What goes up ...
By Marc Topkin
Published May 6, 2007
... doesn't always come down. At least at Tropicana Field. The Carlos Pena foul ball that stuck in the speaker attached to the B-ring catwalk above home plate Wednesday was what the Rays say is the fourth ball to defy gravity in the stadium's 10 seasons.
Jose Canseco did it twice - in a remarkable eight-home-game span - in 1999. He hit a fair ball into the B-ring catwalk that was ruled a double May 2 against Detroit, then a foul ball May 22 against Anaheim.
Kevin Millar, then with Florida, hit a fair ball that stuck in the B-ring catwalk during a June 28, 2002, game and was awarded a double.
The Trop is the leader, but not alone in this distinction. There have been at least two balls at the old Seattle Kingdome and the Minneapolis Metrodome that never came down, though only one was fair: a towering fly by Oakland's Dave Kingman on May 4, 1984, at the Metrodome that somehow went into a drainage hole in the roof. He, too, was awarded a double.
As odd as it was Wednesday, with everyone in the stadium looking up, Rays hitting coach Steve Henderson had seen it before.
He was a .294-hitting outfielder for the Mariners in 1983 when teammate Ricky Nelson hit a foul ball that went up and, essentially, disappeared somewhere in the Kingdome speaker system.
"We don't know what it hit, " Henderson said. "We don't know where it went. I don't think anyone ever knew. We'd still be looking for it."
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire had seen it once before, too, as a Twins coach when Cleveland's Alvaro Espinoza hit a ball that disappeared into a Metrodome speaker. Then to see it again Wednesday?
"It's nuts, " Gardenhire said.
Here's a look at the balls that haven't come down:
When Who Where What hit
8/4/79 Ruppert Jones Kingdome Speaker
5/20/83 Ricky Nelson Kingdome Speaker
5/4/84 Dave Kingman Metrodome Drainage hole*
7/14/96 Alvaro Espinoza Metrodome Speaker
5/2/99 Jose Canseco Trop Catwalk*
5/22/99 Jose Canseco Trop Catwalk
6/28/02 Kevin Millar Trop Catwalk*
5/2/07 Carlos Pena Trop Speaker
* Fair balls, doubles awarded
Bad to the bone
Long-time rocker George Thorogood - a huge baseball fan - stopped by the Trop before his Friday night gig at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg and said he's starting to take a liking to the Rays, impressed with their athleticism and attitude. "They've got some good-looking athletes, " Thorogood said. "I like to see a team that's too young to be scared."
There's a connection here somewhere ...
Cincinnati's Josh Hamilton, a former Rays prospect, recently had the distinction of playing all three outfield positions in a game. That had been done, according to Bill Arnold's Beyond the Box Score, 11 times in the previous three seasons. The last to do it was a former Ray, Randy Winn, who plays for the Giants. The only person to do it twice was Damon Hollins, as a Ray on Sept. 11 and Sept. 28, 2005.
Hold the date
When the Rays woke up tied for second Friday, it was the deepest into a season they had been that high since May 1999. As they've spent most of their 10 years in last, here's the latest, and the total game days, they've been elsewhere:
Games Total Place deep Date W-L days
First alone 5 April 9, 2004 3-2 6
First tied 9 April 16, 2004 5-4 12
Second 32 May 8, 1999 17-15 10
Second tied 31 May 7, 1999 16-15 13
Third 130 Aug. 29, 2004 59-71 81
Third tied 126 Aug. 24, 2004 58-68 38
Fourth 161 Oct. 3, 2004 70-91 163
Fourth tied 125 Aug. 23, 2000 55-70 35 Source: Times research, through Friday's games