1998 Fleer Ultra Gold Medallion #466G
Rolando Arrojo had been one of the stars of the Cuban National Team in the early to mid-90s’, along with players like Orlando Hernandez, Omar Linares and Juan Padilla. He led Cuba to a Gold Medal in 1992.
The (Devil) Rays signed him in April of 1997, just months after the American League had voted them to become the circuit’s 15th franchise.
He immediately joined the St.Pete Rays of the Florida State League, a class A team. He led St. Pete with 4 complete games that year and they won the FSL Championship.
I picked Arrojo to be the first “Card Of The Day” for 2 reasons. 1. He was the first (Devil) Rays player to accomplish many feats. 2. He was a throw-back style player, a pitcher who could pitch all nine innings, like Jeff Nieman did earlier this week.
I don’t know what the heck is going on in this picture. This happens a lot with players signed to expansion teams that have never played a game. You get called to a photoshoot, put on a uniform and stand there while 20 different photographers take pictures of you. Most often you end up with a portrait, but some photogs will encourage you to do something zany, like “raise the roof”, or “stick ‘em up” or “show me how many fingers you have”, etc. Arrojo fell victim to this. He didn’t have a ton of cards and this was the first one I ever had. It looks odd in my (Devil) Rays book, but whatever…
Arrojo’s List Of Firsts
March 27, 1998. He beats Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves 5-0 in a spring training game, the first ever game played at Tropicana Field.
April 1, 1998. He beats the Detroit Tigers for the Devil Rays first ever regular season victory. It was the second game of the season.
In the same game, he commits the first error in team history.
On April 30, 1998, he goes all nine innings blanking the Twins in Minnesota for the Devil Rays first complete game and shutout.
He was the first Devil Ray named to the All Star team in 1998. He pitched one inning and the AL won.
He led the Devil Rays pitchers that season in innings, wins, shutouts, complete games, starts and ERA. He went 14-12 with a 3.56 era.
It was all down hill from there. After a disappointing year in 1999, he was dealt to Colorado for Vinny Castilla. They quickly traded him to Boston where he spent 3 seasons splitting time as a starter and reliever. He ended his career with the Sox in 2002. His career totals were 40-42, 512 strikeouts, 6 saves and a 4.55 ERA.
It all started with this goofy card, it led to an amazing rookie season, followed with 4 years of decline and disappointment and ended with his retirement at 34 years of age. Congratulations Rolando Arrojo, you are the Troll’s first ever “Card of the Day”!