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Rice throws first pitch before Game 3

Rice throws first pitch before Game 3

BOSTON -- An absolutely eager crowd at Fenway Park stood in unison Sunday night, proudly applauding one of the Red Sox's proudest alumni as he made his way to the mound for the ceremonial first pitch.

"One of the greatest hitters of his generation," the Sox public address announcer said over the loud speaker.

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Former Sox left fielder Jim Rice did the honor before Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels, waving his arms as he took the hill before a warm welcome from the Fenway faithful.

Wearing his No. 14 jersey to the hill, Rice delivered a strike before ace Josh Beckett took the hill to face the vaunted Angels lineup in hopes of a three-game sweep and a ticket to the AL Championship Series next weekend.

It was a pregame ceremony focused on the team's storied history as it tries to battle through the 2008 postseason.

Prior to both teams' rosters being introduced to the sellout crowd already in its seats a half hour before game time, the video board in center field showed a montage of the finest moments of all postseason appearances since the 1940s.

There was footage of Ted Williams and Johnny Pesky's AL pennant-winning squad in 1947, the "Impossible Dream" team of '67 and the infamous '86 meltdown against the New York Mets. Following the shortcomings was footage of the World Series titles in 2004 and '07, along with the playoff-clinching celebration against the Indians in '08.

It was clear the crowd on hand wanted to see another banner hoisted this season.

Then Rice, who clearly had much to do with the successes the Red Sox experienced during his 16-year career, took the field.

Rice, 55, played his entire career with the Sox -- compiling a career .298 batting average with 382 homers and 1,451 RBIs. He won the AL MVP in 1978, and remains close to the organization since his retirement in 1989. The right-handed-hitting slugger came up 16 votes short on the Hall of Fame ballot in January. By being named on 392 ballots, Rice finished at 72.2 percent, just shy of the 75 percent required for entry into the Hall of Fame.

Rice has just one more shot at making the Hall of Fame this winter. In the history of the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, every player who has reached the 70-percent plateau has eventually landed in the Hall of Fame.

Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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