Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
Tampa Bay Ray Devils – the history
On a recent trip to Florida my family decided to experience a professional baseball match. We booked tickets in advance and set off to the Tropicana stadium, St Petersburg, picked up the tickets from the box office and found our seats. Knowing little about the game apart from what we had picked up from television we read up on as many as the rules as possible and were fortunate enough to be seated next to some very friendly Americans who explained the game to us. After a thoroughly enjoyable visit, far superior to watching on television, we were all hooked, including our two daughters. We would recommend this to anyone wanting to experience the game first hand.
Anyway, after the visit, I began to wonder how the team was formed and what their background was. The evolution is quite interesting, especially as they only entered the Baseball league in 1998, so I thought I would share my findings with you.
It all started back in the early 20th century. In 1913 the Chicago Cubs took their spring training site to Tampa, and in 1922 the Boston Braves took theirs to St. Petersburg. Amazingly there have now been more major league spring training sessions played in St. Petersburg than any other city affiliated with the game. Nine teams have used St. Petersburg as their spring training site: the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Braves, New York Giants, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Browns, St Louis Cardinals and of course the Tampa Bay Ray Devils. Tampa itself has played host to the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators and the New York Yankees
Over the ensuing years the area became renowned for its stronghold on the game yet it was unable to create its own team despite efforts in the 1980’s and most of the 90’s. The Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, and Seattle Mariners had all thought about moving to either Tampa or St. Petersburg before changing their minds.
1992 almost saw a sale of the San Francisco Giants to a Tampa Bay based consortium of investors, but this move was prevented at the last minute when San Francisco officials applied pressure to keep the team in San Francisco, which it ultimately did.
Eventually in 1995 expansion franchises were awarded to Naimoli’s Tampa Bay Group and a Phoenix based group (owners of the Arizona Diamondbacks). On the 9th March 1995 the Tampa Bay Ray Devils were finally born. The new franchises were scheduled to start playing in 1998 and the Rays played their first game on the 31st March 1998 against the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana field. A crowd of 45, 369 attended with Wade Boggs hitting the first home run in the team’s history.
Since 1998 the team has struggled to keep out of the bottom of the league and has had its fair share of personnel issues and tragic losses along the way. There have been many individual successes but not quite enough consistency to progress greatly in the league. The team are however great to watch and we live in hope looking forward to one day seeing the team at the top of the league – well we can live in hope can’t we?
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