"I never expected us to finish the season 162-0," said third
baseman Wade Boggs, after the expansion Devil Rays lost their
opening game on March 31. "I was thinking more like 160-2."
While Tampa Bay started the season 4-2 and was two games ahead
of the mighty Yankees in the American League East through
Sunday, the most significant impact of the franchise's inaugural
season will not be in the standingsbut in the stands.
Boggs, 39, said last week that he didn't see a regulation major
league game in person until the day he made his debut with the
Red Sox when he was 23 years old. Devil Rays first baseman Fred
McGriff didn't witness his first regulation major league game
until he was a 22-year-old first baseman with the Blue Jays.
When Boggs and McGriff were growing up in Tampa, the nearest
major league stadium was in Atlanta, 458 miles away.
Boggs's hometown now has its own big leaguer to
(Ronald C. Modra)
Reared just four blocks from Al Lopez Field, where the Reds
staged spring training, McGriff became a Cincinnati fan. He had
no baseball icons, nobody he emulated while swinging a bat in
his backyard. His only Tampa sports hero was quarterback Doug
Williams of the Buccaneers.
Boggs remembers rooting for the Athletics and says as a kid his
favorite player was the Reds' Pete Rose. "We had to find our
baseball heroes elsewhere," Boggs says, "because we didn't have
anybody local to call our own."
So while each of the 25 Devil Rays enjoyed making history last
week, it was a particularly proud moment for McGriff and Boggs.
Until the team's opener, McGriff's last official baseball game
in Tampa had been with his Jefferson High team in 1981. "Getting
a baseball team in Tampa has been a long time coming, but now
we're on the map," McGriff said after the opener. "Now kids can
grow up hoping someday to be Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They have
idols right in front of them."
Issue date: April 13, 1998