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Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 15, 2001


ONE OF THE KING'S MEN: Reliever Rusty Meacham grew up in Florida and usually favors country music, especially songs by his buddy Kenny Chesney, but his true love is Elvis Presley music.

He is such a big fan that he has a huge collection of Presley memorabilia at home, including books, records, posters and, of course, those kitschy clocks with those legs that shake. Such a big fan that he vividly remembers being 9 years old and waiting in line all night with his mother to see Presley in concert, and still recalls how bad he felt when Presley died a few months later. Such a big fan that when he played in Memphis in 1998 he made a beeline to tour Graceland the first chance he got. Such a big fan that any time an Elvis song is played on a ballpark PA system he'll stop what he's doing and take off his cap "just to pay tribute." (And such a loyal fan he was in mid salute one day this spring when he realized it was another artist singing and disgustedly replaced his cap.)

"I just love him," Meacham said.

In some ballparks, they play Jailhouse Rock when Meacham comes into a game. Here are his five all-time favorite Presley songs:

1. Don't Cry Daddy. 2. Suspicious Minds. 3. Return to Sender. 4. Hurt. 5. In the Ghetto.

BETTER GET A STRAW: Having previously displayed the world's largest duct tape baseball at Tropicana Field, the Rays on Sunday will unveil what is being billed as the world's largest glass of orange juice.

X-MAN: Wade Boggs has led the league in hitting, played in All-Star Games, won a World Series. But it may not be until now that he has really made it big: clue 24 down in Friday's USA Today crossword puzzle -- All-star Wade. "You want me to cut it out so you can put it on your fridge or something?" Doug Creek asked.

GOOD MORNING, MR. ... : When the phone in the room at the Toledo Holiday Inn rang at 6:30 a.m. Friday, roommates Aubrey Huff and Brent Abernathy weren't sure what was going on. "I thought it was a wake-up call, then I heard (Durham manager Bill Evers) say, "Let's go, we're going to the airport,' " Huff related. "And I was like, "Do you want me or Brent?' "

BITTEN BY CRIME DOG: Fred McGriff's home run off Toronto's Billy Koch on Tuesday extended to 297 the number of pitchers he has taken deep. With three more, he'll join Mark McGwire (348), Eddie Murray (327), Hank Aaron (310), Barry Bonds (307) and Reggie Jackson in the 300-plus club. Here are the pitchers against whom McGriff has done the most damage:

What they're saying

Tom Maloney, writing in Canada's National Post: "Count the night a slam-bam success, complete with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays playing the role of the Washington Generals in an 8-1 decision. The defensively challenged Rays could borrow from the French to call their traveling road show Follies Error."

Quote of the week

"When you win, it's enjoyable -- not to be revised." -- GERALD WILLIAMS, Rays centerfielder

By the numbers

5: Original Rays still with the team.

7: Players drafted by the Rays who reached the majors.

50: Games the Rays will play this season before facing their first 2000 playoff team.

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