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Black History Month

Fred McGriff

By MARC TOPKIN
Published February 13, 2004

photo
McGriff

AGE: 40.

CLAIM TO FAME: Having grown up in Tampa, collecting broken bats at the Cincinnati Reds' spring training camp and selling sodas at Tampa Stadium, then playing at Jefferson High, McGriff grew into one of baseball's most consistent sluggers, averaging 30 home runs over 161/2 major-league seasons. He came home to play 31/2 relatively productive seasons for the Devil Rays, but the bigger contribution he made to his hometown came off the field, primarily through his donations of time and money to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Inc. For six years, McGriff hosted a celebrity golf tournament to benefit the foundation, raising more than $1-million for research grants at All Children's and St. Joseph's hospitals. He also made contributions based on his production at the plate, matched by area companies, to contribute another $100,000. Without any publicity, he also made visits to the hospitals, often bearing gifts for the children. "He just has a real heart for kids, especially kids in a real tough way," agent Jim Krivacs said. And it was through involvement in McGriff's golf tournament that Rays general manager Chuck LaMar launched his celebrity fishing tournament, raising another $1-million for the foundation. "Fred's contributions to the foundation really put our name on the map," executive director Barbara Rebold said. In 2000, McGriff was nominated for Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award, presented annually to the player who combines outstanding baseball skills with devoted work in the community.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "You know Fred, he's kind of modest. He doesn't care about a lot of publicity. He cares about the kid and finding a cure for childhood cancer. He's a very generous man. He has a heart of gold."

- Barbara Rebold, executive director, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Inc.

DID YOU KNOW?: McGriff has hit home runs in a record 42 major-league stadiums. He also was the first player in major-league history to hit 30 or more homers in a season for five teams and to drive in 100 or more runs for four teams, and the second to hit 200 home runs in each league, joining Frank Robinson.

WHERE IS HE NOW?: McGriff is swinging toward the 500 home run milestone. He will be in spring training with the Rays on a minor-league contract, but if he can show he is healthy, is more likely to end up with another team. McGriff is nine shy of becoming the 20th member of the 500-homer club and adding an impressive credential for Hall of Fame consideration.

WORDS TO LIVE BY: "Kids never change. They always love you regardless. Being with them makes you think about life, about some of the things you worry about. You see the kids and it's a reality check. Going 0-for-4 is important, but it's not life or death."

[Last modified February 13, 2004, 09:58:11]


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