Rice hits the links for Hall golf tourney
Former slugger shares course with fellow baseball legends
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- With swings as diverse as their old batting stances -- some open, some closed, some smooth, some not-so-much -- a group of Hall of Famers took to the links in the Hall of Famer Golf Tournament at Leatherstocking Golf Course on Saturday.
And while the approaches may have been different, the results for many of the players were similar and familiar: long line drives in a bright blue sky.
Sporting a yellow shirt on the eve of his induction, Jim Rice didn't shy away from showing off his golf game. It seemed fitting that Rice teed off fourth in his group -- the spot in the order he occupied in 674 career games -- and has already developed a reputation as one of the longest hitters in the Hall of Fame, along with Johnny Bench and Mike Schmidt.
Rice, however, placed himself in a different trifecta.
"I probably would have been in that category with [Jim] Furyk, [Tom] Watson, and Rice," he joked.
Rice was the center of attention on the course, with Hall of Fame classmate Rickey Henderson not participating in the tournament. Henderson prefers fishing to golf.
The former Red Sox star was as relaxed as could be, saying he's done worrying about his speech and ready to just enjoy the weekend.
"This is almost like playing the All-Star Game," Rice said. "Some of the guys I haven't seen in awhile, some guys I admire."
Most of Rice's soon-to-be fellow Hall of Famers were happy to see him finally get off the ballot and into the Hall.
"About 15 years [overdue]," Frank Robinson said of Rice's induction.
"If you had to face him, you'd think he's a first-ballot guy," said Goose Gossage.
Playing a scramble format in foursomes, the event also allowed the competitive spirit to reemerge in some of baseball's best. Rice even said he had brought in a few ringers for his group.
The other Hall of Famers, meanwhile, handed out some speech advice -- the shorter, the better was the consensus -- while remembering the careers of Rice and Henderson.
"One thing I liked about Jim Rice was he always walked real slow back to the dugout after I struck him out," said Rollie Fingers, who added that he cherished that moment because it didn't happen too often.
Carlton Fisk remembered the resignation Henderson inspired in a defense that tried to keep him glued to first base.
"After you played against him a little while, you just let him go," Fisk said. "It was like I hit a home run every time I threw the guy out."
But most of all, the players were happy to be making new memories with old friends on a gorgeous morning at the golf course.
"It's a great time to be with these guys," said Dave Winfield. "The Induction is beautiful, and so many people share in it. I appreciate being here."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.