Last time O.J. was on trial, it was 1995, and the club that plays in the ballpark named for an orange juice brand was still three years from even existing.
Given the Rays' short life span and losing decade, you might say the baseball denizens around here have a little work to do yet in expanding their base and learning what September baseball is supposed to be about.
With just 12 games left and a sprint to the finish, the Rays were bitterly disappointed Monday night when fewer than 30,000 showed up, roughly 7,000 short of a sellout, and the majority seemed to be Boston fans. The Red Sox always travel well, but when disabled outfielder Crawford is driving the local freeways to work, as he was Tuesday, and he sees cars with Red Sox stickers right in his own backyard ...
"I'm like, 'Look at that,'" Crawford said. "I wanted to honk at them."
He didn't, and though there were plenty of Sox fans at the Trop on Tuesday, the middle game of the series was an improvement on Monday's opener. That doesn't mean the Rays fans drowned out those rooting for Boston. When Bartlett grounded into an inning-ending double play in the sixth, the cheers were thunderous.
But then, it swung back the other way, too. And when the Rays were putting together their unlikely winning rally in the ninth, those cheers actually were thunderous, too. Bartlett led off by fighting off a Masterson pitch for a single, Pena worked the walk with the extra strike, Masterson misplaced an 0-2 pitch and hit Cliff Floyd in the shin and then, Navarro's winning hit.
"Oh man, there was a lot of blood flowing and a lot of hearts beating," Howell said. "We had a lot to prove. They say September baseball is different, and I understand.
"There's a time limit now, the end is coming."
So the biggest game in Tampa Bay history on Tuesday gives way to another biggest game in history on Wednesday. Everything is the biggest now. Biggest week in Rays franchise history. Biggest inning. Biggest at-bat.
Heck, in the stands, there's sudden drama in each hot dog run. Biggest hot dog run ever!
"This is uncharted territory for us," said Andy Sonnanstine, who threw a beauty in becoming the winning pitcher Tuesday, after watching probably the most intense mosh pit of the season when the Rays equaled a club record with their 11th walk-off victory. "I don't think you can celebrate too much at all."