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Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 16, 2002


OF FATHERS AND SONS: As much as any other holiday, Father's Day seems connected to baseball. And for at least three Rays, it highlights a special relationship.

Outfielder Ben Grieve grew up in the clubhouse and on the field. His dad, Tom, was in his final seasons as a big-leaguer when Ben was born in 1976, then started a front-office career that would lead to 10 years as general manager of the Rangers.

The impact on Ben's life? "It's obvious, isn't it? I was always around the game," he said. "But the one thing he did is that he didn't push me to play. I played because I wanted to play, and I think that way I enjoyed it more."

Hitting coach Milt May also grew up in the game. His father, Merrill "Pinky" May, had made the transition from big-league player to minor-league manager when Milt was born in 1950.

"He was in baseball for 40 years, probably 25 as a manager," Milt May said. "The whole time I was growing up, as soon as school was out we'd go to wherever he was, and I'd be a bat boy or help out somehow.. . ."

In 1966, Milt was a teenage bat boy for Pinky's Peninsula team in the Class A Carolina League. A player on that team was a first-year pro named Hal McRae.

Jared Sandberg is often asked what he has learned from his famous uncle, Ryne Sandberg. But ask Ryne who he learned the game from, and he'll tell you it was his older brother, Del -- Jared's father.

Del, who was a good enough second baseman to be a walk-on starter for a Washington State team that went to the College World Series, had the same impact on his son, sharing tips and lessons that Jared still uses today.

"Basically," Jared said, "he's the one who taught me to love the game and how to play the game."

TWICE THE FUN: First-base coach Lee May was one of the players Sandberg matched by hitting two homers in an inning. May, playing for Houston in 1974, went deep twice in the sixth inning against the Cubs.

"I didn't realize I'd done it," May said. "I hit the second home run and came in and then I realized it was the same inning. That inning took so long."

There was something else special about May's accomplishment. It was Foamer Night at the Astrodome, a promotion in which the team would turn on a red light briefly and fans got a free beer if an Astro homered when it was on.

"I got 'em twice," May said. "Ken Singleton said it looked like a fire drill, the fans were running out to go to the concession stand."

KISS IT GOODBYE, AGAIN: Sandberg was the 39th major-leaguer to hit two home runs in an inning on Tuesday, and is believed to be the first to do so batting ninth in the lineup. Below are five names you'd expect to see on the list, five who might surprise you, and five who aren't there:

THEY DID IT THEY DID IT, TOO THEY DIDN'T

Joe DiMaggio John Boccabella Hank Aaron

Willie McCovey Von Hayes Barry Bonds

Mark McGwire Ray Knight Mickey Mantle

Sammy Sosa Mike Lansing Frank Robinson

Hack Wilson Dave Nilsson Babe Ruth

EXCERPTED

From Hal Bodley's recent column in USA Today: "Forget about the Tampa Bay Devil Rays joining Montreal for baseball's version of the Last Dance. No matter what you hear and read, the Devil Rays will be back in 2003. In fact, I have a hunch that commissioner Bud Selig's plan to eliminate two teams is on the back burner. It's unlikely contraction will happen for next year. When it was certain the Minnesota Twins would be back next year, there were widespread reports Tampa Bay had moved up as Montreal's partner for elimination. Wrong."

ONLINE ITEM OF THE WEEK

A Josh Hamilton bobblehead doll, given out by the Triple-A Durham Bulls even though Hamilton has not played for them, had a bid of $15.99 Friday on eBay.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"We need to do more of this. Once in a blue moon is not enough."

-- HAL McRAE, Rays manager after team used a nine-run fifth inning to beat Dodgers 11-2 Tuesday


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