It was the incident that should have defined Jim Rice’s career. On Aug. 7, 1982, a 4-year-old boy from New Hampshire named Jonathan Keane was seriously injured when he was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Dave Stapleton. The boy’s skull was fractured, and he was bleeding heavily.
Everyone at Fenway Park paused — except Jim Rice. Rice jumped into the stands, took the boy in his arms and carried him to the clubhouse, where he was examined by the team doctor, Arthur Pappas, before being transported to Children’s Hospital.
Rice played the rest of the game with a blood-stained uniform, according to Boston Globe reporter Dan Shaughnessy’s account of the incident. “If it was your kid, what would you do?” he quoted Rice as saying afterwards. “The baby was crying and there was a lot of blood. I think he was more in shock than anything.”
The following day, the great Peter Gammons wrote in the Globe: “If only every cynic in America could have 1) observed Jim Rice’s reaction to crisis and 2) seen how concerned players from both teams were.”
Rice’s selection to the Hall of Fame was long overdue, though I understand his was a marginal case. He had a great career that didn’t last quite long enough to make his induction an easy call.
But I was a big Rice fan for many years, and that day in Fenway was a major reason why. For a long time we had an illustration of Rice by noted sports artist Dave Olsen in our living room (Dave and I worked together at the Daily Times Chronicle in Woburn during the 1980s). Incongruously enough, Dave chose to portray Rice patrolling left field rather than terrorizing a pitcher.
I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find anything on the Jonathan Keane incident this morning. But the Boston Herald’s Web site includes a photo of Rice holding young Jonathan to accompany a Steve Buckley column. It was one of those random things, I guess, as neither the Herald nor the Globe makes any other mention of it.
But given that I didn’t know the boy’s name or what year the incident occurred, the Herald photo, by Ted Gartland, was enough to get me searching. Those old Globe stores are not on the open Web, but I found a wonderful follow-up by Jeff Goldberg of the Hartford Courant published 15 years later. By then, Keane was a healthy 19-year-old. Goldberg wrote:
Tom Keane [Jonathan’s father] said it could have been much worse, and that Rice’s quick thinking may have saved his son’s life.
“Time is very much a factor once you have that kind of a head injury and the subsequent swelling of the brain,” Pappas said. “That’s why it’s so important to get him to care so it can be dealt with. [Rice] certainly helped him very considerably.”
Today, Rice is the Red Sox’s hitting instructor. He was happy to learn that Keane is doing well, and is attending college not far from Rice’s home state, South Carolina. “It’s a good feeling,” Rice said. “At least he knows that we have southern hospitality.”
Congratulations to Jim Rice, a great player and a class act.