Category: Texas Rangers (Page 1 of 24)

Sports Joy

Baseball season has begun and the Rangers have a cool new logo to promote this as their 50th Anniversary Season. I love the logo because it incorporates the old cowboy hat from their very first logo in 1972, still my favorite Rangers logo of all time. Never mind that this is the Rangers’ 51st season – the Cowboys pulled the same math miscalculation in 2010 with their 50th anniversary patch during their 51st season, and nobody seems to care. It’s a neat little design that highlights a milestone moment for a beloved baseball team.

And it’s probably going to be the highlight of the season.

This is still the same ol’ Rangers. What other team can average seven runs per game and still be 1-3? What other team can be up 7-0 in the 4th inning and lose 10-8? What other team places its ace starting pitcher on the injured list with a finger blister three innings into Opening Day? What other team loses in extra innings on an overturned illegal slide video replay call from New York City?

I watch and cheer for the Rangers mostly out of duty. They’re my team. I’ve been with them for all fifty years. Rooting for the red dot in three stadiums. “It’s baseball time in Texas!” Sunny, Pudge, and Chad Krueter. Feliz versus A-Rod. Nellie Cruz’s drop. Chan Ho Park. Expectations are low and nobody gets hurt. It’s an obligation for me. There’s not a ton of joy.

Over the past couple of months, I have become really excited for the Mavericks and their sure-to-be deep playoff run that starts this weekend. They have the second best record in the NBA since January 1 and they’re playing as well as anybody in the league. They’ve secured home court advantage for the opening round of the postseason for the first time since they won it all back in 2011. And they’re not facing the Clippers! I’ve been enthusiastically following this team and looking forward to these playoffs for weeks.

But Luka strained his calf in the second half of the season finale Sunday night and he’s questionable for Saturday’s tip-off against the Jazz. If he can’t go, this is a quick series and it’s one-and-done, again, for the little Mavericks. That excitement is now gone.

The Stars are barely hanging on, backing into their NHL playoff spot via the wild card. Hard to get too excited about that.

My sports hope this spring and summer is in the Midland RockHounds. They will be my sports joy. The AA affiliate of the Oakland A’s and our new hometown team plays their home opener tonight against Corpus Christi and we’re there. They are also celebrating their 50th anniversary season with updated logos, featuring a more anatomically correct Rocky the Hound and including a cool paw print made up of five drops of oil. They’re off to a 2-1 start after opening the season on the road in Amarillo, atop the standings in the Texas League South Division.

We show up early, we wear the gear, we cheer for the players by first name, we toss dollar bills when they hit homeruns, and we always have a great time. I can get pretty excited about that.



Ranger Hangar

It’s not really baseball if it’s played inside a dome.

The girls and I took a quick five day vacation to a couple of our favorite places in Texas last week, wrapping it up with our first visit to the Rangers new ballpark in Arlington – the hideous dome they built to replace the most beautiful stadium in the state. It’s an awful thing. It looks like a massive airplane hangar. It looks like a gargantuan temporary metal building somebody erected over a weekend so they could sell knockoff Nikes or bootleg T-shirts. Situated directly across the street from the gorgeous Ballpark in Arlington, the contrast between the two venues is striking. And terribly sad.

Yes, the seats are cushioned in the new place and, unlike with Jerry’s Death Star next door, they’re all a bit closer to the on-field action. And it’s cooler, of course. It was 94-degrees outside and 70-degrees inside. I wasn’t sweating. Carley reported feeling a bit chilly. Yes, it was very, very comfortable. But it didn’t feel like a baseball game. Walking around the concourse felt more like getting ready for a hockey or basketball game, or a concert, not a baseball game. Aren’t you supposed to be sweating your lips off at a Rangers game? Isn’t that part of what makes the Lemon Chill so great?

And no fireworks. It was a Friday night game, but you can’t do fireworks indoors.

But they still do the wave. I was hoping the new stadium would be wave-less. It’s not. New stadium, same wave-happy fans.

It turned out to be a really fun night. Before the game, I had the great joy of introducing Whitney to longtime Rangers Public Address Announcer Chuck Morgan. The inventor of the dot race. The voice of Arlington Stadium, the Ballpark, and now this Ranger Hangar. We met him in his PA booth right behind home plate and he autographed Whitney’s hat with his famous, “It’s baseball time in Texas!”

The Rangers went hitless through five innings but then scored three runs in an explosive sixth inning to beat the A’s 3-2. A good, clean, well-played baseball game. In a dome.

And they didn’t play Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “If the House is a-Rockin'” after the final out. I was puzzled by that. We lose the song but we keep the wave? Who made that call?

The rationale offered to the public for this abomination has been two-fold: that the summer heat wears the team out so they’re not as strong down the stretch of a baseball season and that more people will attend Rangers games if it’s more comfortable. These are loser arguments from a loser mentality. It’s so disappointing. My response continues to be 1) a winning organization uses the local weather to its benefit. You don’t see the Chicago Bears or the Green Bay Packers putting roofs on their stadiums. They wear short sleeves in sub-freezing blizzards and intimidate the opponent. The weather is part of the home field advantage for an outfit with a winner’s mindset. And 2) it’s not the weather keeping fans away, it’s the inferior on-field product. When the Rangers are winning the division and contending for the pennant, the stadium is packed even in 100-degree heat, even in 88% humidity. I don’t care how cool it is inside the dome, nobody’s coming to watch a last place team.



Play Ball!

The name change from Fox Sports Southwest to Bally Sports Southwest would make more sense if they carried any teams that were worth betting on.

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?



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