Sunday, October 31, 2010
Texas Rangers: An abbreviated personal history...
The first World Series appearance by the Rangers inspired, for lack of a better term, the column in this Sunday's Times in Shreveport and News-Star in Monroe. I have a semi-long history with our nearest big-league team...Sort of like Toby Harrah, who played shortstop for the Rangers for a bit and whose name is the same frontwards as backwards, but unlike Bump Wills, who made the cover of SI and ... not much else. (Not that I wouldn't have loved to have had his 'career'!)
Here's the column, and below that, more useless information ...
THE RANGERS WEREN'T GOOD, AND THAT MADE THEM BETTER
Their owners moved the Washington Senators to Texas in 1972 not necessarily to become the New York Yankees of the South, but instead to become a sort of poor-man’s country club for a fan base that sported “The West Wasn’t Won With Registered Guns” bumper stickers on its pickup trucks.
Having just moved to the Ark-La-Tex and gotten a driver’s license, that was plenty big-league enough for me. Win (rarely) or lose, I have appreciated since then my many dealings with your historically colorful and hard-to-figure Texas Rangers, champions of the American League and, even as we speak, in the World Series for the first time.
The baseball gods have turned the water into Gatorade.
A Rangers fan due to proximity more than passion, I nonetheless am no bandwagon annie. I saw the Rangers even before they were the Rangers: 1966 or ’67, in Washington, 8-1 losers to the Kansas City A’s and Ruston infielder Wayne Causey in old D.C. Stadium, later renamed RFK Stadium. I was 6 or 7 and this was the first big-league game I’d ever been to. The sounds. The smells. The colors. The A’s sleeveless jerseys. It beat climbing to the top of the Washington Monument, I’ll tell you that.
My first Rangers game in Arlington, I got no closer to the field than the parking lot. 1974. We’d moved here from Carolina and my parents took me and my sisters to Six Flags Over Texas. I voted for a Rangers game instead. Didn’t happen. But I talked my dad into pulling the Impala into the parking lot that night and, thanks to the Baseball Gods, there was the frail and aging former Yankees manager Casey Stengel – he would be dead in less than two years – getting out of a golf cart by the press gate. Had on an all-white suit and carried a cane.
My heart stopped.
The P.A. guy was announcing “Graig Nettles, New York Yankees third baseman!,” as the next batter. All I can tell you is that I could not believe it was happening, even as we drove past car after empty car, away from Stengel, away from the stadium, my ignorant family still too jacked up over the log ride to understand that we were in the presence of greatness.
I didn’t ask if we could go in. I didn’t ask if we could turn around. The Stengel sighting (I’d name my son ‘Casey’) and hearing an actual batter announced on a big-league P.A. system was more than I expected and more than I deserved. I thanked Fate and the Rangers for the timing, for the first of many happy moments they’ve given me, none of which involved them winning or losing. I didn’t care. Just like the Rangers’ didn’t.
We’ve run out of innings so I’ll put the rest of this on the Teddy blog at teddyallen.blogspot.com, but one last story: Once our church youth group went to Six Flags (everybody always wanted to go to stupid Six Flags!) and I snuck next door to a 1 p.m. Rangers game, lucked into a ticket by the dugout, and as a 17-year-old was right there by Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford for the Old Timer’s Game before the real game started. Glory Hallelujah! It was a thousand degrees hot and the best church trip I ever went on. It was the day I started believing in miracles.
Teddy Allen, email@example.com, is a Times columnist.
My first Rangers game in person, when I actually got to to INSIDE the stadium, was 1975-ish against Kansas City. First homer I ever saw was from big John Mayberry, and Hal McRae was mad about a being called out on a close play at first, and Harmon Killebrew was in the dugout. In person. I wept. Freddy Patek, the Royals’ 5-4 short shortstop, homered too. Hit it in the tiny gap, maybe three feet wide, that ran between the top of the outfield wall and the bottom of the grandstands, all around the outfield;
Saw Fergie Jenkins start in the first game of a twinight doubleheader against the then California Angels. The temperature on the big Texas clock in left was 101 at gametime. Fergie went the distance. Times have changed;
Saw that doubleheader with the youth director at my church, whose name was Charlie, and his wife. I was 17 years old?, maybe? Now I know why I was asked to go: They needed me to help drive! Got a ticket, my first, on the Interstate, just west of Shreveport. And a few weeks later, Lyman Bostok, my favorite Angel not counting Rod Carew or Nolan Ryan or Gabriel, was killed by gunfire in a case of mistaken identity;
I saw Johnny Pesky dancing in the Red Sox dugout between innings. That was the same game in which Yaz stepped out of the box after a swing, sort of favored his back a minute, then stepped back in and grounded out weakly and then came out of the game. He's mix the next couple of weeks and the Yankees, way behind, would begin making up ground until catcing them on the final day of the season and beating them in the one-game playoff on the homer by Bucky Dent. And all that started with that one swing by Yaz in Arlington Stadium, July of 1978. Didn't seem like a big deal that day ... turns out that it was;
Billy Martin wore a little gold cross by the T on his Rangers cap. I remember him going out to remove a starter named Hand (maybe Bob Hand?) who was training about 147-0 in maybe the fifth. 1975 or so? But I loved me some Billy Martin;
July 4 of '75 or '76 or '77, me and Coach E drove over from West Monroe and saw Richie Zisk single in the 9th to beat the Yankees, then we watched fireworks, then we drove all the way back home;
Me and Jaybo and Ramz -- can't remember where Matth was -- went to the Arlington water park for the day (Wet 'n Wild?) -- this was '82 or '83 -- then over to the stadium and watched a rookie named Saberhagen get pounded; and we thought he was supposed to be good;
Ended up in the coaches' office eating pizza with Rangers coach Art Howe once when I was covering a game, but that was my first time to cover one and how I got in the coaches' room I'm not sure. . . I was trying hard to get to the locker room ... So we start talking about our mutual friend Big Charlie Wilkinson and it took me a while to get out of there ...
Took my son Casey to see the Orioles, his favorite team (because it was my favorite team; he's since come to understand that they are the most under achieving team in all of professional sports and will be so until our current owner is misplaced), to a game, just us two, in the middle of the week. He was probably 7 or 8 so it was `97 or '98, in there. He loved center fielder Brady Anderson. He wore a Brady shirt to the game. But we went to the Rangers souvenier store and he wore a Pudge shirt DURING the game and left Brady in the car. He slept all the way home...
For three consecutive years -- '99 through '01 -- we took Little Leaguers over there to play in Dr Pepper Park, then go to a game. The first year, I got 88 tickets. The next year, 124 tickets. The next year, 180-something tickets and four Little League teams from Shreveport played in the neat little park in the shadow of the big stadium before walking over to the game. It was a beautiful thing...parents, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, grandfolks .... much fun...
Saw Nolan Ryan pitch in his final year. He gave up a three-run homer to the Orioles' No. 3 hitter early, lasted six and got the win. It was a hot Sunday afternoon...
The first game Casey ever went to was against the Indians. We left in the sixth or seventh and I watched the rest of the game on the hotel TV. He said he would stay "if they let me bat. Do you think they'll let me bat?" He was 6 and he was serious...
Watched Harvey Haddix pitch in an Old-Timers Game, a re-creation of the 1960 World Series, Yankees vs. Pirates. Loved his sleeveless jersey ...