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After long wait, Rice goes into Hall of Fame

Former Boston Red Sox star Jim Rice reacts

Former Boston Red Sox star Jim Rice reacts as the Oakland Athletics' Rickey Henderson delivers his speech during the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, New York, Sunday, July 26, 2009. (MCT Photo) Photo Credit: MCT/Jane Tyska

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - This was Jim Rice's 15th and final year on the writers' ballot, so how could he have been blamed if he had chosen to wait by the telephone when the results were announced?

But he insisted that's not what he did.

Instead, Rice told the estimated 21,000 people here for his induction ceremony Sunday afternoon that he spent that early afternoon in January doing what he always does at that time of day:

Watching a soap opera.

"I really didn't think I would get the news flash while watching my favorite soap opera, 'The Young and the Restless,' every day at 12:30," Rice said. "And that's what I was doing when I got the call."

Rice described it as "the phone call you thought you'd never get," but he insisted he doesn't harbor any negative feelings about having to wait so long for induction.

"To me, it doesn't matter that I got called this year versus my first eligible year," Rice said. "What matters is that I got in."

Many of the fans gathered on the lawn at Clark Sports Center for the ceremony clearly were from Red Sox Nation, judging by the sea of red shirts and the loud ovations for Rice. Red Sox owner John Henry and president Larry Lucchino also were in the crowd in support of Rice, as was former teammate Dwight Evans.

But perhaps the most surprising guest here to see Rice was Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who works hard to keep a low profile and doesn't typically attend this ceremony. The last time Yaz was here was 2000, when Carlton Fisk was inducted.

Rice said Yaz told him, "If you go longer than 12 minutes, I'm outta here."

Rice's speech essentially was a biography of his life, talking about how he went from a three-sport star in high school to the Red Sox leftfielder carrying on after Yaz, who followed Ted Williams.

"I played through the pain and I suffered," Rice said. "No regrets. Well, wait a minute. Maybe those last at-bats in 1989 when I saw my average drop to .298. That I do regret."

New York Sports