One thing we’re learning about the super collectors we spotlight on Sports Card Investor is that they tend to go one of two ways with their collecting philosophy: they either focus on an athlete’s super high-end cards or they try to stock up on every card with even the slightest image of their favorite player. When it comes to Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs, Richard Davis is unquestionably on the latter side of the discussion.
“[I like] anything that has even a mention of him,” says Davis, who proudly shows off his Boggs bounty on his Twitter (@boggs328) and Instagram pages (@1974rmd). “[Even cards with a] little photo of him up in the upper right-hand corner. I want it and I got it, you know? But I do know the guys that only want the super-rare cards. Okay, that’s fine and all, but if you’re truly a fan of an athlete, you want to have everything of them that’s out.”
Davis has roughly 10,000 cards of the 12-time Red Sox and Yankees all-star. Those precious items and other collectibles are displayed in an impressive basement showroom in Davis’ suburban Chicago home that he lovingly calls Boggs Tavern. In the following interview, Davis gives us a few details on the sacred space and explains how the iconic hitter became so special to him.
Questions and answers were edited for length and clarity.
When did cards come into your life?
So, let’s see. I was born in ‘74. I got my first cards in ‘82. The first set that I tried building was the ‘82 Topps. Every Sunday after church, we hit up the White Hen, which is a local, 7-Eleven kind of mom-and-pop shop, that’s now-defunct, that used to sell baseball cards. He’d go in, get his morning coffee and come out with a pack of cards every Sunday for that whole year. He’d get a pack of cards every week. I had at least five or six of those Cal Ripken rookies. They’re lost to the times now. I remember having a handful of those cards.
And when does Mr. Boggs pop into the picture?
I can tell you exactly. It was my home on Christmas morning, 1985. I just turned 11 three weeks prior. And I remember getting a Christmas gift from my folks. It was a baseball card starter collector kit. It had 200 cards in this box, but there were three unopened wax packs. One of them was ’83 Donruss. And so, I tore it open. I had to open it. And right there on top, the very first card, was a Wade Boggs rookie card. I didn’t know him, per se. I knew of him. I knew of this card. I’d already been collecting for a year or two. I knew about Beckett. I believe, at that time, it was a $10 piece of cardboard. I was just enamored. I’m thinking to myself, “I’m 11 and I’ve got a $10 card in my hand. This is awesome.” I happened to play Little League Baseball. I was third base. He played third base. It was almost just like a match. That was the genesis of it.
But how does it go from one card at Christmas to the massive collection it is today?
Almost immediately. I remember that following summer of ‘86. Obviously, the Red Sox were in contention. Some of the Red Sox games, when they played against the White Sox, I got a chance to watch them play on the TV. I got to watch Wade. He had already had a monster year in ‘85. He was having another monster year in ‘86. I had a cousin who collected baseball cards and he had some friends in his neighborhood that collected baseball cards. I would try to get all of their Wade Boggs cards. I didn’t care if I was trading off a [Don] Mattingly. I wanted their Wade Boggs cards.
I collected all throughout grade school and high school. There was a little lull when I went to graduate school just because I didn’t have the funds. Unfortunately, when I was in graduate school, this was from basically 2002 to 2005, cards made [for Boggs] just flooded the market. He was going to the [Baseball Hall of Fame]. So, when ‘05 came around, he had all those cards that came out—the short prints, the autograph cards. I couldn’t get any of those. I didn’t have any money. But once I graduated and got into the workforce, I started making that money [and things changed]. That’s when it really exploded!
When you talk about hitters in the ‘80s, you have lots of greats like Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson and George Brett. What made Boggs stand out in your eyes?
Well, obviously, we gotta go back to ’85. I already knew a little bit about him and got enamored by that rookie card. From that point forward, when I started really following his career in ’86, ‘87 and ‘88 and those all-star games. My dad got the newspaper every morning up here in Chicago. I went right to the Red Sox box. I’d look and see “4 for 5” and “5 for 5.” Holy cow, this guy is good.
I had a buddy at the time who was a big Don Mattingly fan. Another buddy was a big Jose Canseco fan. I wanted to put my guy Boggs up on a pedestal, but they would put their guys up on that pedestal. We would compare numbers. I knew about all these great guys. You mention Gwynn, but you can’t forget about Kirby Puckett. Don’t forget about the unsung guys like Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Those guys get lost in the shuffle.
Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy, too.
Dale Murphy, Mattingly. Will Clark was a heck of a hitter. Even though I was a Wade Boggs guy, I was also a baseball aficionado so I respected the game. I respected all these guys. Both leagues, didn’t matter. But I’m a life-long Cubs fan, so obviously, I rooted for all the Cubs: Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson and Shawon Dunston. But for me, what set Wade apart from all those other guys — obviously, this is my unbiased look — is that he wasn’t a power hitter. We all knew that. But if the Sox needed to hit, he got it for them. It was just an incredible talent that I was blown away by. Playing Little League, you try to [imitate] the player you think that’s your guy. I remember sitting there in the batter’s box — I was a right-handed batter, too — thinking to myself, “What would Boggs do in this situation?” Not strike out like I just did.
Do you have a general idea of how many Boggs cards you have?
I’ve got a number in my head that I just throw out there. And I’m pretty close to the mark. I’m probably a little under it but I wouldn’t be surprised if I were over it — at least about 10,000. And that’s including doubles, triples, quadruples. I’ve got 800 of one particular card.
The rookie card?
I wish. I’ve got 600 of those. And that’s just the Topps. I’ve got almost 300 of the Donruss and I’m working on around 150 of the Fleer. It’s the ‘84 Topps that I got about 800 of.
Which cards or collectibles are you most proud of in your Boggs collection?
Well, here’s what’s really cool, DeMarco, is the fact that he actually follows me on Twitter. He has pretty much seen everything I got. And I’m not gonna lie, him coming here might actually happen. I’ve got it on good intel that he’s considering coming. Last I heard he was coming to the National, so that’s when it could happen. I don’t think there’s anything that I have that he’s not seen ‘cuz I make sure I post every single day.
What are your most prized possessions?
So, for the longest time, because I’ve always considered ‘85 his best statistical season, I finally own a home jersey from that season. It’s autographed. That’s probably my most prized possession. One of my favorite pieces is, and there’s only 26 made, a three-foot-tall bobblehead. I know Wade has one because I remember seeing a picture of him with one of these in his trophy room at home. I was thinking, “Man, I gotta get a hold of one of those.” I found a collector years ago who had one. This dude wanted an exorbitant amount of money for one. I whittled him down to about half of that, so I got it. I showed Wade a picture and I said, “Hey, I got this coming in. Check it out! It’s autographed.” He said to me that’s the only one he’s ever autographed. That’s a pretty unique piece.
My favorite oddball piece that always gets everybody — family, friends and strangers that come to the house and check my stuff — is that I own one pair of shower shoes from each team that he played for.
How in the world did you get his shower shoes?
I got the Red Sox pair on eBay from a seller. They came from a reputable source. The company that Wade was contracted with when we signed all this stuff, including these shower shoes, I got in contact with the CEO and, basically, I had the back door now to Wade to get some stuff. So, since then, I acquired his Yankees shower shoes. And then, just last year, as a gift, Wade actually sent me a care package with the Devil Rays slippers [in it]. I texted him one time and said, “Hey, Wade, I gotta complete the trifecta of your shows. If you happen to have any of your Devil Rays shoes laying around [let me know.” He goes, “I’ll get back to you.” I hadn’t heard from him for a couple weeks. And then, he was doing a podcast for a buddy of mine and he said on the podcast that he’s got a care package for me. He didn’t mention the shower shoes but I kinda suspected they’d be in there. I got the shower shoes plus he sent a couple of hats from his fishing line that were signed and a pair of his game-worn Oakleys signed. That was freakin’ awesome.
How did your relationship grow into one where you two text each other?
I remember where I was. I was working in the ER at the time. It was a busy day in the ER. I got this chime I heard on my phone. I knew it was the social media chime. It had that distinctive Twitter [noise]. Whatever, I ignored it. I figured somebody liked one of my tweets or something. Went about my day, kept working. About an hour later, I’m sitting down at my computer, charting and I look down at my phone and I remember the banner on the home screen saying, “Wade Boggs is now following you on Twitter.” I couldn’t believe it. I even turned to my coworker and go, “Hey, dude, check this out. Am I reading this right?” Of course, he didn’t know who Wade Boggs was. He read it out loud. He’s like, “Yeah, so.” For like a year, I was tagging him on every picture that I posted of my collection, just hoping to get his attention. It worked. This was like 2014 or something like that. It took a couple of years for me to work up the courage to send him a DM. I remember coming across a piece I just knew wasn’t his. I sent him a picture of it and said, “Hey, Mr. Boggs, it’s me, your biggest fan, blah, blah, blah.” It was an autographed baseball. I knew it wasn’t legit, but I just wanted to see if he’d respond. He did. From that point forward, every once in a while, I’d hit him up and say, “Hey, how you’re doing” and wish him a Happy Fourth of July. That was cool.
And then, the pinnacle for me was in 2019 when Fourth of July rolled around. I sent him another direct message: “Happy Fourth of July. Hope you have a great time with your family.” He responded, “Yeah, Happy Fourth of July to you, too. By the way, when I see you at the National in August, I got something for you.” I was like, “What?!?” So yeah, at the National, when he did his signing, we were all in line. I had my dad and son with me. When it was my turn to approach the table, he said, “Rich, how you doing?” He knew my son. “Hey, Colton, how you doin’?” He reaches down in his briefcase and says, “I got you something.” Right away I could feel everybody behind me looking at me. It was his game-worn celebrity softball game jersey that he wore the year before at the Field of Dreams celebrity softball game. It was really cool. He autographed it for me and on the inscription on the back, I’m reading it right now, it says, “To Richard, my No. 1 collector. Wade Boggs.” I’m not going to say we’re friends, but if he wants to say we’re friends, we’re friends. I’ll just say we’re friendly acquaintances. If you’re a Rickey Henderson or Andre Dawson collector, if Dawson or Henderson knows you by name or even knows some of your family, that means you’ve made it.
With 10,000 cards, have you started to intrude on other people’s space in the house?
So, I’m divorced and remarried. I got four kids total, two from the first marriage and two from my current marriage. My two youngest are five and three. I’m down here in the basement in Boggs Tavern. They’re on the couch right now, watching some kind of cartoon or whatever. When my wife and I went house shopping five years ago, the plan was we’d get a house with a basement and the basement is mine; the rest of the house is yours. I get to do what I want with the basement without any of your input. She agreed to that. I’ve kept my word. I haven’t let anything migrate from the basement. The basement is totally mine. And you see what it is today. It’s all my creation.
How much more room do you have left?
I’ve already run out. I ran out a while ago. Now, I just kinda move things a little bit. I put something in between [something else]. It’s becoming a Tetris game, just trying to find places. I’ve definitely run out of space.