Category: Texas Rangers (page 1 of 23)

The Wrong Night

We picked the wrong night to celebrate the Rangers and soak up Ballpark memories in Arlington. The Yankees scored more in their rout of the Rangers Friday than the Saints scored last night in a win over the Cowboys. The Rangers closed out their 26-years at the Ballpark by taking two out of three from the hated Pinstripers. But in the opener Friday, Texas pitchers gave up 18 hits, 14 runs, and six homers in an embarrassing blowout in the next-to-the-next-to-the last game ever at the “Temple.”

Bruce won our homerun pot when the second batter of the first inning went yard on Palumbo. And it was pretty much downhill from there. It was never as close as the 14-7 final might indicate. But, a bad day at the Ballpark is better than a good day almost anywhere else.

I thoroughly enjoyed my last ever nachos with extra peppers and Diet Dr Pepper at the Ballpark, I relished Chuck Morgan’s announcements, I marveled all over again at the Texas granite and stone murals that make up the exterior of that gorgeous shrine to the Lone Star State, I bought Whitney a Pudge Rodriguez Hall of Fame T-shirt for $5.40, and I watched wistfully as the late evening closed with a video tribute to the Ballpark’s greatest moments against the backdrop of the traditional Friday night fireworks.

Big picture, this whole thing is much more bitter than sweet for me. I still can’t believe the Rangers are moving out of this pristine, classic stadium for the slick, steel behemoth of an air-conditioned anathema across the street. It boggles my mind and nauseates my gut.

It doesn’t feel like going to a football game when you’re at Jerry Wayne’s “Death Star.” I’ve been to Cowboys games and college games in that building, and it’s more like going to a huge hotel convention center than an NFL or NCAA football game. You feel like you’re walking through a fancy airport instead of through a concourse at a football stadium. You’re very very very removed from the action on the field — by distance and screens and speakers and a massive roof. The whole thing’s just really fake. And I’m not sure how the Rangers avoid that in their new indoor digs.

I attended the last ever game at the old Texas Stadium. Watching the Ravens beat the Cowboys that night, it was obvious the stadium needed to be replaced. It was old, outdated, and falling apart; rusty rails, water leaking and standing everywhere, weird smells, missing ceiling tiles, cracks in the concrete, faded paint. Not once did anybody in Arlington this year think that about the Ballpark. It’s not right.

I was fortunate to have watched somewhere between 350-400 Rangers games inside that majestic Ballpark. And it was a blast taking in my last one Friday with some really great friends from Amarillo. I’m thankful.

I’m not sure what next year looks like. I’m sure we’ll still take our twice annual trips to Arlington. I’ll eat nachos and drink DDP, I’ll sing along to “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” and Chuck Morgan will still be announcing the batters and pitchers and calling the dot races. But I might be wearing a jacket. In August. Drinking hot chocolate. Yikes.



The Last Pilgrimage

Baseball is an outdoor game. It’s designed to be an outdoor game. Like with football, the weather at a baseball game is part of the deal. It’s built in. But the Texas Rangers, who play in one of the top five nicest ballparks in all of baseball, are moving into a one-billion-dollar monstrosity of an air-conditioned anathema next year. The last chance to see an outdoor Major League Baseball game in the state of Texas is this weekend, and I’m taking it.

Several of us are leaving together in the morning to take in the Yankees and Rangers at the “Temple.” We’ll do what we always do. We’ll talk baseball during the six-hour drive, we’ll talk baseball during our late lunch at Pappasito’s, we’ll talk baseball during the game, and on the way home the next day. My focus will be on reminiscing. I’ll be trying to soak up every bit of this last experience at the hallowed Ballpark, conjuring up wonderful memories from the past 26-seasons, and attempting to make a couple of last ones.

The Ballpark in Arlington. I used to live there, you know?

That’s where Johnny Oates blew up at me for missing the media elevator and showing up late for a post-game press conference in that first season, only to pull me into his office and apologize to me the next afternoon. That’s where I earned my baseball degree sitting next to the great Steve Busby in our KRLD front row seats in the press box over a thousand summer nights. That press box is where I had several unplanned conversations with George W. Bush who would just pop in unannounced two or three times a season. I had my own parking space there. I ate for the cycle there. Many times. I broadcasted live from a soundproof booth in the TGIFriday’s in centerfield every Friday afternoon for four years.

There’s no way to know how many times I interviewed Michael Young in the Rangers clubhouse. After a loss, he was just about the only player who would talk. And there were many losses. It’s in that clubhouse where I was looking for players one afternoon to comment on the release of Juan Gonzales. It had just happened and I ran downstairs to get some sound for our late afternoon sportscasts. Kevin Mench declined. Rafael Palmeiro turned to Mench and said, “You gotta  talk to him. Because when it happens to you, you want these guys to be nice to you.” So Raffy and Mench talked to me that day.

That clubhouse is where I conducted an afternoon interview with Alex Rodriguez for a friend of mine, Bob Matuszak, who was freelancing for a health and fitness magazine. I had set it up with Rodriguez the day before — he knew what he had agreed to do. But he hated answering questions about his exercise habits and his diet routine almost as much as I hated asking them. After about two minutes he just up and walked away from me. I said, “Alex, give me another five minutes.” I needed to get these questions answered so I could get my twenty-five bucks. But he just put his hand up and walked away. And I hollered, “Thanks a lot, A-ROD!” He hated being called A-Rod. Bob kept that cassette tape for years. You could hear me yelling angrily and sarcastically at the highest paid player in baseball. He laughed about it all the time.

Eleven straight Opening Days. One private meeting with Buck Showalter. Tim Carpenter hitting his head on the decorative metal around the stage when the Rangers introduced him to the press as the club closer.  I was one of the voters for the Rangers Hall of Fame inaugural class. It’s not that hard putting check marks next to Nolan Ryan and Jim Sundberg. Lance Nix’s leopard thong. John Wetteland pouring champagne down the back of my shirt when they clinched in ’99.

There were a couple of springs when the Big 12 played their conference tournament at the Ballpark. On those Thursday and Friday afternoons, I’d walk out of our studios to the picnic tables in centerfield and spend the 30-minutes between sportscasts taking in the sunshine and the action. I worked closely with Scott Franzke, Chris Schneider, and the late great Roger Emrich at that Ballpark. I sat in the main studio with Mike Rogers and Alice Rios talking about new Cowboys coaches and Mavericks draft picks. Tyler Cox hired me there and Jerry Bobo tried to get me to stay there.

The very first playoff game in Rangers history was at that Ballpark. I was there covering the second playoff game in Rangers history. The next night. In the auxiliary press box. I was delighted to see my assigned seat was next to the legendary Norm Hitzges. I was disappointed that he never showed. I was in the home run porch for the last World Series game ever played in the Ballpark, a thrilling Game Five win over the Cards. And I’ll be there tomorrow when they begin their last ever series in the “Temple” against the hated Yankees.

It’s going to be hot tomorrow night. It’s always hot at Rangers games. That’s part of the deal. And I’m thinking this will be the last one. When they move into that Jerry-inspired sportatorium next year, they’ll never have the roof open. The Astros only open their roof between 10-12 times per season. When do the Cowboys open theirs? I’ve read that the Rangers will close the roof when the temperature or the temperature-heat-index is over 84-degrees or when the wind is forecast to be more than 20-miles-per-hour. So, that’s like, always.

It won’t be like going to a baseball game. It’ll be like something else. And there won’t be any memories. Just sterile, indoor, air-conditioned entertainment.

The Ballpark in Arlington is only 26-years-old and it’s still one of the top five nicest in the country. Yes, it’s hot. But do you think a Lemon Chill is going to be nearly as good next year?



Dirk Owns Dallas

The Big German owns Big D.

Dirk Nowitzki took out a full page ad in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News to say “Thank You” to Mavericks fans and to the city after 21 Hall of Fame years in Dallas. It’s a rare kind of letter from a professional superstar athlete of Dirk’s caliber. Humble. Grateful. Selfless. Sincere.  Reflective. Kind. Two DMN sportswriters have confirmed that Dirk worked on this letter for a couple of weeks; these are all his words; it’s not ghost-written. And you can tell it’s from his heart.

Dirk could run for mayor of Dallas and win it today. When it comes to Dallas sports, he’s in an exclusive club with Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Staubach, of course, is in a class all by himself. He spent his entire career with the Cowboys, he won two Super Bowls in Dallas, he was a model citizen and team player, and he made his permanent home in Dallas when he retired. For the past 39 years and for the next 39 years, Staubach could run for Governor of Texas or the U.S. Senate and win it immediately. He’s that beloved in Dallas and throughout the state. Aikman also spent his entire career with the Cowboys , he won three Super Bowls, he was a model citizen and team player, and he also made his permanent home in Dallas when he retired. For some reason — somebody help me articulate this — it doesn’t feel like Aikman’s in the exact same category as Staubach. But he’s close. Right there with Dirk.

Mike Modano’s not in that class. He won a Stanley Cup as the face of the franchise with the Stars in 1999. Model citizen and team player, advocate for the sport and the city, but he finished his career in Detroit. And it’s hockey.

The very nature of baseball means nobody’s going to play their entire career with the Rangers. Plus, the Rangers have never won a championship. Nolan Ryan could be governor of Texas whenever he wants, but he doesn’t own Dallas. Jim Sundberg and Pudge Rodriguez could make the Dallas city council, but they don’t own the city. Besides, they played all their home games in Tarrant County.

Am I missing somebody? I think it’s Staubach, Aikman, Dirk. In that order. Does anybody else in Dallas sports belong in that group?



Opening Day

It’s baseball time in Texas! The Rangers open up their 2019 slate with the first of three against the Cubs at the Ballpark this afternoon. Texas Governor Greg Abbott will throw out the ceremonial first pitch, “Texas, Our Texas” will be performed BEFORE the national anthem (as it should be!), and then Mike Minor will take the hill for new manager Chris Woodward.

And that’s about all I know.

Honestly, it’s hard to get excited for this Rangers season. The over/under on wins is 71.5 in this first year of another rebuilding program. Jon Daniels is on track to be the first General Manager in Rangers history to oversee three 90-loss seasons. Adrian Beltre is not at third base. And they’re tearing down the Ballpark.

But, it is baseball. And it is Opening Day. Today, right now, as of this writing, Texas is not in last place. They will have to face Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, and Cole Hammels in this first series, and that’s a tough draw. But, hope springs eternal. Any progress this year would be a success. Not being mathematically eliminated before the All Star break would feel really good. A .500 season with 81 wins would be cause for celebration.

Here’s a link to every single thing you need to know about the Rangers heading into Opening Day. Play ball.

Let’s go, Rangers!
Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap!



First Place Texas Rangers.

I have only a few more hours to write those four words together in  the same sentence. As of this posting, Texas is undefeated and in first place. But they open up the season against the World Champion Astros at 2:30 this afternoon.

My assumption is that whether Cole Hamels has a great outing today or not, the Astros will outscore the Rangers and the tone will be set for another 90-loss season. While Houston and the rest of the A.L. West were adding Gold Glovers and Silver Sluggers to their lineups over the winter, the Rangers were signing Bartolo Colon and Tim Lincecum. Seriously! Bartolo Colon is 85-years-old and 340-pounds and he’s our number two starter! Lincecum hasn’t thrown a good major league pitch in three years. He made one minor league start for us and wound up on the DL with that bad hip.

It’s going to be a long, hard season.

But today is Opening Day. It’s baseball time in Texas. And a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day almost anywhere else.




My brother, Keith, and I went to a lot of Texas Rangers games back in the day. We’re ten years apart — but still shared a room and slept in bunk beds until I moved off to college — so during the best of those times I was 18 or 19 years old and he was eight or nine. We’d jump in my “metallic blue” Nissan Hardbody, grab a couple of Ultimate Cheeseburgers at the Jack in the Box on Buckner Boulevard, and fly down I-30 to old Arlington Stadium.

Parking was free when you could find a spot behind a warehouse on Randol Mill, a game program was a dollar — those really were the good old days — and the bleacher seats were five dollars each. Keith and I would usually wind up in the aluminum rows in left field.

And there was a lot of room out there. The teams were terrible — the Rangers were still ten years away from their first division title and first playoff appearance — and attendance was worse. A lot of the time it felt like there were only a few dozen of us in those outfield bleachers. But we went faithfully, as often as we could. We cheered on Bobby Witt and Charlie Hough, Pete O’Brien and Steve Boooooo-chele. Keith named himself the president of the Chad Krueter fan club and we killed time in the late innings of blowout losses by chanting his name.

One night the Rangers were actually winning. I can’t remember who they played or what night of the week it was, but I do remember there were only twelve of us in the left field stands. And one guy about twenty rows up from us was very, very, very drunk and very, very, very loud. He was about as obnoxious as you can imagine — sloppy drunk — and giving everybody in the zip code a running commentary on everything that was happening in the stadium.

In between the eighth and ninth innings, they started running the out of town results across the scoreboard: Yankees beat the Angels. Twins over the Mariners. Giants down the Cards. Astros won.

The Astros won. I can’t remember who they were playing — I’m certain it didn’t matter. But this drunk behind us took notice. The Astros had won, his Rangers were winning, and he took that opportunity to bellow his Lone Star pride. In the sloppiest, spittiest, slurriest way possible, he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Texshas Shports!”

He went on and on — now that I’m writing this I’m afraid it’s probably not as funny as I remember — about the Rangers and Astros and how Texas Sports dominate. No shirt, no shoes, this guy was gross. And he was fired up about his rooting interests in his home state. Cowboys and Oilers, Mavericks and Rockets and Spurs, Rangers and Astros. Everybody’s awesome in Texas and all Texas sports are the best in the history of the universe. “Texshas Shports!”

Last night, at 10:45 pm, my phone lit up with a text from Austin. It was Keith. “Texas Sports.”

Yes, I was rooting for the ‘Stros in their World Series against L.A. The Astros have been my second favorite team for the entirety of my life. It’s always been easy to cheer for Houston. They were in the National League, so no threat to my Rangers. And when they do well it makes Texas look good. It was the same way with the Oilers, they were always my second favorite team. I dreamed of an all-Texas Super Bowl between my Cowboys and Bum’s Oilers, an all-Texas World Series between my Rangers and those rainbow Lastros. Honestly, I’ve got a lot in common with that bum in the Arlington Stadium bleachers.

So, I’m wanting the Astros to win this thing last night, but I’ve got mixed feelings about it today. I’m glad a Texas team upset the heavily favored Dodgers. I secretly felt satisfied that Yu Darvish imploded so historically for L.A. These young Houston ballplayers are fun to watch. How can you not like them? But I’m sick that Houston won a World Series before the Rangers did. I’m still suffering from PTSD relating to 2011. And how do you cheer for a team in the Rangers’ division?

I texted Adam Gray, the long-time Astros fan on our church staff, early this morning: “Congratulations. I wish I knew what it felt like to feel like you felt like last night.”

It looks like the Rangers are in for another three or four year stretch of really bad baseball while the Astros appear poised to contend for several more titles. I have only one consolation today. Texas Sports.



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