Wezen-ball has a nice research piece on whether Jim Rice was the most “feared” slugger of his time. Personally, I find this whole “feared” thing to be an bizarre way of judging a player to be Hall of Fame material. Dick Allen was feared in his day, but that seems to work against him.
For what it’s worth, I did a quick search in the New York Times archives and found two references to Rice being feared. In June, 1978, Reggie Jackson said “He’s the most feared hitter in the game right now.” In a 1979 article about Rice’s golf game, Dave Anderson reported “But his quiet pride as baseball’s most feared home-run hitter was apparent…”
Make of that what you will.