Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
I guess no one told the Tampa Bay Rays players the history behind the Tampa Tarpons. How this franchise was one of the charter members of the Florida State League and finished last in 1919,their first season of existence in the new Class-D league. But this proud former farm system stop of the Cincinnati Reds did turn it around the following season and posted a 84-28 season for a .745 winning percentage, still tops in FSL history. Or maybe someone left out the tales of this franchise playing every season from 1919 to 1987, except for the four years that most baseball disbanded during World War II.
That the former home of the Tarpons, Al Lopez Field used to be just to the south of the former Tampa Stadium complex before it was finally razzed and demolished to give way to more parking spaces for the Tampa Sorts Authority. The Tarpons were sold in 1988 after Malcolm F. “Bunny” Mick and his brother Mitchell decided to get out of the baseball business. The team was in a state of hiatus until 2002 and re-emerged as the Jupiter Hammerheads.
And how many Rays players knew that in 1961 a young hustler named Pete Rose got his start up the Cincy food chain in Tampa where he batted .331, set a record of 30 triples ( still a FSL record) and also lead the FSL in errors. All this while also helping the Tarpons to the FSL Championship that season.
Other former Reds players who made a stop with the Tampa Tarpons include Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, Charlie Liebrandt, Ken Griffey Sr., Tom Browning and Dave Concepcion. The history involved with this storied franchise is amazing, and should have been a huge inspirational push for the Rays to beat the Baltimore Orioles tonight. The Rays did channel a bit of the Tarpon mystic tonight, but not the positive aspects we were hoping for in the end.
RRCollections The 1970 Tampa Tarpon squad that the Rays honored tonight while wearing their classic uniforms went 64-68 in the 1970 FSL West division. They squad scored a total of 433 runs, but also allowed 452 runs. It was a pretty mediocre team that was led by Manager Richard Kennedy. Most of the players on the 1970 Tarpon squad were between 19 and 23 years of age. It was a Class-A farm team of the Cincinnati Reds organization at that point, and only had a small handful of player who advanced through the Red’s system.
Players like Dan Driessen, Nardi Contreras, Rawly Eastwick, Tom Spencer and Joel Youngblood were the only notables from the 1970 Tarpon squad to make their way up the Reds farm system ladder.
Contreras was also the only Tampa, Florida native on the team’s roster. The top producer on that season’s team was Spencer who hit for a .285 average with 5 HR, 50 RBI and 21 SB in 130 games.
So maybe the Rays were channeling a bit of that 1970’s Tarpons team last night. Maybe they can find solace in the fact the Rays front office picked a team that did not reach the .500 mark in their season as their “Turn Back the Clock” brethren last night.
The Rays front office gurus might do the Rays a little favor in 2011 by checking the references and the statistics of the teams they are going to represent before deciding on the city, team and final standings in that season’s league. With that in mind, let me make a suggestion for the 2011 Rays “Turn Back the Clock” representative team.
I am thinking it should be either the 1968 St. Petersburg Cardinals who finished 96-43 (.691) and had hitters like Pedro Borbon, Boots Day, Jerry DaVanon and young First Baseman named Jose Cruz. Or maybe we can remember the Rays first team to win a Divisional Championship in their farm system, and honor the 1997 St. Petersburg Devil Rays who won the 1997 FSL Championship in their first year in the league. They were backed by a 81-56 record that season and had a host of future Rays on their squad.
This roster included a 19-year old Jared Sandberg, pitchers Mickey Calloway, and Rolando Arroyo. This team also had local baseball stars Scott Romano (Tampa), John Kaufman (Tampa), John Cafaro (Tampa) and Greg Blosser (Manatee).
Considering the “Tampa” name on the jerseys last night did not produce any sizeable advantage or confidence, maybe the Rays might be wise to again grasp their St. Pete roots and bring home a victory next year when we “Turn Back the Clock”.I almost forgot this nifty nugget of 1970 FSL information. During the 1970 FSL season, the Baltimore Orioles Class-A affiliate in the league was the eventual 1970 FSL Champions, the Miami Marlins. How ironic is that.
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