Published January 12. 2013 4:00AM
Mohegan - For Jim Rice, more special than the day he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame was getting there.
On a bus through the minor leagues. Sometimes unable to afford an extra pair of cleats after the one pair he was given for the season wore out.
"The highest point of playing baseball is getting to the big leagues," Rice said Friday from the World Baseball Coaches' Convention at Mohegan Sun. "Those were the toughest days. The big leagues are special all the way."
Rice, who played for the Boston Red Sox from 1974-1989 and hit 382 career home runs, was inducted into the hall of fame in 2009 on his 15th and final appearance on the ballot.
Rice said he wasn't surprised that no one was elected to the hall of fame when the vote was announced Wednesday. Baseball superstars Roger Clemens (seven Cy Young awards) and Barry Bonds (seven National League MVPs, all-time home run leader) were not elected due to their suspicion of steroid use.
"They had been talking about this year. Everyone had already said it," Rice said of the failure to elect anyone.
"... What's special about the hall of fame is being in a room with all of the great players. It's like being a rookie in any sports franchise. You sit there and you listen."
Rice said if it's proven the alleged steroids users "cheated the game," then they should not be allowed in the hall of fame.
"But you've got to show me that they cheated," Rice said.
Former Kansas City Royals manager Bob Schaefer, the former Ledyard High School baseball coach from Norwich who is now a member of the Washington Nationals organization, had a more definitive opinion of this week's hall of fame election.
While in cycling Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for blood doping, Clemens and Bonds were never punished for their alleged crimes within the game. That makes them two of the best players in baseball history and deserving of hall of fame status, Schaefer said.
"I wasn't surprised. I was disappointed," Schaefer said. "Those people who didn't vote for anyone, they should not have the honor to vote anymore. That's not responsible. And the person who voted for (former Red Sox pitcher) Aaron Sele - and I'm friends with Aaron Sele, but he's not a hall of famer - should get thrown off, too. Anybody who 'protests' with their vote should have no place in the game.
"If you have seven Cy Youngs, if you have seven MVPs, you deserve to be a hall of famer. If you don't, take the awards away. ... There's no one who can say who did (use steroids) and who didn't."