We’ve all waited too long for Jim Ed to be given his well-deserved spot in The Hall to just mention it once and move on. So we sing his praises again today, that’s how we roll. This story about Jim Rice should be firmly embedded in the brain of anyone who calls himself a Red Sox fan. But the great stories are worth repeating, and this is certainly one of them. It was originally published in the Hartford Courant back in 1997. I found it on a blog, The Glory of Baseball, in its entirety.
ONE OF HIS MEMORABLE MOVES WAS TO AID AN INJURED YOUNG FAN
From The Hartford Courant, Thursday, August 7, 1997
Source: JEFF GOLDBERG; Courant Staff Writer
On that sunny Saturday, Aug. 7, 1982, some of the best seats at Fenway Park were in the front rows of the field boxes along the first base line. From that vantage point, fans are close to the action, without the distraction of the wire screen that protects fans behind the plate.
Tom Keane got three tickets through a friend who was close to Haywood Sullivan, the Red Sox’s executive vice president. The tickets belonged to the wife of Red Sox manager Ralph Houk, but she wasn’t using them. Keane used the opportunity to drive his sons, 4-year- old Jonathan and 2-year-old Matthew, from their Greenland, New Hampshire home to the game.
For Jonathan Keane, it was a dream come true. It was a chance to see his favorite player, promising infielder Dave Stapleton, up close. So, in the bottom of the fourth as Stapleton stepped to the plate, Jonathan Keane watched eagerly from the second row of Box 29. A right-handed batter, Stapleton stood in against right-hander Richard Dotson of the Chicago White Sox. Stapleton was late on a Dotson pitch, and he lined a foul ball to the right.
“A Quick Reaction”
Jonathan Keane is 19, a sophomore at North Carolina State. He lives in Bethlehem, New Hampshire., and works during the summer as a waiter at Pier 2 in Portsmouth. His only scar is a physical one — a small line above his left eye. Keane doesn’t remember anything after Stapleton made contact with the pitch, but team doctor Arthur Pappas said he had never seen so much blood at Fenway.
It happened in an instant, a little boy’s dream becoming every parent’s nightmare. Jonathan, who had come to Fenway that day looking for heroes, would find one. “We were watching the game and all of a sudden I heard a ‘crack,’” Tom Keane said. “And I thought it hit the side of the dugout, because the dugout was right beside us. The ball was just hit so hard you never even saw it. I turned around and looked and Jon was slouched over and blood was gushing out of his head.” The foul line drive had struck the boy in the forehead, slicing open his left temple and fracturing his skull.
The damage was frighteningly obvious. There was so much blood, second baseman Jerry Remy, now a Red Sox broadcaster, nearly threw up in the dugout. Red Sox center fielder Rick Miller, in the on-deck circle, yelled into the dugout for trainer Charlie Moss to come onto the field. As Moss started, Jim Rice leapt past him.
The day had started routinely for Rice, who had hit a two-run double an inning earlier off Dotson to tie the score at 2. He was watching from the dugout as Stapleton batted. He heard Miller’s plea but didn’t see anyone moving. Instinctively, Rice climbed into the stands and gathered Keane’s bloody body into his arms. Rice carried him into the dugout, through the runway and into the trainer’s room in the clubhouse. It all happened in seconds. “It was just a reaction,”’ Rice said. “You don’t have time to think about it. You just think about doing something.”
Pappas went directly from his box seat to the trainer’s room, barely beating Rice into the clubhouse. After a quick examination, the boy was put in an ambulance and taken to Children’s Hospital, where he was listed in good condition. Stapleton was shaken. “I feel so badly, “Stapleton said after the game. I just wish I could have it back.” Stapleton visited Keane in the hospital the next day, followed by Tony La Russa, who was then the manager of the White Sox. Even Hank Aaron called. The game had been an NBC Game of the Week, and Aaron had seen it. He called Children’s Hospital to make sure a boy he had never met was OK.
Father won’t forget
Jonathan recovered from his injuries and was back at Fenway Park April 5,1983, for Opening Day. The original plan was for Carl Yastrzemski Sr. to throw out the first pitch — the younger Carl was starting his final season with the Red Sox — but Sullivan called the Keanes and asked if Jonathan would also like to throw a first pitch. Jonathan accepted. Keane says he still meets people who remember what happened to him. For Keane and his close friends, however, it’s not a big deal.
I try to keep it low,” Keane said. “I tell people I got hit in the head at Fenway and Jim Rice carried me off, and that’s pretty much it.” Both Jonathan and his father still go to games at Fenway. Jonathan, possessing the air of indestructibility that accompanies youth, enjoys sitting in the low boxes close to home plate, indifferent to the possibility he could be struck again. Tom Keane isn’t so self-assured. When he visits Fenway, he sits in the safety of the grandstand, far from the line drives. “I don’t like it [in the field boxes],” Tom Keane said. “It’s very uncomfortable because it brings back the memories of that.”
That day, Aug. 7, 1982
Tom Keane said it could have been much worse, and that Rice’s quick thinking may have saved his son’s life. “Time is very much a factor once you have that kind of a head injury and the subsequent swelling of the brain,” Pappas said. “That’s why it’s so important to get him to care so it can be dealt with. [Rice] certainly helped him very considerably.”
His Place in History
Today, Rice is the Red Sox’s hitting instructor. He was happy to learn that Keane is doing well, and is attending college not far from Rice’s home state, South Carolina. “It’s a good feeling,” Rice said. “At least he knows that we have southern hospitality.”
Rice, 44, retired in 1989 with 382 home runs and a .298 career average. The player who Aaron once said would be the one to break his all-time home run record has been on the Hall of Fame ballot twice. He has not come close to making it. The experts say part of the reason he won’t is his poor relationship with the media. With writers, Rice was often cold and surly, not the kind of personality one thinks of when discussing the “character issue.” Mo Vaughn sees it differently. Vaughn, in some ways, is the Jim Rice of the ’90s: a power-hitting All-Star and team leader. Vaughn had his own experience aiding a young boy, befriending and hitting a home run for cancer patient Jason Leader in 1993.
“Jim’s was a reaction, mine was more over a period of time,” Vaughn said. “It all means the same. We’re all trying to help people.” Vaughn says Rice should be inducted. “He’s one of the greatest players in Red Sox history,” Vaughn said. “He should have his day.”
Tom Keane agrees. He only met Rice once, but in those brief seconds 15 years ago, Keane learned all he’d ever need to about Rice’s character. He was a witness to another of Rice’s career statistics: one save. “It was a very humanitarian thing that he did,” Keane said. “I think he’s a wonderful person. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He’s certainly in our Hall of Fame.”
Hint to whoever is planning the Number 14 Retirement Party: track down this guy and his dad.