(Check out our other player card posts here.)

How is a Wade Boggs baseball card like a 15th-century refrigerator drawing?

Well …

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to observe some of the world’s great masters in their “natural habitats” — the places where they prepared for and carried out their legendary work?

I mean …

Imagine being able to sneak into Einstein’s chalkboardatorium and observing the master from under a desk …

Or spying on Nikola Tesla from behind a lab bench as he goes all Frankenstein with his magical, flashing arcs …

Or sneaking into a pew to watch Michelangelo finish off the Sistine Chapel …

Or, if you’re a baseball fan, witnessing one the world’s greatest hitters hone his craft in preparation for the on-field battles to come.

Witnessing History from the Backend

One of the beautiful things about baseball — and there are so many! — is that, not only can we go to the ballpark to watch our heroes play, but we can also go there to watch them get ready to play.

If you’re lucky enough to take in a Major League batting practice, then you’re in good company — Einstein’s homework partner, Tesla’s lab partner, Michelangelo’s mother who undoubtedly scolded him daily to stop drawing on the walls and use paper or papyrus or whatever they hung on their fridges back then.

(Yes, she died when he was six, but I’ll bet he was already artsing up the joint by that point.)

They all witnessed the masters practicing their craft, and so have you.

1984 Donruss Wade Boggs

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

But not everyone can make it to a Big League park, and almost none of us can make it to a Big League park often enough to slake our thirst for the diamond.

We need a refresher.

We need something permanent to remind us what the game is all about and what our conquering athletes go through to keep their skill sharp and vanquish the enemy from their green cathedrals.

OK, yes, that’s a bit dramatic … but this is baseball we’re talking about here, darn it.

And when it came to hitting a baseball, Wade Boggs belonged to a select group of players who analyzed and squinted and adjusted and planned and tuned every possible aspect of the batting game until it screamed for mercy.

You know, guys like Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, and Tony Gwynn.

They were talented.

They were tough.

They had hawk-like eyesight.

But maybe more than anything else, they had superhuman tenacity.

Not just when they stood in the batter’s box against the best pitchers of their era, though these hitters fought tooth-and-nail to make every plate appearance a productive one.

Most Major Leaguer can hang (pretty) tough for the few minutes it takes to face a pitcher, though.

Where these Hall of Famers really gained their edge was outside the lines — reading scouting reports about the pitchers and teams they’d face, refining their swings, working out, watching video.

And standing in the cage, putting all that together.

Immortalizing the Process

While thousands, maybe millions, of people had the opportunity to see Cobb, Williams, Gwynn, Boggs and other historically great hitters take their hacks in batting practice, many millions more never did or will.

But we always have our baseball cards, and card companies through the decades have delighted us with little swatches of cardboard showing Big Leaguers prepping for games with a netted background (see our batting-cages-on-cards post here).

In 1983, no hitter in baseball was more prepared for his battles with pitchers than Wade Boggs.

After six full seasons in the minor leagues, Boggs had finally made the Boston Red Sox roster in 1982 and batted a whopping .349 over 104 games split mostly between first and third base.

No one really noticed that gaudy figure, though, because Boggs had too few at-bats to qualify for the batting race, which was a three-man scrum between Willie Wilson (.332), Robin Yount (.331 and the AL MVP award), and Al Oliver (.331).

Plus, Boggs only connected for five home runs, not exactly the kind of stuff to send fans or collectors into a froth.

The lack of publicity and hype didn’t slow down Boggs, and he spent the winter and the next spring and every day that summer doing what he always did — preparing.


Hitting the cage.

1984 Donruss Wade Boggs (back)

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

Boggs’ obsession paid off in 1983 as he came out of “nowhere” to lead the Majors in batting average with an astounding .361.

Now fans and collectors everywhere took notice, despite the fact that Boggs once again hit just five homers.

That didn’t matter when you were the new Ted Williams, when you were the most disciplined hitter in a generation, when you might be the next guy to hit .400.

We all wanted to know Boggs’ secrets, and reporters peppered him for information about how he was able to do that.

In the midst of all the hoopla that comes watching greatness unfold on the diamond, the card companies were busy preparing for their 1984 issues.

Boggs would be featured prominently in all of them, of course — he was a bona fide superstar, for goodness sake.

But each manufacturer took a different approach when it came time to select photos for those 1984 sets.

Fleer went with a gloved Boggs taking a throw during warm-ups or between innings.

Topps chose a hacking, in-game batting scene that is classic Boggs.

And Donruss?

Well, Donruss decided to give us a peek under the covers, a glimpse through the cracked door of Boggs’ workshop.

Because, there on 1984 Donruss card #151, Wade Anthony Boggs stands with his arms cocked, his head straight ahead, and his eyes locked in on an unseen pitcher.

Behind him, batting cage netting protects onlookers from the foul balls that Boggs probably won’t generate anyway.

Welcome to the Wade Boggs Laboratory of Hitting, where hard work was transformed into baseball magic.

Thanks to your baseball cards, you can visit anytime you want.

1984 Donruss Wade Boggs (#151) Value:

PSA 10: $95-110

PSA 9: $20-30

raw: $1-5

(Check out our other player card posts here.)

Want to see a video version of this article?