In shocking news today, the current license holders for publishing Sports Illustrated announced intentions to shut down the publication after recent attempts to renegotiate fees had failed.
Sports Illustrated is an institution in the American sports landscape, known for iconic covers across all major leagues, and has a strong union that will fight to keep the publication and its employees alive.
In the meantime, though, it’s worth remembering some of SI’s great coverage of the Rays over the years, starting with their most recent work.
In the digital age, Sports Illustrated moved toward Daily Covers for in-depth features, and among those five stand out as noteworthy in recent history. Among those stories, five stand out as memorable and worth revisiting.
1. The Joy of Brett Phillips
The first thing Phillips’s teammates will say about him is that, yes, he’s really like this all the time. The guy who is an unfailing source of energy on the field is the same in the dugout, on the plane, in the clubhouse. He never stops.
2. Diamond in the Rough Pete Fairbanks
How do you explain Tampa Bay’s unconventional rise to prominence? Start with the story of pitcher Peter Fairbanks.
3. Remembering Jean Ramirez
Tampa Bay bullpen catcher Jean Ramírez took his own life [in 2022]. Since then, his parents have dedicated themselves to looking out for his former teammates.
4. Randy “El Jefe” Arozarena
Arozarena, 25, has one of those impossibly storybook origin stories: defection from Cuba in a small boat at 20, years in the Mexican minor leagues, stint in the Cardinals’ farm system, stardom. It has left many people wondering: How did this guy come out of nowhere like that?
5. The Amazing Rays
This glowing review of the energetic Rays, proclaiming how their “audacity could change the game,” was one of the tells that the Tampa Bay Rays of old were back to their winning ways. We covered this article in detail in 2019.
Now we turn to the printed magazine, which has not as frequently featured the Tampa Bay Rays, but at No. 1 does have an all-timer. Let’s revisit their best covers of the Rays, of which I have a top three and an honorable mention.
Honorable Mention: Breaking glass
This cover was, unfortunately, not unique, as a handful of pitchers were chosen for the same treatment across different covers of the same issue, but it was nice to see Price selected as one of the few.
3. Rocco Baldelli trucks Carlos Ruiz
Tom Verducci proclaims the Rays-Phillies World Series in 2008 an instant classic, even before it was done.
2. David Price blows a bubble
This 2010 cover was one worth ripping off the magazine and hanging on your wall. Price encapsulated what made watching the Rays fun, and this cover was a proper reflection of that as well.
1. Bizarro Baseball
This is the one.
It’s 2008, and the Rays have surged out of nowhere to become juggernauts in the American League. So what better treatment could there be than giving those heroes of my youth the Comic Book treatment. With SI proclaiming the team’s success as cartoonish numbers, the Rays manager quipped:
“Maybe,” says manager Joe Maddon, the cat in the Rays’ hat, “we’re the right team at the right time.”
[...] anything seems possible in baseball. “Be who you are and say what you feel,” reads the framed quote beneath the Cat in the Hat portrait behind Maddon’s desk, “because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
Read the original story here: https://vault.si.com/vault/2008/05/26/the-bizarro-supermen