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Rays Tales: Oddest home runs in Tampa Bay Rays history

All things considered — where, when, who against, how and, most dramatically, what happened after he hit it — Matt Joyce's home run Wednesday will go down as one of the most interesting, weird and odd in Rays history. And perhaps beyond. "It's probably the oddest," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's even somewhat odder than the (Kirk) Gibson kind of thing because he actually stood on his feet and then limped around the bases. This guy (Joyce) fell down and then limped and hit a three-run homer. So it really ranks high." That said, here are some other unusual blasts from the past the Rays have been a part of to rival Joyce's rise and fall:

A true first: Esteban Yan had pitched in 132 big-league games without batting, so, naturally, when he came to the plate for the first time, June 4, 2000, at New York's Shea Stadium, he swung at the first pitch he saw from Bobby Jones — and knocked it over the leftfield fence.

And another: OF Brandon Guyer also homered in his first plate appearance, May 6, 2011, and against his hometown Orioles. Making it an even better story, his sportscaster wife, Lindsay Murphy, was racing to the game from her Washington, D.C., station but was only pulling into the parking lot when he hit the ball out.

Party time: There have been two massive home runs that crashed the tbt* Party Deck above leftfield, a 478-foot shot by Vinny Castilla (4-4-01, vs. Boston) and a 473-footer by Evan Longoria (4-6-10, vs. Baltimore). In between: a 474-foot shot by Jonny Gomes off the roof of the Batter's Eye restaurant, 7-9-05.

A 3K moment: Wade Boggs went into play Aug. 7, 1999, three hits from the historic 3,000 and, after singling twice, went deep off Cleveland's Chris Haney, a golden seat in Trop section 144 marking where it landed. Boggs was the only player to homer for No. 3,000 until Yankees SS Derek Jeter did it last year — and the Rays saw that, too, from the other side as David Price gave it up.

Pinch me: His flight to Boston delayed after his late 2008 promotion, Dan Johnson was scratched from the starting lineup. Instead, he was sent up to pinch-hit in the ninth against Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon on Sept. 9, and, stunningly, hit a tying homer. (You may have heard, he did something similar in the ninth inning of Game 162 last September.)

And me: 1B Travis Lee joined a very short list on Aug. 14, 2005, in Cleveland when he delivered a ninth-inning pinch-hit homer that gave the Rays a 1-0 win. That was only the third 1-0 game in MLB history decided by a pinch-hit homer. (Bonus: The others were hit by Bill Taylor, 1954 Giants, and Candy Maldonado, 1985 Dodgers).

Something fishy: Tampa's Luis Gonzalez was already in the record books for hitting the first homer at the Trop, for Detroit in the March 31, 1998, inaugural game. But he made a bigger splash June 24, 2007, hitting what is still the only homer to land in the rays tank beyond right-centerfield.

A 'walk' in the park: It was more like a mad dash when INF Rey Sanchez hit a "walkoff" inside-the-park home run in the 10th inning to beat the Rockies 8-7 on June 11, 2004. Plus, it was Sanchez's first homer in two-plus years.

Go to the video: The Rays were on the wrong side for the Sept. 4, 2008, first official use of instant replay, as the umps historically went to the video to confirm their call that Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez's homer over the Trop's leftfield foul pole was fair. They came out ahead two weeks later in the first-ever instant replay reversal, also at the Trop, as the umps first awarded Carlos Peña a double based on fan interference, then checked the video and changed it to a home run.

Let's do the time warp

Joyce's home-run "trot" was, no surprise, the slowest of the season so far, at 29.38 seconds, according to the odd-but-interesting tatertrottracker.com website. But there were slower, healthier, ones last year:

Slowest trots, 2011-12

Victor Martinez, 29.91, Sept. 7, 2011

David Ortiz, 29.66, June 12, 2011

Matt Joyce, 29.38, May 9, 2012

David Ortiz, 29.35, July 27, 2011

Russell Branyan, 29.15, Aug. 11, 2011

Pat Burrell, 29.03, April 11, 2011

Chipper Jones, 28.97, May 2, 2012

Rays rumblings

Baseball America's first mock look at the June draft has the Rays using the No. 25 pick on RHP Ty Hensley, a 6-foot-5 right-hander from Edmond, Okla. … There's chatter in the clubhouse that 3B Evan Longoria could be well ahead of schedule in recovering from his torn left hamstring. … There's probably a sound business reason, but it seems odd when the Rays use the radio broadcasts to run ads and promote parties to get fans to instead watch on TV. … First, Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long suggested the Rays got lucky with their defensive shifts working, then their TV guys complained Rays infielders were distracting their hitters by moving just before the pitch. … Now 31, and three seasons removed from the majors, ex-Rays RHP Seth McClung is trying another comeback, working as the No. 5 starter for the Brewers' Triple-A Nashville team, 0-3, 6.00 thus far.

Got a minute? Will Rhymes

Something you're scared of? Snakes.

Late-night snack? Chocolate milk. Like a little kid.

Favorite TV show? Mad Men.

Band you'd want to be on stage with? There's a lot — The National, or Arcade Fire.

Celebrity crush? Scarlett Johansson or Jenny Lewis.

Rays Tales: Oddest home runs in Tampa Bay Rays history 05/12/12 [Last modified: Saturday, May 12, 2012 8:17pm]
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