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Naimoli caps winning games in black tie

Tampa Bay Devil Rays owner Vince Naimoli was jubilant.

Gene Budig, president of the American League of Baseball Clubs, was beamish.

It was a win-win night Thursday all the way around for the honoree and the presenter at the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's 1997 Dinner of Champions at the St. Petersburg Bayfront Hilton.

The Rays had opened their inaugural spring training schedule earlier in the day, and their two Class A teams _ St. Petersburg and Charleston _ had won. Budig, who had flown in from New York earlier in the day, was a former chancellor at the University of Kansas before accepting the baseball post and was openly excited about his team's basketball victory.

Before the banquet in the hotel ballroom, VIPs gathered on the hotel's 15th floor. From the panoramic perch, Tampa Bay's best-known matched set _ twins Lenda Naimoli and Glenda Young _ got a bird's eye view of Al Lang Stadium for the first time, as well as a look at the Naimolis' boat Anchor Twins, docked at the Vinoy.

"We only take it out once a year on the Fourth of July when we go to Boca Grande. George Steinbrenner has a boat just like it, and we always see him on the Fourth," Lenda Naimoli said.

As you were, sir

Retired Army colonel and former St. Petersburg Junior College dean George L. Brown Jr. was one of the "stars" of The Price is Right on Tuesday. Wearing a warm-up suit from his alma mater, Tuskegee Institute, Brown got into the spirit of things and won a roll-top desk valued at around $1,000. Brown was eliminated during the "Spin for Showcase Showdown," ending his moment of fame on national TV.

Brown and his wife, Dorothy, a retired nursing supervisor, are longtime fans of the show. They wrote for tickets when they decided to celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary in California with their son George L. III, who lives in Long Beach. Brown was selected as he waited in line to be seated for the show, which was taped Jan. 28.

Women of substance

Former U.S. Sen. Paula Hawkins of Winter Park looked more like a movie legend than a veteran politician, when she was presented as one of Florida's 10 Outstanding Women for 1997 last week. Secretary of State Sandra Mortham, the first Republican woman elected to a Cabinet post in Florida, did the honors in announcing the first recipients of what she hopes will be an annual event during a Tuesday evening reception in the R.A. Gray building in Tallahassee.

Florida's first lady Rhea Chiles and Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay's wife, Anne, turned out for the event, but Gov. Lawton Chiles' chief of staff, Linda Loomis Shelley, one of the honorees, was a no-show, sending her regrets to the secretary's office in the 11th hour.

Sharing the limelight with Hawkins were cancer survivor and patient advocate Lourdes Aguila, women's rights advocate Roxey Bolton and microbiologist Leona Cooper, all of Miami. Also honored were former State Sen. Mary Grizzle of Belleair Shore, who served in the House and Senate for nearly 30 years before she was defeated in 1992; Gen. Mary Mathewson-Chapman of St. Augustine, the highest-ranking woman in the Florida National Guard; and Marion Hammer of Tallahassee, the first woman president of the National Rifle Association. Two who sent their regrets well ahead of Tuesday's ceremony were tennis great Chris Evert and AIDS activist Mary Fisher. They plan to be in Tallahassee later in the session.