By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 28, 2002
LENDING A HAND: Manager Hal McRae had a chance to change baseball history.
McRae was in the on-deck circle July24, 1983, when the controversy erupted over the amount of pine tar on Royals teammate George Brett's bat. He heard Yankees manager Billy Martin scream for the bat boy to grab Brett's bat, wondering what all the fuss was about.
"I realized that if I'd gotten the bat and thrown it in the dugout, there would have been no way to prove that was the bat he used," McRae said. "But I didn't know what the rule was at the time. "Now I'm glad that I didn't because we won the game, No.1, and George got rid of the hemorrhoid thing that was following him around. I heard him say on TV the other night he was known as the guy who had hemorrhoids in postseason play, and now he's known for the pine tar. He said he was glad that it happened to him, and I guess I have to side with him. So I'm glad I didn't grab the bat."
KEEP THE RECEIPTS: With Wednesday's nonwaiver trade deadline approaching, players know not to get too wrapped up in the rumors. They also know things such as not to send out dry cleaning this week.
Trades can happen at any time, and sometimes, they happen at remarkably odd times. Chris Gomez was relaxing in his Dearborn, Mich., apartment the June 1996 morning he (and John Flaherty) were traded from Detroit to San Diego. He was told he had about three hours to pack up his life, get his equipment from Tiger Stadium and catch a flight.
Paul Wilson's parents had driven from Orlando to spend a July 2000 week with him in Norfolk, Va., where he was pitching for the Mets' Triple-A team. But he was told that night he had been traded to the Rays and had to go immediately to Kansas City to join the big-league team. His parents? They drove home the next day.
Jason Conti was walking back to the dugout after being thrown out at third in the middle of a Triple-A game in New Orleans last July when he was told not to go back on the field. A half-hour later, he found out he was traded to Tampa Bay, had to fly back to Arizona to pack up, then on to meet the Triple-A Durham team the next day.
Greg Vaughn was getting ready for a game the July 1996 day he was traded from Milwaukee to contending San Diego and was so excited he didn't bother to go back to his apartment. "When I found out I was going home (to California) and I was going into a pennant race, I couldn't believe it," Vaughn said. "I didn't want to take a chance on missing my flight. I paid somebody to pack up for me."
HARRY POTTER AND THE CATASTROPHIC CATWALK: To celebrate the little wizard's "birthday," children attending Wednesday's game will get a Harry Potter button and a chance to win the new-in-paperback Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
When Gomez was released by the Padres in June 2001, he believed he was "the worst player in the major leagues, by far." He signed a Triple-A deal with the Rays and a month later was back in the big leagues. In the year since, Gomez, 31, has re-established himself as a capable big-leaguer: "Coming from where I was a couple years ago, I'm pretty proud of that. Hopefully, my best years are ahead of me. I feel that they are."
From Mike Rutsey's story in Monday's Toronto Sun: "As the saying goes: "You lie down with dogs, you get fleas.' To put it another way, you get matched up with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays long enough and you end up playing like them."
Quote of the Week
"It was like Fantasyland there for a while."
-- CARL CRAWFORD, Rays 20-year-old rookie outfielder on facing Pedro Martinez in Fenway Park.
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