Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.
BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Wade Boggs once drank 64 cans of Miller Lite on a cross-country flight.
Wade Boggs was one of the best third baseman in Major League Baseball history and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.
Boggs also happened to be quite a drinker.
Boggs played for the New York Yankees for a number of years (even winning the World Series with the Yankees in 1996)…
While there he played with pitcher Jeff Nelson for a couple of seasons…
Nelson was on a radio show in 2004 when he made some interesting claims about Boggs’ drinking habits…
Nelson: Oh, I’d say, on a typical road trip, east coast to west coast, say a road game to Seattle……Wade would drink anywhere between 50 and 60 beers.
Show’s Host: NO WAY!! 50 or 60 beers. That is impossible.
Nelson: No, I know…I know how crazy that sounds, and I wouldn’t believe it myself unless I saw him do it…..numerous times. And he drank nothing but Miller Lite.
Host: How in the hell did he have time to drink that many beers. For God’s sake, how many times did he have to go to the bathroom?
Nelson: I’m not kidding you Steve. Seriously. Wade was the kind of guy who was always the first one at the club house. So he’d get to the clubhouse, and he’d bring a six pack with him. He’d be there drinking a beer when someone showed up, and as we were all packing our stuff up out of our lockers and getting our bags ready for the trip, Wade would sit there and drink that whole six pack.
Now, at the time, we were flying out of New Jersey, so it was somewhat of a drive from Yankee stadium to the airport in New Jersey. Wade would drink another couple of beers on the bus to the airport. At the time, we were flying this older airplane, it couldn’t make it across the country without refueling, and it wasn’t the fastest airplane in the sky. So we would stop in North Dakota or something. Wade would drink about a half rack between New Jersey and North Dakota, and it would take about a half-hour to an hour to refuel once we got there, so he’d have a few more beers while we were grounded in North Dakota.
Once we got back up in the air, Wade would drink another 10, 11, 12 beers on the way out to the west coast. The whole flight from coast to coast ususally took us well over 7 hours. We’d touch down at Sea-Tac, hop on the bus headed to the Kingdome, and Wade would have another beer or two on the bus. Then, all of us would get to the Kingdome and unpack our bags and sit around and BS with eachother, and Wade would have a beer in his hand the entire time. He was always one of the last people to leave the club house too. So I’d say that all in all, he drank over 50 beers on the trip, and this wasn’t just an isolated incident, he did that almost every time.
Boggs finished his career on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays…
and while there, he played with Paul Sorrento…
who also had played with Nelson in Seattle.
So Nelson called up Sorrento to verify his tale…
Nelson: Yeah, alright Paul, I need you to answer one question for me, truthfully now….How many beers would Wade Boggs drink on an east coast to west coast road trip?
Sorrento: Oh, jeez, (exhaling like a flat tire) I don’t know, like 70.
Boggs was asked about the story on Pardon the Interruption soon after his election in 2005, and he denied it. He admitted that he would drink a lot of beers, but not nearly that many.
So let’s take a look into seeing if this story is legit…
Let’s just do the math – Boggs’ playing weight was 197 pounds, cans of Miller Lite are 12 ounces and contain 4.2% alcohol. The story is supposedly that it happened over a 10 hour period.
So in that case, let’s just go with 50 cans of Miller Lite. Over 10 hours that would result in a Blood Alcohol Content of roughly 0.552 That’s over the level of alcohol poisoning!
To put it into perspective, 0.08 is basically drunk, so that would be nearly SEVEN TIMES that!
That’s not even getting into other logistical problems with the story. Forget the beer itself, the human body typically can’t handle that much liquid period. Again, only going with 50 beers here (and the most common story is 64), that’s roughly two liters of alcohol an hour. The human liver can only safely process one liter of liquid per hour. A 28-year-old woman died in 2007 after drinking six liters of WATER in three hours. That’s roughly how many liters of BEER Boggs would have to drink in the same time period for the 50 beers story to work. That just doesn’t make sense logistically.
So I think it’s safe to say that Wade Boggs did not drink 64 Miller Lites on a cross country trip, but I’ll certainly allow that he likely drank an ungodly amount of beer.
EDITED TO ADD ON JANUARY 23, 2015: Boggs has now decided to fully embrace the story, as the hit comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia built a whole episode around Boggs’ fabled drinking. One of the actors from the show, Charlie Day, was on The Tonight Show and Day says Boggs told him his record on cross-country flights was 107 beers.
Clearly, Boggs is going with the old Liberty Valance adage, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
But for us, the legend is…
Thanks to Tasty Booze for the transcript (dead link)!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org