Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

World Series: Liver cancer claims Tampa Bay Rays fan Baseball Betty

Baseball Betty Leone, who had liver cancer, died Tuesday in North Carolina. She was 86.

Photo courtesy of Joann Leone Carroll

Baseball Betty Leone, who had liver cancer, died Tuesday in North Carolina. She was 86.

My late mother's best friend, Baseball Betty Leone, was granted part of her dying wish. She got to see her beloved Rays make it into the World Series.

But she won't get to see how the story plays out.

She died Tuesday morning at 86, surrounded by her Rays caps and bobblehead dolls, T-shirts, and her latest acquisition: a ball autographed by her favorite, Rocco Baldelli, who reminded Betty of her late husband, Fred, once a minor league pitcher.

Betty was the most devoted Rays fan I knew. She was at their first game in 1998 and attended until arthritis made climbing steps impossible. After that, she camped herself in front of her television and refused to budge.

When her family insisted she join them in North Carolina two years ago, Betty resisted until she was promised a cable TV package with Rays games.

Betty traced her baseball love back to her childhood, when her dad, William Burns, taught her how to keep a scorecard in their Ohio hometown. Betty, in turn, taught her children, Joann Carroll and Rebecca Leone.

I don't think Betty ever taught baseball to my Irish mother, who was more interested in National Enquirer gossip, unfiltered Pall Malls and large tumblers of strong drink. The straitlaced Betty loved my misbehaving mom anyway.

Last July, Betty began feeling ill. In August, she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. In September, a hospice nurse asked, "Betty, how long would you like to live?''

Betty said, "I want to live long enough to see the Rays get in the World Series.''

A lot of us wondered if we'd live that long. But as the Rays won, Betty became convinced that the Rays were going to do the impossible for her.

On the day they clinched a playoff spot, she e-mailed friends a shocking photograph: a glamorous Betty posed with a trendy good-luck-Rays Mohawk. The photo caused a sensation. Finally, Betty came clean: She'd doctored the photo.

Last Thursday, at Tropicana Field, Betty's granddaughter, Veronica Carroll, held up a homemade poster imploring the Rays to "Win for Baseball Betty.'' Suddenly, Betty's Mohawk image appeared on the stadium screen. The Baseball Betty mojo worked. The Rays beat the Phillies their one and only time so far.

A God-fearing woman, Betty couldn't bring herself to hate anyone; she was extremely happy when the Rays beat the Red Sox to qualify for the World Series.

"That's good enough,'' Betty told a hospice nurse. "I'm happy. I'm satisfied. They don't have to win another game. They're in the World Series now.''

Betty's daughter Joann thought, ''Uh-oh. Mom is fading. If she was well she would never say that.''

Betty liked to plan things, and she planned her own funeral. She asked to be cremated and wanted her ashes mixed with her late husband's. Sometime soon, the family will bury the mixture in the courtyard at Betty's old church in Florida.

The ashes will be placed in the little box that Betty picked out, a box with a Rays logo on top.

Jeff Klinkenberg can be reached at or (727) 893-8727.

World Series: Liver cancer claims Tampa Bay Rays fan Baseball Betty 10/28/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 1, 2008 2:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rick Scott's office deleted critical messages related to post-hurricane nursing home deaths

    As Florida continues to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, more confusion builds around the 11 heat-related deaths at a South Florida nursing home following the storm earlier this month.

    Police surround the Rehabilitation Center in Hollywood Hills, Fla., which had no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power. Several patients at the sweltering nursing home died in the storm's aftermath. [John McCall | South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP]
  2. J.T. Brown of Lightning respects NFL players' protests


    There was something in the air in the NFL on Sunday. President Trump’s comments and tweets on NFL player protests achieved the effect of creating more of them. Lightning winger J.T. Brown was asked about it as he stood in a hall at Amalie Arena, a few hours before the Lightning played the Florida Panthers in …

  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of Sept. 25-Oct. 1


    MegaCon Tampa: The multi-genre convention brings a lineup of celebrity guests and comic book creators to the Tampa Convention Center Friday-Sunday, including icon Stan Lee, William Shatner, above, Kevin Smith and Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin from Stranger Things. Shop hundreds of vendors selling …

    Courtesy Adultswim
  4. Names released in Clearwater crash involving helicopter, plane


    CLEARWATER — Authorities released more details Monday about the crash involving a helicopter and airplene over the weekend at the Clearwater Air Park.

    Clearwater Fire Department emergency personal are seen dousing a plan with fire retardant after the plane crashed into a helicopter at Clearwater Air Park 1000 N Hercules Avenue Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. According to Clearwater Fire two patients sustained minor injuries. Photo by Clearwater Fire
  5. Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Vikings review


    Greg Auman looks back on Sunday's 34-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the latest edition of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Quarterback Jameis Winston is sacked during the first half of the Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]