1. Archive

All keyed up for baseball

Our computer, which seems to have occupied an inordinate amount of our time since we acquired it a few months ago, finally has gotten its comeuppance.

It has taken a back seat as baseball has seized our attention with the arrival of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

We have waited a long time for this, much longer than we ever waited for a computer. Baseball has always had a place at our house, but this is the first time we have had a Major League team of our own.

Oh, we came close. At least we thought we did. We were so sure the White Sox were going to move to St. Petersburg about 10 years ago. And we were devastated the night that Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson got the clock stopped in the Illinois Legislature to give him enough time to twist arms or grease palms to win the votes to build the Sox a new home in Chicago.

I still have my Florida White Sox shirt. I used to think it would be a collector's item some day, but I have learned over the years that almost everyone in St. Petersburg who cared a whit about baseball still has one of those shirts tucked away somewhere.

A few years later, we got our hopes up again when a move of the San Francisco Giants to St. Petersburg seemed like a done deal. But that was before Bill White stuck his nose into the process and made sure that the Giants weren't going to leave their hearts in San Francisco.

So we continued our long-standing love affair with the Chicago Cubs. They had been ours, in a sense, for many years, but they never were a hometown team. The closest we ever lived to them was Des Moines _ close enough that we could get to Wrigley Field about once a year but not close enough to breathe the same air the Cubbies breathed and go to the ballpark whenever we wanted.

Nevertheless, we considered ourselves members of the fraternity. And that membership could pay off, as it did one Saturday morning as we were driving into Chicago for a Cubs game. We had a blowout about 50 miles outside of Chicago. After changing the tire, we got off at the next exit to have the damage checked. The news wasn't good; we needed a new wheel and that would be hard to come by on a Saturday morning.

Some men lolling around the garage learned that we were en route to Wrigley. Suddenly, they produced a new wheel and got us on our way. We walked into Wrigley just as the National Anthem was being played.

Since moving to Florida more than 20 years ago, we've been back to Wrigley only a couple of times. Instead, we have followed the Cubs by television. We've stuck with them, though, all the while knowing that we had tied ourselves to something not unlike the Titanic.

But all our old Cubs are gone, with only Mark Grace remaining from among those who were playing the last time we saw them in the flesh.

So we are ready for a new team, our team. A fresh start with new players and a new league, even if it does have the DH rule (which we National Leaguers long have turned up our collective noses at. And it may soon be on the way out.)

We won't expect miracles this year, meaning we have made no plans with the three other couples with whom we are sharing season tickets on how to divvy up tickets at playoff time.

But after all, we've been Cub fans. In our hearts, hope springs eternal _ or at least springs every spring for a little while. So when we saw the Devil Rays beat Detroit during our first visit to Tropicana Field, and then watched them win again the next day on television, well, we had reason for optimism.

We'll give our attention to baseball for the next few months, reading about it, watching it at Tropicana Field and on TV and listening to it on the radio. If that means the computer gets neglected, so be it.

Of course, we'll probably have to sneak online now and then to check for messages. And lest the computer get rusty, we'll probably have to sit down at it to make sure we're up to speed on the Devil Rays by checking in at That Web site already has found a spot among our "favorite places."'

You can write to Jay Horning c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Or send e-mail to