Perspective: Cambridge cop once faced the feared Jim Rice in celebrity softball game

My name is Lieutenant Jonathan Patrick McCarthy, Sr. of the Cambridge Police Department and I’d like to share a story with you about the time I pitched to new Hall of Famer Jim Rice in a charity-run celebrity softball game in 1995.

At the time, Mr. Rice’s post-career reputation as one of the most feared hitters of his era was still being solidified. Let me just say, I never questioned the reputation again after that fateful spring day.

I was one of 15 police local officers selected to do battle against some of Boston’s finest celebrities/retired athletes, including the always scary Jim Ed, former Patriots Tim Goad and Ronnie Lippett, Nancy Kerrigan, Lenny Clarke, film-makers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the basist from The Cars and several of the Wahlberg brothers.

I’d like to be able to say I didn’t have to change my underwear after pitching to the Red Sox great in the fourth inning on that fateful day. I’d like to be able to say that…

After tossing a shutout over the first three innings of the game, a sergeant from Watertown by the name of Bobby Griggs was struck in the pitching shoulder by a line drive off the bat of Canadian football great Doug Flutie, who wasn’t invited to participate in the game but showed up with a glove, spikes, batting gloves and a Barry Bondsesque elbow pad, demanding a spot on the celebrity team’s roster. Sadly, Flutie’s gritty, compact swing ended poor Griggs’ day.

I was in left field at the time and had dropped a laser beam line drive off of Rice’s bat in the first inning. I guess the error convinced my teammates that I was best suited to replace Griggs at pitcher, a position that would minimize the impact of my suspect judgement in the field.

Growing up in Dover, Massachusetts in the 1975s-1986s, I was obviously a huge BoSox fan. Now, I must say I was always a Dwight Evans guy and, thus, found Rice’s value to those Sox teams of the 70s and 80s to be trivial and mostly forgetable in comparison to Dewey. Nevertheless, my blood pressure immediately skyrocketed when I saw Rice would be leading off the fourth inning. He looked menacing even while just standing in the on-deck circle.

I must say I don’t even remember those warm-up pitches I threw because I was too concerned with the prospect of Rice staring me down. He looked dangerous and I must say, as a young police officer who was fairly new to the force, my cackles stood up as he strode confidently into the batter’s box. I was a bit of a redass in those days and I guess you could say I was on edge.

He pointed the head of his feared bat right at my fearful head and it took all I had not to start visibly shaking out of fear. He seemed to be calling me out…challenging me, personally. I tried not to look scared. My first pitch showed the affect on my nerves as its high arc took it well out of the reach of my catcher, Joe Barry, the only officer in the Somerville police department to score above 75 on his civil service exam.

Frightened, my second pitch/lob bounced thrice in front of home plate before landing in the catcher’s mitt.

I motioned to Mr. Rice to step out of the batter’s box to allow me a moment to compose myself. He would not grant me that courtesy, instead holding the head of his bat over the middle of the plate as if to suggest the spot for my next pitch’s location. Unbelievably, I obliged and he smoked the most wicked line drive down the left field line into foul territory, where the menacing orb bounced off a pregnant woman’s stomach and broke an elderly woman’s nose before ricocheting into the celebrity dugout and bouncing off Nancy Kerrigan’s left knee.

Having no handcuffs readily available, I realized I would need to throw yet another pitch to this right-handed menace. So I did what any good, civic-minded police officer would do when taking the public’s best interest to heart: I threw Jim Rice two unhittable, unreachable pitches so far out of the strike zone Wily Mo Pena would have blushed at the prospect of swinging at either pitch.

Take your base, Mr. Rice, you won’t be hurting any more women and children with your line drives if I have anything to say about it.

 That’s right, I served up an intentional walk to Jim Rice himself in a Boston celebrity-police softball game. And I’ll do it again if I’m ever invited to play in one of those games again and that fear-mongerer is on the opposing team. I was stunned to hear the crowd booing me so heartily.

Fearing a riot, which would have put the public in further danger, I made sure to throw a strike to the next batter, Dewey Evans, who hit a home run that I believe landed somewhere on the other side of the Charles River roughly a year later. Incredible.

That’s my story, folks. I make no apologies for walking Jim Rice that day, but I do grudgingly congratulate him for his induction this weekend into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Thanks for reading and remember: Buckle up, it’s the lawr.

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