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Tampa Bay Rays World Series: Scenes from Game 4

Singer Taylor Swift performs another national anthem.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Singer Taylor Swift performs another national anthem.

Fun with Phillies fans

Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked about getting razzed by Phillies fans at Citizens Bank Park and shared a funny exchange he had with one on Saturday. "I was actually giving a guy a hard time for drinking Coors Light in Philadelphia. We went back and forth with that, and I said, 'Where's the Schmidt's? At least some Rolling Rock. Don't be going with Coors Light. It's so unfashionable for a Philly dude.' "

Climb starts with national anthem

For all you kids dreaming of a recording career, take a baseball tip from Taylor Swift. The multiplatinum country artist, who performed the Game 3 national anthem on Saturday night, says she gained all-important exposure singing The Star-Spangled Banner as a youngster at minor-league games.

"Baseball was a huge part of my life growing up because the best way to get in front of an audience when you're an unsigned artist is to sing the national anthem," she said.

"So I started out singing it for minor-league teams. As you work your way up and sing for larger crowds, the anthem is the best way to get in front of a lot of people."

Walkoff woes over

The Phillies did something in Game 3 on Saturday they had never done before in their previous five World Series appearances.

When Carlos Ruiz's infield single scored Eric Bruntlett from third in the ninth for a 5-4 victory, it marked the first time the team had won a game on a walkoff hit.

Seeking baseball No. 3,001

Standing behind the Tampa Bay dugout during batting practice Sunday evening, Zack Hample was impossible to miss. For starters, his blue Rays hat and shirt stood out amid a red-and-white throng of Phillies fans. Then there was the big cardboard sign he held in one hand that read, "Can I have a W.S. ball please?" and the giant baseball glove he wore on the other. No, Hample didn't make the trip from Tampa. "I'm from New York City — a Mets fan," he said. "I just really like the story of the Rays. I like underdogs."

Hample, 31, likes collecting, too, and he's an expert. He has written books called How to Snag Major League Baseballs: More than 100 Tested Tips That Really Work and Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan's Guide For Beginners, Semi-Experts and Deeply Serious Geeks. He has appeared on the CBS Evening News and two weeks ago was a guest on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. No word on if Hample (who estimates he has caught about 3,000 foul and batting-practice balls) scored any Sunday night. If not, it wasn't for lack of effort or a big enough mitt.

Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Rays, down 2-1 in the series, in the first inning, but they were lucky the damage wasn't worse. Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins led off with a double to right then moved to third on a long flyout to right. Andy Sonnanstine walked Chase Utley but seemed to get a gift when Ryan Howard bounced one back to the pitcher. Instead of throwing to second to start a possible double play, however, Sonnanstine noticed Rollins running halfway down the line and opted to get him in a rundown. He chased Rollins toward third then flipped the ball to Evan Longoria for the tag. Rollins slid low and wide in an attempt to avoid it, and third-base umpire Tim Welke called him safe. Fox's replay showed Longoria tagged Rollins before he touched the base, but now the bases were loaded. Rollins promptly scored when Sonnanstine walked Pat Burrell. A big inning seemed imminent. But the next batter, Shane Victorino, bounced to Sonnanstine, who flipped the ball to Dioner Navarro for a forceout at home. Moments later, Pedro Feliz's flyout to B.J. Upton in center ended the threat.

Ramirez, Youkilis win award

The Cubs' Aramis Ramirez, top, and the Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis were named winners of the Hank Aaron Award, given to the most outstanding offensive performers of each league as determined by fan voting. Ramirez, a third baseman, batted .289 with 97 runs scored, a career-high 44 doubles, 27 homers and a club-leading 111 RBIs. Youkilis, who played first and third, set career marks with a .312 batting average, 168 hits and 43 doubles and also led the team with 29 homers and 115 RBIs.

"I offer my congratulations to the two of them," said Aaron, a 23-time All-Star, "and say, 'Keep on pushing because that's what it takes to be the kind of player that I'm sure you want to be.' "

Guess everybody went to bed

With a 91-minute rain delay and a 1:47 a.m. finish, apparently not a lot of folks stayed up to watch Game 3, which drew a record-low television rating.

The broadcast earned a 6.1 national rating and 13 share on Fox, the network said. That means 6.1 percent of people who own TVs watched the game and 13 percent of those watching TV did so. The previous low was an 8.0 in 2006 for Game 1 of the Cardinals-Tigers series.

Game 3 drew a 28.2/49 in Philadelphia and a 21.6/44 in Tampa. Through three games, the World Series is averaging 7.7/14, down 23 percent from last year's 10.0/17 for the Red Sox-Rockies.

All eyes on Andy

With Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine — a former Kent State standout — pitching Game 4, the Water Street Tavern on the campus in Kent, Ohio, held a special watch party.

They planned to serve complimentary hot dogs and popcorn to fans, who could watch the game on 14 HD flatscreens. Water Street Tavern manager Mike Pfahl said the town is buzzing over Sonnanstine and the Rays.

In 2004, Sonnanstine set season records for Kent State in innings pitched (125), wins (11) and strikeouts (117) before getting drafted in the 13th round by the Rays.

"You can count the number of pro guys from here on two hands," Pfahl said.

"It's definitely exciting."

Soulful Star-Spangled Banner

R&B star Patti LaBelle revved up the home crowd's emotions Sunday with a soulful, stirring rendition of the national anthem. Given her Philadelphia roots, the experience was especially meaningful to LaBelle. "I got all pumped up and lost my voice (Saturday). But I prayed it back," she said moments after her performance. "Something came out. It wasn't the voice that I wanted, but it was the voice that God gave me. My mother was a Phillies fan. She died years ago, but she's smiling right now. She is so pleased that her daughter did the national anthem for her Phillies. It was my mother's dream; and mine, too."

McGraw leads country lineup

Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton was standing near home plate, waiting to walk to the mound to throw out the first pitchin Game 4. So how was Carlton, 63, feeling? "I'd just as soon be throwing batting practice to Tim McGraw, you know?" he quipped, nodding in the direction of the country music superstar who was participating in the ceremonies. Sitting with McGraw's group in a front-row seat to the side of home plate was a Tampa Bay native, Brad Warren, of the longtime country duo the Warren Brothers. Warren says he and brother Brett have shifted their focus from performing to writing, doing so for Martina McBride and McGraw. The Pasco County native was sporting a Phillies cap, but he said that was in deference to his pal McGraw, whose father ,Tug, pitched for the Phillies. "I'm totally rooting for the Rays," he said with a smile. "I'm just not allowed to wear my Rays hat here."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Rays World Series: Scenes from Game 4 10/27/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 27, 2008 9:01pm]

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