An hour ago my wife pulled me away from my Apple Mac Book Pro and lured me toward the television to watch the last inning of the “Sox” game.
No, not the Red Sox.
Instead, the Chicago White Sox were about to get bounced out of the ALDS and MLB Playoffs by the Tampa Bay Rays on a chilly night in Chicago. (Ever since they took the “Devil” out of their name their fortunes have changed. Coincidence? Hmmm…)
So I watched the last three painful outs not just for the White Sox but for all Chicagoland baseball fans. I lived, on and off, in Chicago for three years when I was syndicated at Sporting News radio. My cousin is a White Sox Hall of Famer, even though I’ve never been a fan of the Southsiders.
But I know this: Chicago loves baseball. And with the final whiff of Ken Griffey’s bat (and perhaps career), Chicago was extinguished yet again from the hope of a World Championship. Well, they got theirs three years ago when the Sox won, but it’s all over for another winter in the Windy City.
And then I watched a beautiful thing?
An old Baltimore P.R. friend named Rick Vaughn – the man who single-handedly orchestrated one of the greatest days in Baltimore’s vaunted sports history, the final O’s game on 33rd Street back in 1991 (it actually was 17 years ago today!) – was amongst the throng of celebrating young men in gray jerseys.
But the Rays’ P.R. extraordinaire Rick Vaughn (and yes, he shares the same name as the Charlie Sheen character from “Major League”) left Baltimore when the Angelos family purchased the Orioles in 1994 and moved on to become the P.R. poobah for his first love, the Washington Redskins. He lasted a short time there before returning to baseball as the first and only P.R. guy for the Tampa Bay Devils Rays.
That was BEFORE the disease of Angelos inflicted the Orioles. Can you imagine anything worse than watching the Orioles since 1998? Well, think about the Tampa Bay Rays, who not only never had any history with Brooks and Boog and Frank and Cakes and Eddie and Cal and Earl?
Before this six months of incredible turnaround that landed them wildly celebrating with champagne in the bowels of Comiskey Park tonight, they had never won 70 games in a season. That’s 10 seasons of sucking worse – way worse when you consider they only finished fourth once in that span – than the freaking Orioles.
And Rick Vaughn sat through every lonely losing flight from Anaheim to Seattle from Boston to Texas and back home to sunny Tampa Bay. Where any game that they drew five figures was a giveaway night or a night when the Red Sox or Yankees were in town.
(Does that sound familiar?)
So, this celebration tonight tears at me on two levels:
1. I feel so good for Vaughn, who is one of the true professionals and good people I’ve encountered in all of my years on the sports media beat, and also for manager Joe Maddon, who has always been a gem of a guy to deal with when I’ve been around him.
2. It makes me wanna puke that the Tampa Rays can actually have a team worthy of hosting ALCS games this week and the Orioles have just finished their 11th consecutive worthless season en route to at least a few more. And the stadium and the city sits empty while Tampa (a city that doesn’t even deserve a baseball team and has no fans) gets to host mid-October baseball. I’m insanely jealous and angry all over again.
Sure, the Orioles and Bud Selig will tell you that “stories like the Tampa story can happen in Baltimore.”
Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.
But, tonight and for the next few weeks, I’ll choose to cheer for the “little guys” in Tampa and even feel good for the heckler behind home plate, who was also a really good guy when I went to Tropicana Field last April in support of Free The Birds.
My wife is a little pissed that I’m supporting the Rays, but I’m sick of Boston. And I’m sick of the Red Sox.
Red Sox vs. Rays?
David vs. Goliath?
Nah, I’m just supporting Rick Vaughn and hope that he gets that championship ring that he never would’ve gotten had he stayed in Baltimore 15 years ago.
Let’s Go Rays!