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The evolution of the Devil Rays

[Times files (1998)]
Tropicana Field is lit up orange after the Devil Rays' opening game on March 31, 1998.

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


March 9 -- The franchise is awarded at a major-league owners meeting in Palm Beach.

April 27 -- The team and city agree on a 30-year lease at what was then called the ThunderDome.

July 19 -- Chuck LaMar, assistant general manager of the Atlanta Braves, is hired as general manager.


Oct. 3 -- The ThunderDome becomes Tropicana Field in a 30-year deal worth $30-million to $50-million.

Oct. 7 -- Ground is broken on the 15-month, $63-million stadium renovation.


Oct. 15 -- The Rays are placed in the American League East.

Nov. 7 -- Marlins pitching coach Larry Rothschild is named manager.

Dec. 6 -- Individual game tickets go on sale; Opening Day sells out in 17 minutes.


Feb. 26 -- The Rays take the field for the first time as a team, beating Florida State 6-3.

March 20 -- A Dillard's executive cancels orders for any more Rays merchandise after the team's managing general partner, Vince Naimoli, chews out the chain's brass because he is upset with Dillard's for using the team's uniform logo without permission.

March 27 -- The Rays play their first game in Tropicana Field, an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves.

March 31 -- Wilson Alvarez starts the Rays first-ever game; they lose 11-6 to Detroit before 45,369 fans, the only sellout at Tropicana Field.

April 1 -- The Rays get their first win, 11-8 over the Tigers before 30,109.

Oct. 5 -- Rays reduce price of most season tickets, raise price of most single-game tickets.


Feb. 11 -- Senior vice president of sales and marketing Mike Veeck announces "Off the Wall" ticket sales campaign.

Feb. 25 -- Rays sue Danka Business Systems, claiming the company owes more than $150,000 in sponsorship fees and a missed rental payment for its luxury suite.

May 25 -- Veeck resigns.

Oct. 5 -- Rays say they won't raise ticket prices for 2000.

Nov. 11 -- Florida Progress Corp., with a $5-million ownership stake in the Rays, announces $15-million lump sum payment as part of new sponsorship deal that runs through 2007.

Dec. 10 -- Rays sue Pinellas County's property appraiser over a $38,571 property tax bill.


Feb. 14 -- Team announces reduction in home games on TV, hoping to attract more fans to home games.

April 9 -- Rays remove copies of the St. Petersburg Times from Tropicana Field and Naimoli threatens legal action and demands an apology over sports section spoof of him; Rays lose 17-4 to Indians in their only national TV game of the season.

June 12 -- It is reported that Naimoli has ordered the Rays to shun a fundraiser for the medically needy because organizers decided to hold it at St. Petersburg's Coliseum instead of Tropicana Field.

Oct. 1 -- The St. Petersburg High School band is scheduled to play the national anthem before the game, but cancels because the team wants to charge band members admission.

Nov. 13 -- Naimoli succeeds in getting assessment on his five-bedroom, 61/2-bath, 14,368-square-foot home in Avila reduced by $99,630, saving nearly $2,400 in taxes.

Dec. 11 -- Rays sue Pinellas County's property appraiser over a property tax bill of about $35,000 that the team says it should not have to pay.


Feb. 6 -- Rays unveil new uniforms, logo, color scheme and shortened name, eliminating Devil from lettering across chest.

March 21 -- Naimoli draws a sour reaction from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce after chastising the host hotel for failing to renew its season tickets.

April 3 -- Rays beat Toronto 8-1 in season opener before 41,546; they then lose the next seven games.

April 18 -- Rothschild fired, replaced as manager by bench coach Hal McRae.

April 25 -- The Times reports a rift among the Rays ownership group.

- Compiled by Bruce Lowitt and Marc Topkin from information in Times files.

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