ST. PETERSBURG — Meet Sam Gvozdenovich, 18, a freshman at UCF who happened to get his hands on Chase Utley's first-inning home run to rightfield.
As the stadium erupted in a "Throw it back" chant, Gvozdenovich just smiled. In a hectic search for the ball, it rolled right to him. He quietly put it in his pocket and sat down.
"There's no way anyone could get me to get rid of this ball," said Gvozdenovich, who grew up in south New Jersey and is a lifelong Phillies fan.
Mixed reviews for Backstreet Boys
The Backstreet Boys heard a mix of cheers and boos when they were announced to sing the national anthem. But their non-traditional take on The Star-Spangled Banner didn't sit well with some readers of The Heater blog on tampabay.com. Some logged on to complain.
"What an insult and disgrace the way the Backstreet Boys sung our national anthem!" wrote Joe Ponder, who identified himself as a disabled Vietnam combat veteran.
Brian Sullivan felt the same way: "What a disgrace. In these times of conflict and disagreement, would it be too much to expect that we couldn't hear our real national anthem sung before our national game?"
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist bet a box of Florida oranges and some stone crab claws in a wager with Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell. If the Rays win, Florida gets a Philly cheesesteak and some soft pretzels. Crist was at the game, but left shortly after 9 p.m.
Rowdies, scalpers get nabbed
Police said they ejected nine people by the end of the first inning. Before the game, police said they cited six people for selling counterfeit merchandise such as T-shirts and hats around Tropicana Field. Eight scalpers were also cited for violating the city's confusing ban on where tickets can be scalped, or resold. Police had also taken four reports from patrons who complained they bought counterfeit tickets.
Phillies fan Nick Ruocchio, 28, lasted all of one inning. He got tossed out of the nosebleed section with his friend. Formerly of Philadelphia but now living in Palm Harbor, Ruocchio said security claimed he and his friend were yelling profanities. They spent $250 for each ticket. "I'm very upset. But the bottom line is I'm going to go to Ferg's and I'm going to represent so obnoxious," he said. "The only way I'm going to get out of Ferg's is if they lock me up. That's how fired up I am."
Painful lesson: buyer beware
A father and son were among those sold fraudulent tickets.
Mike Gary Jr. and his father, Mike Sr., stood outside Gate 4 of Tropicana Field, trying to find a way in after paying $400 for a set of fraudulent tickets.
"I'm out 400 bucks. I'm crying. I scraped that money to take my dad to the Rays game for the World Series," as a birthday present, said Gary Jr. of Safety Harbor. His father, 69, is from Brooksville. "I didn't know I was going to get burned."
Gary said he bought the tickets from two men at Ferg's before the game. They appeared to be printed off the Internet, but when they took them to get in, the ticket takers told them they had already been scanned.
Was the clean zone enforced?
It seems not, at least not very strictly. Ticket scalpers, banned from the Trop property, were selling them around the stadium anyway all day long.
And private parking lots had people hawking with signs on the public right-of-way — another banned activity under the emergency ordinance the City Council passed last week. A couple of men were selling T-shirts out of black duffel bags on Central Avenue near Ferg's, apparently without proper city permits.
A planned protest by the Uhurus didn't seem to warrant concern. Police said they didn't plan on arresting the protesters, who were going to pass out fliers, because their demonstration didn't violate the ordinance since they weren't selling anything.
Bad fans sparked this romance
File this under weird coincidences. Joseph McMahon, 24, a mechanical engineer, took a personal day to attend the game with his girlfriend, Laura Munson, 24. The couple met at a Rays game, when McMahon offered Munson a vacant seat next to him to help her get away from what they called four obnoxiously drunk Philly fans. They've been together ever since. "It's funny, because (when we met) we said, wouldn't be ironic if the Rays and the Phillies made it to the World Series? And now here we are," McMahon said.
Start of a name trend?
Two Rays fans welcomed Madeline Rayne Fager into the world on the eve of the World Series, and dedicated her middle name to the miraculous team. The baby girl was born 6 pounds and 9 ounces at 9:07 p.m. Tuesday. She is the first child of Emily and Shane Fager, 31 and 33, of St. Petersburg. The couple were set to watch Game 1 of the Series at Bayfront Medical Center, said Emily's mother, Margaret Reuthinger. The couple moved to St. Petersburg eight years ago and started rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays. Shane wore his Rays hat through the entire 23 hours of labor, Reuthinger said. "They're just so proud of the Rays," Reuthinger said.
Parking prices vary
While the Rays doubled the price to $20 for parking at the Trop for cars with fewer than four people, a lot of commercial lots nearby were charging as little as $10 to $15. But directly across from the Trop, one lot was charging $40 and another was charging $50. The best deal was at John Hopkins Middle School at Seventh Avenue and 16th Street S, where parking was going for $10 a car. And it was for a good cause: a school fundraiser.
This is the sixth year that brothers Mike and Kevin Mullane have attended the World Series, partly because of a friend with MLB connections who helped them get $100 tickets, the cheapest face-value price. So Kevin, 44, of Chicago, and Mike, 48, of Racine, Wis., bought World Series memorabilia and shared a beer at Ferg's. They plan to fly to Philadelphia for the games there this weekend. It's not clear if they will return to St. Petersburg for the potential sixth and seventh games. "We work for a living," Mike Mullane explained.
And now the view from Europe
Hugh Borland brought his family from Scotland for a vacation and said he isn't sure what to make of all this hoopla over a sporting event known as the World Series.
"I don't know what all this baseball stuff is about. I've never seen a baseball game in my life. All I know is that people won't shut up about these Rays."
Borland, 33, of Aberdeen, was at the Pier Wednesday afternoon with his wife and daughter.
But for Robert Bus of Amsterdam, Netherlands, coming here during the Series was no accident. He vacations regularly in Pinellas County and always tries to go to Tropicana Field to watch the American game. "I'm a huge Rays fan and when I saw they made the World Series, I had to come," said Bus, 62.