When the World Series starts on Tuesday, it will be almost 12 years to the day from the last time the Tampa Bay Rays played in the Fall Classic. This has gotten some of us to reminiscing about that time. Maybe it makes you think about how your life has changed - new home, new job, changed family circumstances. Maybe it makes you think about how your Rays fandom has changed. Maybe you were at one of those postseason games in 2008 and this brings back some memories.
Our writers will share some of their memories, and we invite you to do the same in the comments.
I remember the Rays last ALCS Game 7 so vividly. I was 21 years old, entering my final year at Southern Oregon University. I spent the first half of the game at my house, pacing around my living room a nervous wreck. I knew I needed better energy and to be around people. Of course I was living in southern Oregon at the time, not exactly in the hotbed of Tampa Bay Rays sports fandom. So I joined some friends out on the town for drinks, didn’t even have to convince the bartender to put on the game, and went from pacing in my living room to being by far the most invested person in the entire room on the outcome of a Tampa Bay Rays vs Boston Red Sox game in that Ashland, OR bar.
By the time Price was on the mound, my friends and the folks who started without a rooting interest became invested with me in seeing the (Devil) Rays advance. When Aki fielded the grounder, it wasn’t just me jumping up and down and shouting in celebration. 3,000 miles away from Tampa and St Pete, a whole country away from my home state of Florida, I felt in that moment surrounded by single night fans that I was there in the Trop celebrating with everyone.
I also remember that my following day recovery from the Patrón shots I did that night in celebration went a lot smoother than my morning today after this most recent ALCS game 7 celebration.
I‘ve been a Rays fan since the team was announced but in August 2008 my wife and I were dating and I took her to her first Rays game (first pro sports event ever) to see LL Cool J postgame concert.
That year was magical for the Rays and created forever memories from our relationship. We were able to get tickets to Game 2 of the ALCS that we bought from someone outside Ferg’s and were beyond grateful they actually worked when we got to the stadium. That 5.5 hour 11 inning win marked the first of what would become many long extra innings affairs we would watch against the team from Boston. Once the World Series started I remember watching games from home and 1 or 2 from Fergs. Game 5 was disappointing with the rain delay (that led to the team being stranded after checking out of their hotel). Overall, it was a wonderful combination of the birth of the Rays from the Devil Rays and the launch of our relationship.
I don’t remember every pitch, or even all the big moments from 2008. Not from the Patron like Darby, but because I was nine years old. Before 2008, my fandom was never affected by winning or losing, how could it be? I was never aware that winning was something that the Rays could do. It was just about rooting for guys like Rocco Baldelli, BJ Upton, and Scott Kazmir. It was about being at the Trop.
I was at the Trop a lot in 2008, and for a lot of big moments. Opening Day, the playoff-clinching game against the Twins, Game 1 of the ALDS, Game 1 of the ALCS. On one side, it felt great to win, but now there were expectations.
My nine-year-old brain now believed that the Rays would be in the World Series every season, and rise to the same levels of national prominence as the Red Sox and Yankees, two teams that always haunted me. How could I know that something as big as winning the pennant certainly doesn’t happen every year, and not even every decade.
Since then, there have been more incredible seasons, but the World Series has alluded the Rays for far too long. They’re back now. Let’s watch ‘em win it.
To be honest, I barely remember the 2008 World Series. Was it because they lost so I erased it from memory? Was it that the emotional cyclone of the ALCS left me too drained for anything else? I mostly remember games played in rain, and that the Rays were forced to move out of their Philadelphia hotel and decamp to Wilmington, DE which I understand was no one’s fault but nonetheless felt like yet another way that MLB dumped on our home team. But the Boston series remains vivid for me, and felt very much like this one — the joy of seeming to coast to an easy series win; the despair of watching that advantage get frittered away; the relief and ecstasy of pulling the win out after all.
It’s shocking how little I remember, actually. I used to be a person who could play in or watch a game of any sport, and then play the whole thing back in my mind in detail, for days afterward, maybe weeks. Rarely tried after a couple weeks, so I’m not sure how long the memories stayed around back in 2008.
I can tell you for certain that they didn’t stay for 12 years.
I remember precise details of how Dan Wheeler looked throwing pitches in extra innings of game two in the ALCS — hunched, head down, never looking at the batter, and perfect. I remember silently pumping my fist after James Shields got a called strike, changeup the outer corner. I remember the groundball to Aki in game seven. That’s all. I couldn’t tell you where I was at any of those particular moments.
In general though during the 2008 playoffs, the safe bet is that I was skipping class to sit in Buffalo Wild Wings in Tallahassee. I remember the taste of the hot wings, the lemon parmesan wings, the jerk wings, and the Sam Adams Octoberfest, and the several different tables I sat at, alone and with people.
I’ve eaten many better wings since then, but I’ve definitely never enjoyed them as much.