The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' game against the New Orleans Saints in Week Six was played in the afternoon, but that didn't stop the stars from coming out.
Raymond James Stadium was the place to be on Sunday for a long list of local and national celebrities, professional athletes and former Buccaneer standouts. They came from the stage, from the diamond, from the recording studio and from the franchise's own record books to watch their Buccaneers take on a heated rival.
Special guest Harry Connick, Jr., in fact, is well-known to fans of many different mediums, as he has conquered the music industry, Broadway, the cinema and the small screen. Connick, best loved for his seven top-20 albums in the U.S., shared a private suite at the game with a group of his own guests.
Many more celebrities joined the Glazer family in the Owner's Suite, including basketball legend Dick Vitale, a long-time Buccaneers fan who greeted the RJS crowd during the game. Also joining the Glazers were Broadway performers Janet Dacal and Darren Ritchie; Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton; former Major League Baseball star Gary Sheffield; and such household Buccaneer names as Scot Brantley, Jimmy DuBose, David Lewis, Steve Wilson and Richard Wood.
Click here to see a photo gallery of the celebrities in attendance at Sunday's Buccaneer game.
Upton's Rays are coming off their second American League East title in three years, having won 96 games and outdueled the New York Yankees for the division crown. To honor the accomplishments of their cross-town friends, the Buccaneers also invited Manager Joe Maddon, Pitching Coach Jim Hickey and Bench Coach Dave Martinez to watch their game against the Saints. The Buccaneers paid tribute to Maddon and Rays with a special announcement on the BucVision Videoboards in the third quarter.
That "cast" of special guests rooting on the Buccaneers on Sunday boasts an amazing array of combined achievements.
Connick has sold over 25 million albums and gone to number one on the U.S. jazz charts more than any other artist in chart history. He is just as well-known for his work in movies, starring in such popular films as Hope Floats, P.S. I Love You, Copycat, Independence Day and Memphis* Belle.* Connick also had a long-running role on the popular sitcom Will & Grace and earned a Tony Award nomination for his score for the Broadway musical Thou Shalt Not.
Dacal and Ritchie are currently starring in the stage production Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure, which ran at Tampa's Performing Arts Center in 2009 and early 2010 and is returning for another run at that location in January. Dacal, who previously appeared on Broadway in In the Heights plays the role of Alice while Ritchie plays Jack/White Knight. Ritchie is best known for playing Jonathan Harker in the Broadway production of Dracula, the Musical.
Vitale was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, a nod to both is long career as a head coach in both the college and pro ranks and to his decades of intense popularity as a game announcer. Vitale posted a record of 78-30 as a head coach at Rutgers (1971-73) and the University of Detroit (1973-77) before helming the NBA's Detroit Pistons in 1978 and 1979. He then launched his broadcasting career at the brand new ESPN and soon become popular for his enthusiasm and colorful remarks and catchphrases.
Upton, the second overall pick in the 2002 MLB draft, came up through the Rays' ranks as a shortstop but eventually moved to centerfield, where he is one of the best defensive outfielders in the pros. His career statistics include a .262 batting average, 59 home runs and 156 stolen bases. Upton helped the Rays reach their first World Series in 2008, hitting seven home runs in the team's series wins over the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. Upton was also the first Ray to hit for the cycle, accomplishing the feat on October 2, 2009.
Sheffield, a Tampa native, is one of the most accomplished hitters of his generation. During a career that spanned two decades (1988-2009) and produced nine All-Star selections, he batted .292 with 509 home runs, 1,676 RBI and 2,689 hits. He is one of only 25 players in MLB history to hit 500 or more home runs. Sheffield won the NFL batting crown in 1992 as a member of the San Diego Padres and won a World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997.
Maddon is the fourth manager in Rays history and the first to lead them to the postseason, helping produce division titles in 2008 and 2010. He took over in 2006, inheriting a team that had yet to win more than 70 games in a season, and had them winning 97 games by his third season. He was named the American League Manager of the Year in 2008. Hickey joined Maddon's staff in 2007 after several successful seasons as the pitching coach of the Houston Astros. Martinez, a veteran of 16 MLB seasons as a player, also joined Maddon's staff in 2007; his career accomplishments include a .276 average, 91 home runs and 183 stolen bases.
The Buccaneer alumni in attendance included some of the key figures from the franchise's first three playoff seasons (1979, 1981 and 1982). Wilson, Wood and DuBose were all members of the inaugural 1976 Buccaneers team and all played a part in Tampa Bay's amazing run to the NFC title game in 1979. Lewis joined the team in 1977 and quickly became a starting linebacker; Brantley was drafted out of the University of Florida in 1980 and did the same.
The popular and hard-hitting Brantley patrolled the middle in the Bucs' 3-4 defensive front in the 1980s, racking up more than 600 tackles as well as eight interceptions before heading up to the booth in the mid-'90s to join the Bucs' radio broadcast team. DuBose recorded the first 100-yard rushing game in franchise history when he accomplished the feat against the Giants in 1978. Lewis was the first Tampa Bay LB to make the Pro Bowl and he was voted team MVP in 1978. Wilson played 10 seasons as a Buccaneer, the most by any player on the inaugural 1976 team, and retired with 126 games played and 104 career starts, most of them at center. Affectionately known as "Batman" during and after his playing career, Wood played the first nine seasons in team history and is still ranked sixth in the Bucs' record book with 855 total tackles.