PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Near the sign reading "So Many Women,
So Little Time," a woman in a black minidress stood patiently
at the bar waiting for New York Mets pitchers David Cone,
Bret Saberhagen and John Franco to remember she still was
"I just wanted to thank you for the drink," said Kelly
Delgatti, 33, looking wistful and holding a napkin for Cone
to autograph. "It was great to meet you guys."
Less than 24 hours later, dressed in the same form-fitting
outfit, Delgatti stood shivering by the fence at Thomas
J. White stadium, waiting for the Mets to come out of the
"We followed them down here for spring training," said
Delgatti, a nurse from Connecticut who was on vacation with
a girlfriend. "We have some of their autographs. We're
dying to get to know them better."
Delgatti is among the legions of women who descend on Florida
for spring training, which is ending this weekend as the
regular season opens Monday. They can be found at stadiums
throughout the Grapefruit Loop - from Dodgertown in Vero
Beach, Sarasota, Kissimmee and Winter Haven, to Fort Lauderdale.
Some, like Delgatti, are diehard fans who want nothing more
than to watch the game, meet some players and get some sun.
Others have a little more in mind.
Nicknamed "Baseball Annies," they form the vortex where
sex and sports collide. These women are essentially groupies
who make themselves available to players.
What takes place inside bars and outside clubhouses is a
dangerous dance between rich, young men whose prayers have
been answered too soon and women looking to them to answer
prayers of their own.
Annies were immortalized by actress Susan Sarandon in the
1988 film, "Bull Durham." In the movie's most memorable
line, her minor-league love, Kevin Costner, promised her
"long, slow, deep kisses that last three days."
The reality is less romantic.
A New York City woman recently accused three New York Mets
players of raping her last year. An $8.1 million civil suit
was filed against Cone last week, accusing him of luring
two women into the bullpen at Shea Stadium and masturbating
in front of them.
"They consider women sex servants, sex objects, and they
want you totally under their control," said Phyllis DeLucia,
28, of West Nyack, N.Y., one of the women who filed suit.
"They hate being turned down. If they buy you a drink,
they think they own you."
DeLucia said she never slept with any players and only accompanied
her friend and co-plaintiff, Debra Hittelman, 28, who dated
pitcher Sid Fernandez for several years. Their suit includes
an allegation of slander against Cone for calling them groupies.
"In Florida, the girls are just lined up with hardly any
clothes on, it's like `pick me, pick me,"' Hittelman said.
"These guys are spoiled, they have too much money, and
they're the worst womanizers in the world."
Baseball wives, usually conservatively dressed, bejeweled,
often with kids in tow, sit behind the plate whenever they
meet their husbands on the road. Baseball Annies usually
sit alone near the dugouts and linger alone by the clubhouses
after a game.
After hours, they frequent the same bars as the players:
Jox in Jupiter, the Funhouse in West Palm Beach, Hooters
in Clearwater, Cruzan's and Sips in Port St. Lucie, Bobby's
in Vero Beach.
It's a hard, fast, raunchy world, powered by Top 40 hits
throbbing from speakers, bikini and wet T-shirt contests,
and trays of brightly colored $1 shooters - your choice
of Sex on the Beach, Nuclear Kamikazes, Woo-Woos and straight
Jox is where a 31-year-old Manhattan woman said she met
Dwight Gooden, Daryl Boston and Vince Coleman on March 30
of last year. She said they later raped her at Gooden's
rented Port St. Lucie home. The players have not responded
to the accusation.
But men are not always the villains; women are not always
"They're famous. Everyone wants to go out with someone
famous," said Yolanda Fields, 18, explaining the allure
of baseball players as she waited outside the Mets clubhouse
with a friend. Fields has gone out with a Vero Beach Dodger
several times but wants to meet a New York Met.
Some women date minor leaguers, some date major leaguers,
some bounce between both.
"They're typical jackasses," said Kai Pehlman, 24, who
has dated a St. Lucie Mets player and a New York Met. "When
I met them, I thought they were nice. Then I got myself
in a situation where I shouldn't have."
Pehlman said she met a player at a bar one night and he
invited her to dinner the next day. He asked her to pick
him up at his hotel.
"When I got to the room, he was just real pushy and aggressive,"
"Let's put it this way," she said. "He had no intention
of taking me out to dinner."
Tina, 44, a widowed massage therapist who did not want her
last name printed, tells haltingly of being raped last year
by a St. Lucie Met. Then, she shakes her head and looks
"I'm not sure if I should call it rape," she said. "We
were all pretty drunk."
Tina has dated various St. Lucie Mets for several years.
So has her 21-year-old daughter. It was fun, she said. The
players used to leave her complimentary tickets for games
under code names.
"One guy made me a flower out of a napkin," she said.
"Another one wrote me a poem."
One night, she went out to a bar with a group, including
a St. Lucie Met and his friend.
"We were drinking a lot of beer and tequila shooters,"
she recalled. "We left and the guys took me to a boatyard.
He took me inside this place that looked like a big hangar."
Tina barely remembers having sex with the player. Later,
she learned that he had planned for his friend to come along
and have sex with her, too.
"When I woke up the next day, it wasn't something I felt
good about, but I couldn't remember if I had a choice about
it or not," she said.
Darlene Rainieri, 32, who owns a nail salon in Port St.
Lucie, stood by the bar at Cruzan's on a recent night dressed
in a low-cut blue tank dress. She had nothing but praise
for the Montreal Expo she dated a few times last season.
"He was nicer to me than the guys who live around here
are," she said. "And I know the deal. Any girl knows it's
only seasonal. He called me a couple times from the road,
but that was it. I didn't mind."
Several wives of baseball players refused interviews, saying
they had been warned by team management not to talk.
But Janine Silva, 29, of Boston, who has dated Montreal's
Ken Hill for two years, said it is difficult to maintain
the long-distance relationship.
"The women are everywhere, and they're so quick to hand
out their numbers," said Silva, who met Hill at a nightclub
near Boston and didn't know he was a baseball player. "I
always tell Kenny, `I love you for who you are, not who
Silva hopes to marry Hill. Until then, she relies on the
other wives and girlfriends to buoy her spirits.
"The wives and girlfriends are very tight," she said.
"We say to each other, `You see him with someone, you let
me know!' We all have that cloud over us. It's like a common