© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001
Some Rays have some interesting connections with Cal Ripken, whose retirement tour stops at Tropicana Field on Aug. 21-23. Among them:
CAL CONNECTION, PART I: Rays manager Hal McRae was there at the very beginning of Ripken's major-league career. The very beginning. When Ripken made his major-league debut Aug. 10, 1981 -- the first game after the resolution of the players strike -- McRae was the Royals DH. Ripken came in as a pinch-runner in the 12th inning and, naturally, scored the winning run.
CAL CONNECTION, PART II: Rays trainer Jamie Reed spent eight years around Ripken and the Orioles as assistant trainer. What impressed Reed most about Ripken was his consistency on and off the field. "The streak was just a byproduct of a very consistent and hardworking person," Reed said. "The eight years I was in Baltimore, the same guy came to the ballpark every day. The same consistent personality, work ethic, respect for people in the clubhouse. You travel around the American League and every clubhouse assistant, every bat boy will say no one treats them better than Cal Ripken. He has a tremendous amount of respect for everybody in the game at all levels. The streak is a byproduct of that consistency."
CAL CONNECTION, PART III: Rays PR chief Rick Vaughn saw a different side of Ripken during his 10 years with the Orioles. "Everyone has this image of Cal as being stoic and measured and somewhat reserved," Vaughn said, "but I got to see the little kid in him." Vaughn's introduction to Ripken came on a frigid December 1984 day when Ripken and some teammates gathered in the clubhouse in old Memorial Stadium -- to play floor hockey, using bats as sticks and a ball as the puck. "It was as intense a game as I've ever seen in my life," Vaughn said. "I'm thinking, "This guy was the MVP in 1983 and here he is in socks sliding around on the floor.' I'd go in there after a game or during a rain delay and he'd be playing tape ball or sock ball or something. The coolest thing for me was to see how much little boy he had in him."
GO BARRY GO: Fans responding to an ESPN.com poll don't have much faith in the Rays: Nearly 19,000 said they expect the Rays to tie or surpass the 1962 Mets record of 120 losses. That made the Rays the second-most popular answer to the question asking, "Who is most likely to make history this season?" The top choice, by 39 percent of the almost 100,000 respondents, was Barry Bonds hitting 70 home runs.
The first game in Rays organization history was a rookie-level Gulf Coast League clash with the Yankees on June 19, 1996, before 7,582 at then-Al Lang Stadium. Victor Zambrano on Thursday became the first Rays player from that game to make it to the majors. The Rays squad also included Jared Sandberg, Paul Wilder, Cedrick Bowers and Delvin James. (The Yankees squad featured shortstop Cristian Guzman, who stars for Minnesota, and 1B prospect Nick Johnson, currently at Triple A.) A look at the Rays lineup:
(Pos, player, current status)
CF,Alex Sanchez,Claimed by Brewers, in majors
RF,Tony McCladdie,Released in '97
PH,Mel. Gonzalez,Released in '97
3B,Doug Johnson,On restricted list; Falcons QB
C,Miguel Suriel,Released in '99
C,Octavio Blanco,Released in '97
1B,Jesus Stephens,Released in '98
RF,Francisco Guerrero, Released in '98
LF,Chie Gunner,Released in '99
2B,Edgar Ramirez,Released in '00
SS,Eddy de los Santos, Double-A Orlando
SP,Pablo Ortega,Mexico City
RP,Ronni Severino,Double-A Orlando
29: Games in which the Rays have allowed at least eight runs
60: Wins needed by Rays in their final 89 games to finish .500.
After 73 games (Year, W-L, Pct., P-GB)
Overall (Year, W-L, .Pct., P-GB)
2001,47-115*, .290*, ?-??
* projected. P-GB: Place in East Division-games behind first
-- Compiled by Marc Topkin.