By Hal McCoy
On this Halloween weekend, how about some paranormal ghost stories involving a couple of hotels occupied by the Cincinnati Reds and most other major league teams?
The Vinoy in St. Petersburg and The Pfister in Milwaukee are two of the most haunted hotels in America and MLB teams stay at both regularly.
Tough-skinned baseball players who have no fear of 100 miles an hour fastballs and 110 miles an hour line drives, have fled their rooms, shaking and babbling after encountering apparitions and witnessing unnatural occurrences in their rooms.
Carlos Gomez, when he played for the New York Mets, was so frightened by what happened in his Pfister room that he fled to the lobby, with no pants on.
Players have encountered ghosts, paintings on the wall talking to them, water taps turning on and off, lights and air conditioning turning on and off, clothes and personal articles being moved, furniture turned over and locked doors flying open.
Both hotels are old — the Pfister was built in 1893 and hasn’t changed much and the Vinoy was constructed in 1925. Both hotels have old and newer wings. In both hotels, the old wings are said to be haunted.
Fortunately, I have stayed in both on trips with the Reds and never encountered Casper or The Ghosts of Christmas Past. I even boldly requested a room in the old wing of the Pfister on one trip and spent three comfortable nights with no disturbances other than a maid knocking loudly on my door to change the sheets.
That wasn’t the case for former Reds pitcher Scott Williamson, who was National League Rookie of the Year in 1999 with a 12-7 record and a 2.41 earned run average. Perhaps he was haunted because over the next eight years he was 16-21.
It was 2003 and the Reds were at the Vinoy, just down the street from what was then called Tropicana Field, home to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
One morning, Williamson was as white as a ghost. His story:
“I noticed a faint light from the hotel’s pool area when I turned off the lights in my room. I got the feeling that I was being observed and when I laid down to sleep I felt pressure on my back and had some troubles sleeping.
“It as if somebody was sitting on me. And I noticed a man in a coat standing near the curtains.”
Outfielder Mike Cameron played for the Reds until he was traded to Seattle for Ken Griffey Jr., and he wanted no part of the Pfister because of stories he heard from other players. So he stayed elsewhere.
“When somebody tells me when they wake up in the middle of the night out of the blue and they feel like somebody’s in the room with them and the door’s wide open, that’s enough to start making different plans,” he said.
Superstar Bryce Harper had his own Encounter of the Third Kind at the Pfister.
While staying in the Pfister in 2012, Harper had laid out his shirt and pants on a table by the end of the bed before going to sleep.
“When I woke up in the morning, I swear on everything, the clothes were on the floor and the rest was on the opposite side of the room against the wall. I was so flustered. I honestly thought there might be someone in my room. I had no idea what the hell just happened, so I actually looked around, and then I checked to see if the door was still latched and it was,” he said.
He immediately moved to a different room.
Carlos Gomez would have had the pants scared off him, but he wasn’t wearing any.
Gómez said he heard voices while staying in the Pfister. Once he got out of the shower and heard static playing on his iPod. He grabbed the device, which then changed to another song. He raced out of the room and into the lobby before putting his pants on.
“I’m scared to go there,” he said. “They should change the hotel. Everybody here doesn’t like the hotel. Why do they always put us in the same hotel when you can’t sleep?
“Everything’s scary. Everything in the hotel, the paintings and pictures, it’s a lot of old, crazy stuff. No good, man. No good.”
Michael Young only made one trip to Milwaukee but he knew how to handle ghosts.
“Listen, I’m not someone who spreads ghost stories, so if I’m telling you this, it happened,” said Young. “I was laying in bed after a night game and I was out. My room was locked, but I heard these footsteps inside my room, stomping around. I’d heard all these stories about this hotel, so I was wide awake at that point.
“And then I heard it again, these footsteps on the floor, so I yelled out, ‘Hey! Make yourself at home. Hang out, have a seat, but do not wake me up, okay?’,” Young added. “After that, I didn’t hear a thing for the rest of the night. I just let him know he was welcome, that we could be pals, that he could marinate in there for as long as he needed to, just as long as he didn’t wake me up.”
The Pfister caters to the legend. Management says the hotel is probably haunted by its former owner, Charles Pfister. There is a painting of him hanging in the hotel. Management says he is a friendly guy and just makes the rounds making sure the guest are, uh, comfortable.
Many ghost-spotters say they’ve seen a ghostly old man who looks like the painting wandering the halls, but he disappears as quickly as he appears.
I never ordered room service at either hotel.