Back in 2000, the (then Devil) Rays had a promotion where they brought some old-timers to Tropicana Field for a day. Dom DiMaggio (brother of Joe), Rich "Goose" Gossage, Frank Howard, Frank Robinson, Bobby Thigpen and Earl Weaver. Each of them was assigned a team staff member to escort them around the ballpark and to attend to their needs. Meet them at the gate, get them to the executive dining room for lunch, down to the field for pre-game festivities, to a table to sign autographs during the game, etc. I was chosen to help out with this and was assigned to Earl. The man I met was very friendly and extremely humble. He had stopped following baseball after his retirement and didn't even know that Tampa Bay played in the American League. Since he wasn't up to speed on baseball current events, he was really afraid of some fan putting him on the spot and asking him a question he couldn't answer and asked me to look out for that for him. Happily, everybody he encountered wanted to talk about his time with the Orioles, and dealing with Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Al Bumbry, Ken Singleton, Brooks Robinson and Bobby Grich, and facing down the Miracle Mets, the Big Red Machine and the "We Are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates, subjects on which he more than held his own.
|Frank Robinson, Bobby Thigpen, Dom DiMaggio, |
Earl Weaver and Rich Gossage at Tropicana Field.
Once all the festivities were over, I drove him from the ballpark to the airport in Tampa. The team had supplied him with a vintage Baltimore Orioles jersey with his name and number to wear during the day. On the drive across the bay, he said, "I have all the souvenirs I need at home. Do you want this jersey?". What do you think my answer was?
Thanks Earl, for one of the greatest days I ever had.