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Rays are almost left out in the cold

October 29, 2008|BILL SHAIKIN | Shaikin is a Times staff writer.

FROM PHILADELPHIA — Election Day is less than a week away, and Joe Biden isn't even the biggest name in his home state. Joe Maddon is in Delaware, and so are his Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays woke up Monday in Pennsylvania, packed their bags for Florida, and went to sleep in Delaware.

This isn't a World Series. It's a concert tour: Rays Across America -- Fall Classic 2008!

If Monday was about the disgrace of disguising a mud fight as the World Series, then Tuesday was about the grace of laughing when your travel plans go awry.

Maybe the airline loses your luggage. Maybe the last train left the station an hour before you could get there. Or, in the case of Maddon and the Rays, maybe you're marooned in Wilmington, Del., with no game to play and nothing much to do.

"It's like getting snowed in," Maddon said.

It actually did snow in the Philadelphia suburbs Tuesday, when Commissioner Bud Selig again called off Game 5, or what was left of it. With rain in the city all day and wind, flurries and freezing temperatures facing fans at night, Selig postponed play until tonight.

The Philadelphia Phillies are nine outs from the World Series championship, or not. They lead the series, three games to one, and they'll be coming to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning, with the score tied, 2-2.

That is the point at which Selig finally suspended the game Monday, at 10:40 p.m. The Phillies dried off and went home.

The Rays had checked out of their hotel in Philadelphia, and they couldn't get back in. So Jeff Ziegler, the Rays' traveling secretary, hit speed dial, frantically looking for 100 rooms, in the kind of luxury hotel to which major leaguers are accustomed.

Then he hit the 302 area code, across the state line in Delaware, where he found the Hotel du Pont, about 30 minutes from the ballpark. At midnight, hotel public relations director Carolyn Grubb got a call at home, alerting her that the best team in the American League was on its way.

The resort often houses celebrities and their entourages, many times on short notice, but never this many people on this short a notice.

"Not in my best memory," Grubb said, "not that many rooms in an hour and a half."

The resort dates to 1913, with a history of welcoming such notables as Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Jacques Cousteau, Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman "and all the presidents from John F. Kennedy on," Grubb said.

Ah, the magic of this World Series: When else could we use Grant Balfour and Ingrid Bergman in the same sentence?

This is not the first time ballplayers have visited Wilmington. There is a minor league team there, a Class-A club called the Blue Rocks.

The visiting teams do not stay in the Hotel du Pont.

"We use a Quality Inn," Blue Rocks General Manager Chris Kemple said.

The Blue Rocks also use three mascots, one of which is named Mr. Celery.

The Rays' stay in Wilmington is the biggest baseball event there since Cal Ripken visited the Blue Rocks in 2003, or since the Kansas City Royals played an exhibition there in 2001, perhaps the last time Mike Sweeney was not injured.

There would be no baseball Tuesday, in Wilmington or Philadelphia. Maddon, the Rays' manager, said his players could take a bus to the Phillies' ballpark for an optional indoor workout.

"It's my guess it's going to be a very small turnout," Maddon said, "if at all."

That left the Rays with their snow day, sheltered in a hotel he described as "one of those old-fashioned, well-kept, actually magnificent European units."

Said Maddon: "Quite frankly, it's one of the nicest hotels we've stayed in all year. If you're going to have a postponement, you might as well stay here."

Maddon said he would spend Tuesday night at his niece's home in Philadelphia. The players could hang out with their families.

Dave Martinez, one of the Rays' coaches, planned to go shopping, to buy some new clothes for his kids after Monday's rain-shortened game.

"They got soaking wet," Maddon said.

The Rays all got out of the rain Tuesday. They'll get back on the bus this afternoon, with a travel adventure to share and a World Series to win.


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