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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Toby Hall was a Devil Ray for 10 years, about as long as just about anyone in uniform.
By Marc Topkin
Published June 24, 2007
Toby Hall was a Devil Ray for 10 years, about as long as just about anyone in uniform. He was drafted in 1997, made his big-league debut in 2000 and played somewhat regularly until being traded a year ago (June 27) to the Dodgers. He then signed with the White Sox, worked hard to recover from a spring shoulder injury rather than have surgery and made his Sox debut in mid May.
Hall was a big figure with the Rays, popular for his ever-changing facial hair, known for his charitable work in the community, criticized for his inconsistent play and remembered for taking shots at the organization as he became frustrated with the constant losing. (For example, when it was rumored the Rays might offer him a minor-league contract last winter, he said: "That was funny. I guess it would be a minor-league contract because they're a minor-league team.")
Hall enjoyed playing against the Rays in Chicago on Memorial Day weekend but has been looking forward to this week's return to the Tampa Bay area, where he still makes his offseason home.
"That's what's really going to be fun, " he said.
Days of their lives
The players with the most years and days with the Rays, based on the 172-day major-league year, though Saturday:
Service, Player time
Aubrey Huff 5.102
Travis Harper 5.038
Wilson Alvarez 5.000
John Flaherty 5.000
Esteban Yan 5.000
Toby Hall 4.156
Carl Crawford 4.154
Rocco Baldelli 4.082
Randy Winn 4.000
Piece of history
The Rays had a small hand in Sammy Sosa's success, allowing three of his 601 home runs:
No. 575, by Scott Kazmir on April 12, 2005
No. 585, by Casey Fossum on July 24, 2005
No. 597, by Casey Fossum on May 16, 2007
But they played another part in the Sosa story, innocent bystanders on June 3, 2003, when he swung at a Jeremi Gonzalez pitch and his bat, and his image, shattered as cork flew out. The result was a seven-game suspension and increased suspicion over his past and future accomplishments.
"That's something you never forget, " said Carl Crawford, who, with Rocco Baldelli, are the only Rays left from that game. "Something you tell the grandchildren."
Seeing Red ...
Manager Joe Maddon tried to be all political by saying he also rooted for the Bucs, but during last week's trip to Arizona he showed his true colors as a serious fan of the football Cardinals. (As if the framed Maddon No. 70 Cardinals jersey on his office wall at the Trop wasn't a hint.)
"Since 1962, I've liked this team, " Maddon said. "You have to appreciate my sense of loyalty. This goes back to when Charley Johnson was the quarterback and when MacArthur Lane was the running back and Conrad Dobler was the meanest, dirtiest left guard in all of football. Air Coryell - I went through the whole thing. Neil Lomax, Portland State. I got it all.
"Right now, I think they're ready to ascend to the top, and they'll be in the Super Bowl in the very near future."
Maddon is a bit conflicted, however, over former Cards quarterback Jake Plummer, noting a Plummer-signed ball as one of his prized possessions and offering to be an envoy to help the Bucs' attempts to persuade the Snake to come to Tampa.
Meanwhile, the Spanish sports Web site batanga.sportsya.com apparently lost something in translation, reporting that though Plummer didn't show up for minicamp, his "deal with the Devil Rays is still in force" and the team hopes he makes up his mind.
Internet item of the week
On Friday, Tampa-based Elite Sports Marketing listed on eBay two balls and a bat signed by Elijah Dukes, noting: "Get your Dukes' memorabilia cheap, before he reaches star status and commands star money. It won't be long, so act fast."