Dear Esteemed Panel of Voters:

James Edward here. No, don’t let the photo fool you; I haven’t run off and joined the Chi-Lites. I’ve been keeping busy at New England Sports Network, where I do the Red Sox’ pre-game show. Of course, it doesn’t pay much — unless you’d consider the days Tom Caron announces he’s going “commando” to be a fringe benefit. Mostly, I do it for love of The Game.

Speaking of The Game, I wanted to congratulate you all on another fantastic round of voting. I’ve always been a big fan of Bruce’s, and was particularly happy to learn that a separate plaque would be created for his beard. He’s a great guy and a true warrior and one of the few men I know who could eat his weight in kielbasa. Simply put, I think you’ve done us all proud once again. Congrats, and thank you.

Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t note that I was somewhat disappointed to find myself fifty-three votes shy of admission to the Hall. But, ever the optimist, I’m celebrating the positives. I mean, I got three-hundred and thirty-seven votes. That’s something to be happy about. Actually, f–k happy, I’m ecstatic. I mean, that’s one more vote than Goose Gossage received. And it’s, like, way more than Dana Carvey’s ever gonna get. Sure, Carvey never played pro baseball, but still. I totally kicked his ass where Hall of Fame votes are concerned, and that’s something to trumpet.

Anyway, I don’t want to take up much more of your time. You’ve got stuff to do, and I’ve got a busy, steroid-free schedule ahead of me as well, much of it involving charity work, teaching orphans to play The Game, and nursing sick birds back to health. Hopefully, as my man Dan forecasts, 2008 will be my year [if that punk Justice gets in ahead of me, I swear, I’ll… er… jump up and down a few times, then call to congratulate him].

Oh, and before I sign off, enclosed with this letter you’ll find a coupon for one free box of Hostess Cakes — just my way of saying “keep up the good work.” Myself, I like the fruit pies, especially since I nearly choked to death on a Twinkie when I was six years old. But I don’t want any bias I may feel from a bad experience to influence your decision. If you want to swing with the Twinkies, or the Sno-Balls or Suzy-Qs for that matter, go right ahead. This is America. Let each cake stand on its own merits, I always say.

Yours and ever-proud of my remarkably steroid-free urine,

Jim Ed Rice