Thursday, July 4, 2013

June 19- Tampa Bay Devil Rays

I’m still trying to figure out how it’s possible that I own so many Tampa Bay Devil Rays hats at which none of them were actually used on the field. Today marks the third time I’ve written about a Devil Rays cap which was custom made to look like a game-worn cap, but features slight differences to prove its dismissal. The other two caps I wrote about on January 8th and almost two weeks ago on June 7th. Both of these caps feature the same logo on the front as this one, the slightly off-center “TB” with the upward moving Devil Ray, but the main differences in each cap came in the form of the bill color or the overall penal and bill color combination. I realize all of this sounds way more complicated than it should, but it’s just the way it is. This particular logo was actually used on the team’s caps from 1999-2000; however, the cap itself featured black panels and a black bill. This cap is a combination of those two years’ caps, according to the panels and logo; however, the purple bill was only used for their home caps during their inaugural season in 1998 on this cap which I wrote about on February 28th. So in a nut shell, this cap is a combination of the first three years in the history of the Devil Rays. Whew! Now that we have that settled, let’s move on.

I picked this fancy little number up in Union Square in Manhattan on May 7th during my time in the MLB Fan Cave. We had gotten a three-hour break in between games after a short visit from current Beach Boys members Mike Love and Bruce Johnston. Love, if you didn’t know, is the uncle of Minnesota Timberwolves power forward and Oregon-born Kevin Love. Love didn’t say much during the 35 minutes or so that they were there, but Johnston was a gas. For as old as he is the man was full of energy. He told us stories of past tours after he took over at bass in 1965 with the departure of Glen Campbell. Johnston then left the group in 1972 to embark upon a successful solo career. What’s most interesting about this time period is that Johnston won a Grammy award for “Song of the Year” in 1977.


In 2011 my roommate at the University of Oregon and I went to Magic Mountain in Valencia, California the day before the Ducks had won the Rose Bowl over the University of Wisconsin Badgers. One of the most popular ides featured is a ridiculous roller coaster called X2. It’s hard to describe its awesomeness so I just suggest you go check it out. One of the perks of waiting in line for over an hour it was that there was a guy kicking it in the middle of the line barriers tossing out trivia questions while we waited. No prizes were awarded, but it was a great way to keep your mind off the lull. For a good 25 minutes while Jared and I were waiting I answered all but one of the questions right, and we’re talking out of about 40 or 50 questions. The topics varied, but I knew my stuff. One of the questions that I only knew was, “What’s the name of the resort that Zak Morris and his friends from “Saved by the Bell” worked at?” The answer: Malibu Sands Beach Club. It also haled that I knew the name of the owner, Leon Carosi, and his daughter Stacey’s names. What’s the point of this tangent you may be thinking? The last question he asked was, “What is the name of the “ironic” sing that Barry Manilow won a Grammy for in 1977, but didn’t write?” As soon as he asked this question he thought he stumped me… until I said, “I Write the Songs.” And then I followed it up with, “Yah, it was written by Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys.” After I let that out the quiz master then said, “Well, on that note I’m going on break.”

Back to the Story

While we were giving Johnston and Love a tour around that song came up in the discussion. It was actually proposed as more of a question from Johnston to see if any of knew what he was talking about. This is when I chimed in with the song title, the artist who got famous for it, what awards he won from it, etc. Johnston was rather blown away by the fact that someone as young as me knew, not only who he was, but so much about his career. This is when I explained to him that I had taken A LOT of music history courses, not to mention, studied a lot of this stuff on my own. This of course was all made better by the fact that my fellow Cave Dwellers and I had no clue they were coming in. I admit it. I get nerdy on occasion.

After they left we were free to mill about. I opted to catch the N train down to Union Station where the largest Lids in the city is located, all the while listening to “Pet Sounds” on my IPod. I had been there a few times before, every visiting pretty much entailing that I would be leaving with somewhere between five and 11 hats. I mean, when you look at a wall like this you just know you’ll find something that you need, especially if you’re an ardent New Era Cap collector like myself.

It wasn’t until I got back to the Fan Cave that I realized I had made a “mistake” in purchasing this cap. I don’t have anything against it; it’s just that I had mistaken the 1998 home cap for this one. I’m a little bit of a stickler when it comes to game style caps is all, but I do really enjoy this one. As for the marks, I had to keep it within the realm of when it could have been used if it were.

#13- Very few really remember this guy playing for the Devil Rays, but he did from 1998-2000. Miguel Cairo was originally signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers at the age of 16 in 1990, although he didn’t make his Major League debut until April 17, 1996 with the Toronto Blue Jays where he only played in nine games that season. On November 20, 1996, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for minor leaguer Jason Stevenson. Cairo spent most of the 1997 season with the AAA Iowa Cubs, where he hit .279 in 135 games and was selected to the American Association All-Star team. He also appeared in 16 games for the Cubs and had 7 hits in 29 at-bats (.241).

Having not played in very many games Cairo was not added to the Cubs’ protected list for the upcoming expansion draft, which would help the incoming Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks fill their rosters and minor league affiliates. The Devil Rays selected Cairo with the eighth overall pick. He hit his first home run on April 28, 1998 off of Mike Oquist of the Oakland Athletics. Cairo had a pretty decent three years in Tampa. He hit .275 with 373 hits, 69 stolen bases and 116 RBI in 389 games before getting singed by the Athletics after his he became a free agent, but was ultimately traded back to the Cubs for Eric Hinske just a few days away from the start of the 2001 season.

#39- A bit of a journeyman after the 1997 season, Roberto Hernandez found his way onto the Devil Rays as one of the few free agents they decided to sign going into their inaugural season. One thing I should first point out is that this is not the same Roberto Hernandez, formerly Fausto Carmona, who currently pitches for the Rays. This Hernandez was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City. He was taken with the 16th overall pick by the California Angels in the 1986 amateur draft out of the University of Connecticut. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1989. In 1991, while pitching for the Vancouver Canadians of the Pacific Coast League, Hernandez experienced numbness in his pitching hand, later determined to be caused by blood clots. He was rushed into emergency surgery to have veins transplanted from his inner thigh to his forearm. The surgery was successful and he went on to make his major league debut as a starting pitcher against the Kansas City Royals on September 2 of that year.
Hernandez had a long and largely successful career as a relief pitcher in the major leagues. In 1993 he was instrumental in the White Sox' drive for the American League West Division pennant, going 2–1 with 21 saves in the second half of the season. He made four appearances in the American League Championship Series that year and pitched four scoreless innings.
In 1997, Hernandez was traded to the San Francisco Giants as part of a nine-player deal and appeared in all three games of the National League Division Series against the Florida Marlins. After the season, he signed as a free agent with the Devil Rays. In 1999, he earned his career-high of 43 saves which is also a Devil Rays team record. His 43 saves were for a team that only won 69 games overall.
His performance level declined after being traded to the Kansas City Royals prior to the 2001 season. Since then, he has signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves in 2003, the Philadelphia Phillies in 2004 and the New York Mets in 2005. After 2002, he moved from being a closer to being a setup man, in which role he has generally flourished. He signed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 2006 season. On July 31, 2006, Hernandez was reacquired by the Mets along with pitcher Oliver Perez for outfielder Xavier Nady.
On December 2, 2006, Hernandez signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Cleveland Indians for the 2007 season with a $3.7 million club option for 2008. Coming out of spring training, he and Rafael Betancourt were the Indians' primary right-handed eighth-inning relievers. But Hernandez pitched poorly over the first three months of the season (6.23 ERA in 28 games) and eventually lost the confidence of manager Eric Wedge. He was designated for assignment June 20 and waived for the purposes of giving him his unconditional release June 28. Hernandez was signed to a minor league contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 7, 2007 and, after pitching in one game for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, was recalled to the Dodgers on July 18.
On August 16, 2007, Hernandez appeared in his 1000th game against the Houston Astros. He became the 11th pitcher in major league baseball history to appear in 1000 career games. Hernandez made two All-Star Game rosters; the first in 1996 with the White Sox and the second in 1999 with the Devil Rays. In both of those seasons Hernandez cracked the top-10 in voting for the AL Cy Young award as well; the only times he ever made the lists.

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