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BOGGS LEAVES BOSTON CLUBHOUSE FOR SEASON - AND MAYBE FOREVER

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Wade Boggs stuffed his belongings into the black equipment bag and zipped it shut. He was leaving Boston's clubhouse for the offseason and, perhaps, forever.

He was taking his confidence and his drive to succeed with him despite the worst season of his career and the prospect of starting over elsewhere at the age of 34."People always say good things come to an end. It's not a fun day. It really isn't," he said Sunday. "There's no more words to express it. It's just sad."

The five-time AL batting champion is expected to become a free agent.

But in his last at-bat of the year, he singled to left-center in the first inning of the Red Sox' 8-2 season-ending win over the New York Yankees. Nursing a strained leg muscle, he was a late lineup addition and left for a pinch-hitter in the third.

The single was his 2,098th hit. The run he scored that inning was his 1,067th of a brilliant career. But that career was marred by his .259 batting average, the first time in his 11 big-league seasons that he didn't hit more than .300.

"It feels like you're leaving high school," Boggs said before what may have been his last game in a Boston uniform, "and I flunked."

He was a shadow of the accomplished hitter who started the year with a .345 average, best in Red Sox history. He fell to .338, second to Ted Williams' .344.

"Wade has been a great hitter," manager Butch Hobson said Sunday. "If he's not here next year, I'll miss him."

The Red Sox have been non-commital about re-signing him.

"I don't think they want me, to tell you the truth," a relaxed Boggs said before Sunday's game.

He knows he'll be playing somewhere.

"You can bet on that. I'm not done like a lot of people have said around here," he said. "Too many circumstances have been around this year to count me out. I'll be back. I'll be better."