The 2008 Tampa Bay Rays were one of the coolest and most delightful out-of-nowhere success stories in recent baseball history, a team filled with a bevy of teen stars and veteran hitting that coalesced to make an astonishing World Series appearance after having gone 66-96 the season prior. As an oral history in The Athletic of that team’s unexpected rise points out, they were also rowdy as hell.
One member of the team’s veteran core, Jonny Gomes, may as well have been a teen himself, at least in terms of his world-class rowdiness. The rest of the story is very good, and I recommend that you check it out, but for my money nothing in it is better than Gomes celebrating so lustily that he almost suffocated a quarter of his teammates.
Seven days later, the Rays wrapped up their first AL East crown in a wild way. They had lost a matinee in Detroit, and had to wait around for several hours for a rain-delayed Red Sox-Yankees game.
Once the Red Sox lost, Tampa Bay officially clinched. And what happened after was a celebration for the ages, with Gomes’ use of a fire extinguisher nearly putting several teammates out of action.
Dan Johnson: “We were all in different places, different hotels. Some went to the Hard Rock casino. Some went back to the hotel in Birmingham. We were waiting for the (Red Sox-Yankees) game to end. But we all wanted to come back to (the park) to celebrate. Once the score was lopsided, we said, ‘Let’s go.’”
Gomes: “Imagine being 21 years old and going out for your first New Year’s Eve party. We didn’t know much how to party, and it became an utter blowout session every single time. So in Detroit, after we clinched there, nothing was safe. Whether it was champagne, tequila, Dr. Pepper or orange juice, it was getting splashed around.
“Toward the end, a lot of the dudes jumped in the shower and I took the fire extinguisher off the wall and blasted the shower. Kind of as a joke. It came out almost like baby powder. But the fire extinguisher took the oxygen out of the air. So everyone comes out of the shower, they’re laughing, they can’t breathe.
“I came close to taking out a fourth of our team.”
[Melvin] Upton [Jr.]: “I had actually just gotten out when he came by me. I was like ‘Oh, that doesn’t look good.’ I backed out and I just remember Jeff Niemann throwing up on Shawn Riggans because he couldn’t breathe.”
[Trever] Miller: “Lucky nobody got seriously hurt. It was funny when you weren’t in the shower. But it was a memory—that’s how we were, how crazy Jonny would be.
Once, in high school, at a friend’s party, an oaf I knew used a fire extinguisher to hose down an entire room, for seemingly no other reason besides juvenile stupidity. He was promptly clobbered and kicked out by, like, 12 people. Even though Gomes, unlike Mr. Oaf, nearly forced several people unconscious, given the Rays’ clubhouse culture at the time, I’m assuming Jonny’s teammates were far more understanding.