THE Texas Rangers.
I’m fanatical about them.
Before I tell you about the Verlander vs Darvish game that I went to on 5/16 here is a little bit of history about my favorite team and their park.
Everything’s bigger in Texas…including the love for our Rangers.
Yes, It has been heartbreaking the last three seasons. I’ve cried, yelled, and been speechless on more than one occasion. So please, don’t remind me how many times we were one out away or one strike away. I’m fully aware and I am still healing.
I’ve been a fan as long as I can remember. Some of my favorite childhood memories are going to the Ballpark in Arlington with my dad and my glove. Pudge was my hero! Most little girls want tea parties and dress up…not me. I wanted baseball. I still want baseball, and when I’m at a Rangers game I feel like I’m home.
The Texas Rangers started as the Washington Senators. In 1961 after the original Senators moved to Minnesota, Major League baseball granted the nation’s capitol with one of four expansion teams that year. They took the same name as the old team, but were a completely new ball club.
In the first years the team was a joke. Literally. “Washington: first in war, first in peace, and still last in the American League.” They only had one winning season as the Senators. Fans stayed away while the Orioles only 45 miles away won four pennants and two World Series from 1966-1971. Bob Hope, the club’s GM, got approval to move to Arlington, Texas for the 1972 season. Arlington Mayor, Tom Vandergriff was definitely open to the idea. The team was officially named theTexas Rangers after the famous Texas Rangers law enforcement.
The Senators’ last game was chaos. Fans were livid. After the Security guards walked out early, around 10,000 fans entered the game for free. With the Senators up 7-5 in the top of the 9th, fans raided the field for souvenirs. With no bases left, no security, and fans everywhere the umpire called the game. The Senators forfeited their last game to the Yankees.
Moving to Arlington was an ideal location. Dead center of the Metroplex, halfway between Fort Worth and Dallas, the team would be able to attract a huge fan base. It pains me to say our first game on April 15, 1972 we lost to the Angels. I guess the only good part about that is that the next day we beat them. The very first Texas Rangers victory was over the Angels.
Turnpike Stadium, later named Arlington Stadium for the MLB team, was built as a minor league park in 1965. The vision of the stadium was to attract a Major League team and therefore was built to major league speculations and with the ability to expand seats when needed. The stadium had the largest bleacher section in the Major Leagues. “Bat Night” was a promotional night where kids under 12 would receive bats to bang on the bleachers to create a deafening sound. With a struggling team, this was often the only sell-out night of the year. I’m proud to say Arlington Stadium was the first in the Majors to sell nachos…I love nachos. Until 1978, the stadium had the ability to be used as a football field. That changed when they permanently fixed seats and added an upper deck. The biggest draw back to the stadium was the heat. It’sTexas, and it’s HOT. Summer temperatures often rise over 100 and no to mention the ridiculous amount of humidity. You can walk outside and two minutes later feel like you just got out of the pool. The Stadium didn’t have a roof, so there was no blocking the rays of the Texas sun. I can only imagine the sunburns that were created. For this reason most of the Rangers home games were played at night. This is still true today. Another early tradition that still stands is the playing “Cotton Eyed Joe” during the 7th inning stretch. It is always fun to do a little dancin’ after your stretchin’.
Arlington stadium, unfortunately, never saw a post season or an All-Star game. Only two players, Cal Ripkin Jr. and Oddibe McDowell, hit for the cycle and Mike Witt pitched the 11th perfect game in MLB history. Perhaps Arlington Stadiums best moments were Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th strike out and 7th no-hitter.
With Arlington Stadium aging and becoming less functional for the team, plans for The Ballpark in Arlington began. With George W. Bush as part owner the new stadium broke ground on October 10, 1991. When Bush was elected Governor ofTexas, he left his position with the Rangers.
The Ballpark in Arlington brought the same home plate, foul poles and some of the bleachers from the old field. The bleachers are now painted green but if you could find chipping paint you can experience the original Arlington Stadium. Those bleachers have since been removed and replaced with The Batters’ Eye Club. True baseball fans will notice glimmers of other parks in the architecture. The roof top double-decker outfield porch clearly copies Tiger Stadium, Fenways out-of-town scoreboard, which has been replaced by a video board, was depicted in the outfield wall, the irregularities of the outfield fence are similar to Ebbets the white fences in centerfields’ upper deck are reminiscent of old Yankee Stadium ( actually office buiildings…it’s a good thing I don’t work there I’d never get anything done), and the outer structure combines arches of original Comiskey and red brick of Camden Yards. Outside the park, on the north and west sides, is the Rangers Walk of Fame. Brick panels with the rosters of every team since the Senators moved to Texas in 1972. As for the MVP, Gold Gloves and other awards, there are special markers to set them out from the rest.
The Rangers Hall of Fame is an exciting attraction for the baseball enthusiast. Vandergriff Plaza in center field is fun for the family. Here you can find a statue of Tom Vandergriff ( the father of theTexas Rangers) and Nolan Ryan. And if you’re expecting a home run, run to Greene’s hill, jump the fence and race the 10 year old boys for the ball before it rolls down the hill. Greene’s Hill is the all green batters eye located in center field. It is name after ex Arlington Mayor, Richard Greene, and is definitely a home run ball magnet.
The park opened in 1994 with an exhibition game against the Mets on April 1 and the first actual game against the Brewers on April 11. The next year Johnny Oates was brought on as the manager and the park hosted its first All Star Game. In 1996 Oates lead the team to see it’s first Division Series victory and was later awarded Manager of the Year. That year AL MVP went to Rangers Outfielder and one of the most feared RBI producers in the game, Juan Gonzalez. Oates also led the team to two consecutive AL West titles in 1998 and 1999 but neither year could they get past the Yankees…suffering two back to back sweeps in the ALDS.
As a Rangers fan, I’m used to inconsistency. You could find Texas Rangers in the dictionary definition of the word. We never failed to put star players on the field. Big names have worn Texas on their shirt : Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Rustry Greer, A-Rod, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, Michael Young, Hank Blalock, David Dellucci, Sammy Sosa, Frank Catalanotto, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli… and so many more. But we haven’t been able to take it all. I just want one World Series!
Whether is declaring bankruptcy or being one shy of MLB team strikeout record in one game and three days later smashing the record for runs by one team beating the Orioles 30-3 or leading the AL West the entire season only to lose the title in game 162 to a fairy tale team…being a Rangers fan is nothing but roller coaster ride. I can say though that the first two years of Nolan Ryan owning the team we had a World Series appearance…maybe we just have to be patient, I have faith, I love the Rangers, always have, always will.