Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Al Lang closes with 6,759 fans, but many more memories

ST. PETERSBURG — The record books will show that Friday's final spring training game at Al Lang Field drew a paid attendance of 6,759. Not listed: the thousands of memories that poured out of the fans.

Mike Foster, 47, of St. Pete Beach stood atop the left field berm, reminiscing about when he was a boy and ran onto the field to catch a popup. He not only missed it, but he got kicked out of the game.

When he found out that his girlfriend's kids had never been to Al Lang, "I said, 'We gotta go,' " he recalled. He didn't mind settling Friday for the $7 seats that were just spaces on the grass.

"Going to the game is still going to the game," he said.

He went home with a painful souvenir. In the fifth, a foul smacked him in the torso, leaving a red blotch. He joked about getting it autographed.

Bob Schmidt, 44, of Wesley Chapel and Michael Myer, 41, of Tampa sprawled on the grassy slope and peered at the letter-box view visible between the fence and the visitors' bullpen bench.

They squinted at Carl Crawford stealing second. They sweated in the 76-degree heat and wondered who would fill the Rays' proposed new ballpark in, say, July. They chortled when Reds reliever Sean Watson sat down on one end of the bench, popping a slat at the other end that toppled a Gatorade jug.

"And I thought WE had bad seats," Schmidt yelled. Watson laughed.

Al Lang always offered fans a sense of closeness with the players, along with the occasional busted seat and a nice view across the waterfront. It was a throwback park with an old-fashioned scoreboard and hot dogs cooked on a smoky grill.

A nostalgic Rob Gray, 52, enlisted friends to help him hold up posters spelling out, "We'll drink a cup of kindness yet to days of Al Lang signs." Gray had just attended the last Los Angeles Dodger game in Vero Beach and the last Cleveland Indians game in Winter Haven.

"It's the end of the world as we know it," he said.

Debbie Walker, 42, of Redington Beach said she brought her sons, J.T., 4, and Jacob, 2, because "when they grow up I want them to remember when we used to go to spring training games."

Between innings, Rays senior adviser Dick Crippen recounted Al Lang's history for the crowd. When he reminded everyone that the Rays are moving to Port Charlotte, he was roundly booed.

To end the Yankees' last Al Lang game in 1961, Roger Maris hit a homer. The Rays went more quietly, losing 6-3. Afterward, as kids ran the bases one last time, nobody tore up the sod or ripped out the railing. David Kennedy, 35, of Brandon stood near first base, smiling. He had brought his son, Braxton, 11.

His favorite Al Lang memory? "Probably this one, watching this game with my son."

Times researchers Caryn Baird and Mary Mellstrom contributed to this report.

Al Lang closes with 6,759 fans, but many more memories 03/28/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 31, 2008 3:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  2. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  3. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  4. The people you meet along O.J. Howard Lane

    Bucs

    OJ Howard (far right) is seen in a photo from his adolescent years at Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Howard served as an usher in addition to attending regular services at this church.