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Joe Magrane's Game Will Be Missed


Joe Magrane's Game Will Be Missed
By JOE O'NEILL

Tribune Correspondent

When the Tampa Bay Rays begin next season, they will be without a few of the players who helped make the memorable run to the World Series.

It's inevitable. Retirements, free-agency scenarios, salary considerations, trades. But the core group will be back, and pre-season expectations will certainly be at an all-time high.

One missing element, however, will be impossible to replace: stylish broadcaster Joe Magrane. The 44-year-old former major leaguer had been the analyst-partner of play-by-play announcer Dewayne Staats for all 11 Rays' seasons. They had become the best in the business: always informative and often more entertaining than the games they were chronicling. Magrane will be joining the new MLB Network, which goes on the air Jan. 1.

Magrane is a unique talent. He was an All-American pitcher at the University of Arizona, the "Harvard of the West," as he often terms it. He was a first-round draft choice of the St . Louis Cardinals and finished third in balloting for the National League's "Rookie of the Year" award in 1987. The next year he led the NL in earned run average (2.18). In 1988 he won 18 games and finished fourth in the NL's MVP voting. A series of arm ailments and elbow surgeries ended his career prematurely.

As a broadcaster, he's not just a jock who's not microphone-challenged.

His insider's knowledge translated well into insight that was invaluable to the viewer. He wasn't just funny - but downright witty. He could "carry a game," as they say about elite broadcasters. In Magrane's case, that could range from groan-inducing puns to colorful, back-in-the-day tales to a dead-on impersonation of the late, iconic broadcaster Harry Caray.

And although he worked for the Rays, he was no "homer." He didn't shy away from criticism when it was called for. Through those first 10 seasons, it was often called for - and he delivered. But it never got personal - although he was tested by Delmon Young and B.J. Upton.

Off camera, he is as anecdote-rich and dry-witted as he is in the booth.

He had, for example, no time for players who had disgraced themselves and defiled the game he loves through performance-enhancement drugs. Typically he used humor to underscore his point. "Steroids in Baseball," quipped Magrane. "That's like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa."

I still remember a classic he dropped into an interview. We were on the subject of celebrity pretensions.

"I was having dinner the other night with Bono," deadpanned Magrane, "and he said, 'Joe, nobody likes a name-dropper.'"

He'll be missed.

Still Fired Up

The presidential election is over and an electoral mandate has been rendered. But for a lot of those grassroots legions that helped make the Obama phenomenon happen, the fight forges on.

Recently more than 1,000 gatherings -- sponsored by MoveOn.org Political Action -- were held across the country. Eight of them - from Brandon to Clearwater - were in the Tampa Bay Area.

According to Louise Vincent, who hosted a "Fired Up and Ready To Go" gathering at her Riverview home, the purpose was to kick off another campaign. This one aimed at Congress.

"We're going to get started organizing locally to make sure Congress feels pressure to work with Obama on his key initiatives," explains Vincent. "And we're going to brainstorm about what else we can do."

Port Matters

The Port of Tampa is easily taken for granted by most locals, including those who cruise out of it. But it is the main economic engine for all of West Central Florida. It is worth 96,000 port-related jobs and $8 billion in economic impact.

With positive economic news at a premium these days, it was reassuring to see reasons for buoyant attitudes at the port.

It was recently announced that a Louisiana shipper, Gary Chouest, will take over Tampa Bay Shipbuilding & Repair Co., keep the 500 employees, and expand facilities to build new ships. First up will be a $30 million supply ship, the first new vessel to be built at the local yard in two decades.

On the same day, the port moved closer to being a much bigger player in the container-cargo business -- which is where the future is. Port commissioners granted port director Richard Wainio permission to hire an engineering firm to start designing the expansion of the container terminal. Plans call for construction to begin in early 2009 on the first $17 million phase of what could eventually become a $70 million to $100 million project.

Joe O'Neill is a South Tampa writer who can be contacted at moesez@aol.com or www.opinionstogoonline.com.

Photo: JOE O'NEILL Columnist Columnist

Copyright ? 2008, The Tampa Tribune and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@tampatrib.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 28, 2008

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