PROVIDENCE — It was a match made in heaven (or, more accurately, the Statehouse): Rhode Islanders love the Boston Red Sox and are famously crazy about their license plates. Now they can have the best of both worlds.
Accompanied by Bosox President Larry Lucchino and legislative leaders on Monday, Gov. Lincoln Chafee visited Hasbro Children’s Hospital Monday to sign legislation creating special green license plates patterned after Fenway Park’s Green Monster and carrying the Red Sox logo next to the plate number.
Once 900 orders have been placed for the plates, the minimum number to make the project financially feasible, the Division of Motor Vehicles will start having the plates made and send them out to those driving under the influence of Red Sox Fever.
The plates will cost $41.50 above and beyond the usual registration fee. Of that amount, $21.50 will go to the state’s general fund to cover the cost of producing the plates and the remaining $20 will go to the Red Sox Foundation, the team’s charitable operation, which in turn will make grants to a variety of Rhode Island charities on a rotating basis.
“We are determined that we will be active participants in the Rhode Island community,” Lucchino said, noting that, “the fever in Rhode Island, the passion for the Red Sox is second to none throughout all of New England and perhaps anywhere in Red Sox Nation.”
He later hedged on that upon questioning by reporters, saying, “that doesn’t mean they are better than anyone else, just that they’re second to none.”
Joking aside, he said, “we appreciate that loyalty and support. Loyalty is a two-way street and support is a two-way street. We need to recognize Rhode Island for what it is and what it has done for the Red Sox.
“So if we can come down here through the Red Sox Foundation and to expand and deepen our activities in Rhode Island so we can repay you for some of that support and passion you have showed us, we will be very pleased with that opportunity.
“We hope to make some small contribution to the humaneness, to the fairness, to the kindness, the philanthropy of Rhode Island in the months and years ahead,” Lucchino said. He said the money generated by the plates will go to institutions like the Hasbro Children’s Hospital, but will also fund other educational and health care endeavors.
This is the third year the General Assembly has attempted to create a Red Sox plate, but the first year it has passed. Previous efforts were sidetracked because they would have funneled all the money generated to the Jimmy Fund, a Boston-based charity that helps children with cancer. Officials here wanted to make sure the money went to Rhode Island organizations.
Before signing the identical House and Senate bills, sponsored by Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy and Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, Chafee showed an impressive knowledge of baseball history and a Rhode Islander’s knack for finding excuses for the Sox’ long drought of World Series Championships before 2004.
He said if Tony Conigliaro hadn’t been severely injured when hit by a pitch during the 1967 season, that Impossible Dream year may have turned out differently. Same for 1975 when Jim Rice broke his hand and was out of action for that year’s series.
“In 1986,” the governor recalled, “I remember Mike Greenwell coming up to pinch hit when we were all yelling ‘Don Baylor, Don Baylor.’ I know we would have won in 1986 if Don Baylor was sent up to pinch-hit.” Ever the politician, he didn’t mention Bill Buckner.
Chafee pointed out that right now, the Red Sox have the best record in the American League and if it weren’t for a few extra percentage points the Philadelphia Phillies have, the Sox would be atop the baseball world.
Joining Lucchino and the government officials for photographs in front of a mock-up license plate was Wally the Green Monster, the Red Sox’ furry mascot.
Those interested in ordering a Red Sox Rhode Island license plate can do so through the website of the Red Sox Foundation, www.redsoxfoundation.org  . After the minimum of 900 have been ordered, the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles will begin offering them on its website.