One Pack. No Turning Back.

Number of miles driven today: 14

Total miles driven on road trip: 4,715

Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? After an impressive showing by DD yesterday, it appears Starbucks firmly controls the city of Tampa. Starbucks.

Starbucks' record (# of days Starbucks was more common): 18-0-1

Dunkin' Donuts' record: 0-18-1

Cheapest gas I saw today: $ 2.49

Number of states visited overall: 11

Number of red states visited overall (as of 2012 presidential election): 8 (Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia)

Number of blue states visited overall: 3 (California, New Mexico, Florida)

Number of people on the Tampa Tribune sports desk in 1988: 63

Number of people on the Tampa Tribune sports desk in 2015: 12

Biggest regret of visit to Tampa: Not running into local Hulk Hogan at the supermarket

Gratuitous-only-tangentially-related-picture-of-the-day: The Tampa Bay Lightning's Amalie Arena (see above)



A number with an 860 area code flashed on my phone. I picked up.


Pause.


"This is Coach Reed," said the voice on the other end, a deep, coarse sound full of authority but weakened by time. 


It took a second, but I realized it was Billy Reed, local Tampa Bay baseball legend and the man who coached one of the players in my pack, Dwight Gooden, at Hillsborough High School. 


I thanked the Coach for calling me back and reminded him who I was (we had spoken a couple of weeks before I left on the trip). I told him I was in town and asked if he could meet to talk about Doc's childhood and career.


He mumbled and grumbled, shuffling something as he tried to figure out his schedule. The Coach must be in his mid-80s by now.


"We-ell, I have a doctor's appointment..." he said, his voice trailing off.


"How long you in town for?"


"Just until tomorrow night."


"Tomorr-uh would be better," he said. 


I suggested 3 pm and a Starbucks near where I'm staying.


Maybe he's a Dunkin' Donuts fan or maybe he just didn't hear me, but he skipped right over my suggestion and said, "There's a Mac-Donald's on Hillsbor-uh and 19th. Meet me there at 3." 


It's a date--me and a man so locally exalted that they named the Hillsborough High baseball field Billy Reed Field. The man who kept a young Doc Gooden humble, forcing him to throw batting practice and benching him on opening day one year because he was late to home room. 


​Gooden, for his part, represents the first true superstar in the wax pack. With apologies to Garry Templeton, who started out as a bona fide superstar but then was robbed of that status by injuries and perhaps racially motivated scrutiny, Doc Gooden is the first player I've reached who literally towered over his city, his likeness plastered on a 100-ft. mural in Times Square in the 1980s.


Gooden never lived up to expectations due to myriad factors we can talk about later. But from 1984-1986, he was arguably the best player in baseball. The trail that led him to cross paths with Bill Buckner, that led to a World Series ring, and that led to him playing hooky from the championship parade while he nursed a cocaine hangover in his Long Island apartment began here in Tampa, a town of transplants and tourism.


And it began with the Coach, who I'll see tomorrow, framed by the Golden Arches.



​​For older blog entries, click here.







Day 19: Tampa, FL, 7.7.15

WAX PACK