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World Series | NOTES

McKeon Can Ride in Style

October 24, 2003|Bill Plaschke | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — Talk about a thankful owner. Florida's Jeffrey Loria gave Manager Jack McKeon a surprise gift of gratitude before Game 5, a brand-new black Mercedes.

Not a bad present for a guy who used to drive from ballpark to ballpark in a 1949 Plymouth.

"I couldn't believe it, I've never had anything that nice," McKeon said. "You get inside and there's even this voice coming out of a box on the dashboard, it tells about every street and restaurant in the country."

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There's been much talk in these parts about how Marlin fans should be embarrassed that many of them left early in Games 3 and 4.

McKeon thinks that talk is silly.

"For one thing, how do they know it was Marlin fans who left early?" he said. "How do they know it wasn't Yankee fans?"

McKeon said he understood why somebody might leave a game under these conditions.

"It's raining, it's after midnight, you've got to be at work in the morning, I don't blame people," he said. "Somebody pays $150 for a ticket, they should do whatever they want to do."

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Even as Florida fans pack Pro Player Stadium for the playoffs, they remain wary about buying season tickets and investing in a franchise with an uncertain future, particularly because previous ownership sold off the jewels of the 1997 World Series championship roster.

Loria refuses to discuss next season, but the Marlins have nine players eligible for free agency, including catcher Ivan Rodriguez, and 15 eligible for salary arbitration, including third baseman Mike Lowell. As Loria spoke with reporters near the Florida dugout, a fan hollered down to him from the front row of seats: "If you keep them, then we'll come."

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Even though Roger Clemens won't be eligible for election into the Baseball Hall of Fame until 2009, some items from what was likely the final start of his celebrated career will soon be on their way to Cooperstown.

Hall of Fame vice president Jeff Idelson said Clemens is generous with the Hall, which already has at least 16 Clemens-related artifacts in its collection. Clemens hasn't decided which items he will donate from Wednesday night's Game 4 of the World Series, Idelson said.

"He's just very cognizant of baseball history and his role in that history," Idelson said.

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Times staff writers Ross Newhan and Bill Shaikin and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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