Wade Boggs, the newest member of baseball's 3,000-hit club, emerged from the Devil Rays' dugout yesterday and immediately walked over and hugged Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter ever.

"I read your book in high school, and you gave me the inspiration to just try and be a little bit as good as you," Boggs said during the ceremony marking Wade Boggs Day. "That inspiration has carried me."

Williams took off and tipped his hat after Boggs's comment.

"He's a little different type hitter than some other great hitters I've seen, but they in turn haven't been Wade Boggs," Williams said. "Three thousand and four [hits] . . . Wow. Anybody that gets 3,000 hits in this game, buddy, can hit."

In the eighth inning, Boggs got hit 3,005, a single that set up the go-ahead run in the Devil Rays' win.

Boggs's wife, Debbie; daughter, Meagan; son, Brett; and father, Win, took part in the ceremony. Boggs became emotional when talking about the role his father played in his baseball development and when thanking the fans.

During the 40-minute ceremony, Boggs was presented with the home plate he kissed after becoming the first player to homer for his 3,000th hit on Aug. 7th. He also received the Joseph Cronin Award for significant achievement from AL President Gene Budig and a fishing boat from the Devil Rays.