With Jim Rice preparing for one of his finest Sundays in years, much of his career is being celebrated. His 2,452 hits, 382 home runs and 1,451 RBIs are well-known throughout baseball circles. However, it was for one singular moment in the 1982 season that one man will forever remember Rice.
The date was Aug. 7, 1982. Dave Stapleton was at the plate. The shortstop sent a screaming line drive into the stands.
"I saw the ball hit the bat and heard the crack, and thought it hit the side of the dugout," Tom Keane recently recalled to the Associated Press. "I turned, and there was my son [Jonathan] with blood gushing out of his head."
That's when Rice stepped into the picture.
"The next thing I remembered was Jim Rice picking him up," Keane said. "We ran through the dugout. I was kind of chasing Jim Rice; he was carrying Jonathan. There was an ambulance waiting. When we got to the hospital, they were set up for neurosurgery."
Within 30 minutes, doctors at Children's Hospital were working on Jonathan Keane, thanks largely to the quick actions of Rice.
"I've hit home runs. I've driven in runs. But as far as something that stands out, it's probably the picture when I went up into the stands and took the kid out of the stands who was hit by a foul ball," Rice told reporters when discussing his career highlights.
The experience may have had an immediately negative impact on Rice's game, as he grounded into inning-ending double plays in each of his next two at-bats. Clearly, though, Rice's actions in the stands took greater importance that Sunday afternoon.
"After the first at-bat [in the major leagues], that's it," Rice said regarding what players can accomplish in their careers. "Just to do something that people recognize for years and years — his dad said it and even he said it — I probably saved his life. That's one of the most important things I've accomplished in the game of baseball."
The selfless act was never lost on Jonathan's father.
"In times like that, you really see the quality of the character of the people involved," Tom Keane said to the AP. "Jim Rice is a really humble guy. He doesn't want to take credit for doing anything out of the ordinary. He said he did anything anyone would have done.
"I think that's an understatement of what he did that day. He did something that nobody else did. He may very well have saved my son's life."
Jonathan won't be in attendance when Rice is inducted on Sunday. He will, however, be living his life, and he'll most definitely always be a fan of Jim Rice.
*Second photo courtesy of the Boston Herald's Ted Gartland