A bag filled with over a thousand pictures, found on a sidewalk near my apartment, has produced little of interest. The boredom is furious.
One glimmer of interest to me, however, is that the bag and all the pictures inside seemed to have belonged to someone who lived here in New York and travelled to Tampa, the town where I mostly grew up.
Up from those thousand-plus pictures of solidly, infuriatingly mundane pictures rises this ghostly image of the old Tampa Stadium with the old Tampa Bay Buccaneers “Buccaneer Bruce” logo on the back of the scoreboard.
Slightly eerie is how this found picture was taken from a virtually identical angle (albeit from a different vantage point) as this picture, which my father took in 1978:
This picture is from a spring training baseball game at Al Lopez Field between the “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds and the Kansas City Royals. The batter is, I believe, Reds catcher Johnny Bench, who I always equated with Schroeder, from the Charlie Brown comic series. Dale Mabry Highway separates Al Lopez Field and Tampa Stadium. It is possible that I actually took this picture, as I seem to remember my dad letting me go down to the front rows of the stadium for that purpose.
The first picture offers no clue whatsoever as to its vintage, but my guess is that it is from the mid to late 1980s.
I went to high school about a mile up the road from Tampa Stadium. I drove past the place frequently and clearly remember the strangely outsized billboard on the right side of the picture. I remember it simply for being so wide, and as a child I imagined that the pole on which it stood would collapse under the weight, or that a hurricane wind would either cause the sign to spin on its axis or it would topple the sign like a child flicking a domino. I further imagined using it as a ping pong paddle or as a fan. I wish I could see what text is on that sign because my memory cries out for it, the image of that sign leading routinely to a mundane memory of what content it usually contained when I saw it. Something to do with cars, I think.
I never attended a Buccaneers game at Tampa Stadium but I saw several Tampa Bay Rowdies games during a period when Rowdies vs. New York Cosmos matches drew crowds of 40,000+. This grainy drive-by shot of the stadium rather neatly expresses my faded memories of those events, which bored me.
The Grucci Brothers produced fireworks displays for the 4th of July, and I may be wrong but I seem to remember that one of these fireworks shows followed a Rowdies game. Years later I would be miffed to learn that the Gruccis were a world-wide enterprise. As a child I had somehow come to believe that the Gruccis were a local family who did their shows exclusively in Tampa, and that our town’s privileged access to these amazing productions was the envy of other cities.
Dale Mabry Highway (from which this shot appears to have been taken) was named for an obscure military dirigible pilot, a man who I imagine would be flabbergasted to know that his name is uttered millions of times a day because one of Tampa’s busiest thoroughfares is named in his honor.
This strip of Dale Mabry Highway has, for generations, been home to numerous strip clubs and lap dance hovels, the Mons Venus probably the most famous among them. Some say that Tampa is best known for its cigars, others might say its sports teams are its finest export, but when I tell someone I am from Tampa I look for the glimmer of recognition in their eyes and if I see it I laugh and say “Yup, home of the Mons Venus.” In my experience it seems like more people know Tampa as the home of “The Mons” than for anything else.
Tampa Stadium was demolished and the empty parking lot seen in the first picture is now the site of Raymond James Stadium. I hear it’s pretty neat.
A common myth from the area said that two nearby streets were named for two Buccaneers players. The streets, Leroy and Dewey, were supposedly named for Lee Roy Selmon and Dewey Selmon, two brothers who played for the early seasons of the franchise. Alas, the naming of the streets and their proximity to Tampa Stadium was coincidental. Leroy Street is not even spelled right (should be “Lee Roy”). Another elaboration of the myth said that the brothers lived on their respectively-named streets, and that they walked to work.