red Sox win the AL East.  Rice was nailed in the hand by a pitch on Sept. 21 and missed the postseason.  Despite his late start and early finish, Rice compiled 22 HR and 102 RBI to go along with a .309 batting average.  Rice had to watch his teammates lose the hotly contested '75 series and wonder...what if?  Rice finished third in MVP voting and second in Rookie of the Year balloting to teammate Lynn.

Perhaps slowed a bit as he recovered from the broken hand, Rice's production dropped in '76.  Rice still posted solid numbers with 25 dingers and a .285 average.  Rice broke through in '77 with what would be the start of a terrific three year stretch of terror for AL pitchers.  I'll let Rice's stats speak for themselves (courtesy of

Rice was killer in '78 and rightly won the AL MVP.  His 400 total bases in '78 were the most by an AL player since Joe DiMaggio's 418 in '37.  Unfortunately for Rice and the Red Sox, Bucky Dent and the Yankees foiled the '78 season.  Rice led the AL in total bases again in '79 and in doing so equaled Ty Cobb as the only other AL player to lead the league three years in a row.

Rice suffered another hand injury in 1980 and although still productive, was not as dominant as the three previous years batting .294 with 24 homers in 124 games.  Rice put up a solid year in '81 with a .284 average and 17 HR in the strike shortened season. 

Rice had a very good '82 campaign, batting .309 with 24 long balls.  The slugging South Carolina native seemed to find his late 70's form in '83, belting 39 bombs, driving in 126 and batting over .300 for the sixth time in his career.  Rice followed up a pair of good years in '84 and '85 with 28 and 27 HRs and 100+ RBI both years.  One negative to Rice's game was that he had become a double play machine.  Starting in '82 Rice led the league in GDP for four straight years averaging 34 per year. Rice finished his career with 315, currently 6th on the all-time list.

1986 was an excellent one for both Rice and the Red Sox.  Rice batted .324 with a career high 39 doubles and drove in over 100 for the eighth time.  Finally able to help his team in the post-season, Rice had 9 hits in 27 at bats in the '86 World Series but the hard luck Red Sox lost to the Mets.

Rice's abilities started to decline as injuries continued to nag the veteran.  Playing in only 108 games Rice hit 13 home runs in '87 and batted under .280 for the first time in his career.  Rice was healthier in '88 but he could only muster 15 HR as his average slipped further to .264.  The Red Sox lost to the A's in four games in the ALCS as Rice had only two hits in what would be his last shot at a ring.

Rice played one more year, but his power was gone as he hit a un-Rice-like .234 with only 3 homers in 209 at bats.  Since his playing days ended Rice has stayed on with the Red Sox as hitting coach and special hitting instructor.  Rice was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.


Flipside:  The 15 triples in back to back seasons really stand out. It would take him until the middle of '86 to get 30 more triples. 
As you can see here Rice had a lifetime batting average of .305.  Through '88 Rice's average was an even .300.  His struggles in '89 dropped it to .298

Oddball:  James Edward Rice grew up called being called Ed.  I suppose all the Red Sox fans already know this, but I didn't.
Rice is a fan of the soap The Young and the Restless and mentioned that he was watching the show when notified of his HOF induction.
History:  In his prime Rice was one of the most feared hitters in the American League.  From '75-'86 Rice averaged 29 HR and 106 RBI a year with an OPS+ of 133. 
Rice missed out on a World Series championship but had great personal success winning an MVP award and was an eight time All-Star.

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