BASEBALL Boggs is top first-timer on Hall ballot
Ryne Sandberg and Bruce Suttler will be on the ballot once again.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Wade Boggs might have to get used to a new routine: life as a Hall of Famer.
The five-time AL batting champion, known for his array of pre- and postgame rituals, is the top newcomer on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, joining holdovers Ryne Sandberg and Bruce Sutter.
During an 18-year major league career, Boggs won five American League batting titles for the Boston Red Sox, made the All-Star team 12 times and finished with 3,010 hits.
He headed to the ball park at the same time before every game, made sure to chow down on chicken and cheesecake before the first pitch, and had two hot dogs, a bag of barbecue potato chips and an iced tea after the final out.
"If I had one or two, I wouldn't have anything to do," he said of his routines and superstitions. "So I have 80 or 100 that I go through during the day, and they fall into place. I know exactly what I'm going to do along the way. That makes me relax and get into a frame of mind that I need to be in."
Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley were elected to the Hall last year, when Ryne Sandberg fell 71 votes shy of the 380 (75 percent) needed. Bruce Sutter (301) was third, followed by Jim Rice (276), Andre Dawson (253), Rich Gossage (206), Lee Smith (185) and Bert Blyleven (179).
Eight-time All-Star Darryl Strawberry and two-time NL batting champion Willie McGee also are among 12 players appearing of the ballot for the first time.
Boggs at a glance
Boggs, 46, won batting titles in 1983 and from 1985-88, becoming the first player to win the AL batting championship in four straight years since Rod Carew from 1972-75. Boggs, who hit .300 or higher 15 times, finished with a .328 average and was the only player in the 20th century with seven straight 200-hit seasons. He also became the first player ever to get 200 hits and 100 walks in four consecutive seasons.
A two-time Gold Glove winner at third base, Boggs played for the Red Sox from 1982-92, then spent five seasons with the New York Yankees, helping the team win the 1996 World Series.
His final two seasons were with his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
"There's players that are in the Hall of Fame that are more gifted," Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said. "But I'm not sure there's anybody there that has taken the game any more seriously and has truly come to the ball park every day ready to play."
On Aug. 7, 1999, Boggs became the 23d member of the 3,000-hit club, connecting off Cleveland's Chris Haney to become the first player to get No. 3,000 with a home run. After circling the bases, Boggs kissed home plate.
"I finally put my flag in that mountain. So many guys have tried and come up short," Boggs said. "It was like the longest mile to walk up to the plate."
Sandberg, the 1984 NL Most Valuable Player, was a nine-time Gold Glove second baseman for the Chicago Cubs and a 10-time All-Star. He hit 277 homers, at the time of his retirement the most by a second baseman, and his .989 fielding percentage is the highest at the position.