THROUGH SUNDAY, 415 people have been issued Rays uniforms since 1998, the team's first season. And every one of them has signed a baseball for the McKenney family's collection—everyone from star third baseman Evan Longoria to mental skills coach Harvey Dorfman, whom Jeff McKenney realized he was missing only after watching a video of the Rays' inaugural game and hearing the psychologist announced during introductions. "He was surprised to hear from me," says McKenney. "But I sent him a ball and he signed it."
Season-ticket holders in section 142 at Tropicana Field, above the Rays' bullpen, the McKenneys befriended Rays relievers early that first season. The players tossed balls to Jeff's daughter, Jennifer, now 26, and son, Raymond, now 24, and before long the family had a five-gallon bucketful. At the end of the season they realized they had almost everyone and decided to try to get the whole team.
Sixteen years later the McKenneys nab most prospects and new players in spring training. But it's not always easy. Jennifer once drove 14 hours to Durham, N.C., racing a hurricane, to get Jay Buente, who had spent a day in the majors. "It has become an excuse for [us] to get together," Jennifer says. "We don't plan to stop."
THEY SAID IT
"I was looking to not strike out."
Cardinals catcher explaining his approach during a ninth-inning at bat against the Cubs with the score tied 3--3. He hit a two-run single that led to a 5--4 St. Louis victory.
If Kevin Durant wins his first MVP award—he's the favorite—the Thunder star will overcome several historical barriers. He'll unseat LeBron James, who has won two straight MVPs. And he'll bring glory to an undecorated jersey number: No NBA player wearing 35 has ever been MVP. In fact there hasn't been an MVP wearing 35 in the NFL or NHL either. (The five MLB MVPs who sported 35 are below.) Which player from any sport is the greatest 35? The answer can be found in Any Given Number, the new book from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED that settles the debate: who wore it best, from 00 to 99.
Ernie Lombardi C Reds 1938
Jim Konstanty RHP Phillies 1950
Vida Blue LHP A's 1971
Frank Thomas 1B White Sox 1993, '94
Justin Verlander RHP Tigers 2011
Find it in bookstores and at SI.com/anygivennumber