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Delay lasts longer

The Rays will resume play Monday against the Yankees at the Trop.

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 14, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- When the pagers and the cell phones began ringing Thursday at Tropicana Field, Hal McRae could stop guessing.

"It seems to be the right thing to do because we're very sensitive to what happened," the Rays manager said after learning commissioner Bud Selig had postponed all games. "The country is united and everyone is together in this thing."

Hours after the NFL revealed it was canceling its games in response to Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Selig announced play would not resume until Monday.

What will be a six-day interruption is the longest nonlabor related stoppage since the 1918 season ended a month premature because of World War I.

"I have wrestled with this over and over in the last 24 hours," Selig said. "The more I thought about it, I couldn't rationalize starting earlier than Monday."

Six games are scheduled in the National League on Monday while the lone American League contest will take place at Tropicana Field.

The Rays play the Yankees at 7:15 p.m.

"Hopefully when we go back out there it's the right time and we're able to focus on the game and get the job done," Rays pitcher Joe Kennedy said. "There may be a lot of eyes on us being the only game being played, the first sports games. There's going to be a lot of people watching to see what we do.

"I think we're going to have to set an example."

Tampa Bay, which travels to Boston and Toronto next week and New York the week after, will end the season with a 10-game homestand thanks to the combined six games against the Red Sox (Oct. 1-3) and Yankees (Oct. 4-6).

And instead of finishing their careers before unfamiliar fans, Baltimore's Cal Ripken and San Diego's Tony Gwynn will play their final games at home.

Barry Bonds will not be cheated of a chance to match and surpass Mark McGwire's season home run mark. Teams in the playoff and wild-card races will have the opportunity to decide their seasons.

"I think that if we can get back in the swing of things," catcher John Flaherty said, "show everybody that we're getting back to normal, we're getting into our routines, the sooner the better."

The 91 postponed games will be made up starting Oct. 1.

No postseason schedule has been released but the start of the playoffs and World Series is expected to be pushed back a week. The World Series, originally scheduled to begin on Oct. 20, could then extend into the first week of November.

Remembering that baseball's labor agreement between the players and owners expires on Oct. 31, the Major League Baseball Players Association conducted a conference call Thursday. Flaherty, the Rays player representative, said baseball's handling of this week's crisis could be an example for the upcoming labor talks.

"Maybe this will be our model, this is what we're going to try to do to get it resolved as quickly as possible so that we can all move on as a business, as a country," he said. "Maybe that will be our plan to show the public what we're trying to do to get things back to normal."

Among the tributes planned when play resumes, Selig announced, are American flags on players uniforms, a moment of silence before each game on Monday, either before or during the games fans will be asked to sing God Bless America and each club will give miniature American flags to fans in attendance.

"Baseball is a game and there's so much at stake right now," Rays outfielder Greg Vaughn said. "There's lives. There's people that I know whose families are affected. Part of my family is in upstate New York. It's a situation where those are the most important things. The most important thing is not baseball at this time.

"It is our job and it is important, but it's not the most important thing. ... Even coming back is going to be tough because of all the tragedy that has happened."

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