Category: Texas Rangers (Page 1 of 24)

Take a Pitch!

Whitney and I took a baseball road trip to Arlington this past weekend to take in the Rangers and White Sox at that horribly ugly thing they call the new ballpark. And, of course, we had a blast.

 

We sang Beatles songs together all the way to Fort Worth. We put on our Rangers gear and ate extra cheesy enchiladas at Pappasito’s, our traditional pre-game meal destination. We arrived at that atrocious barn early enough to take a lap around the concourse and comment on all the things we despise about the Rangers’ new digs. We waved at Chuck Morgan in his bulletproof P.A. booth. Whitney bought a Corey Seager t-shirt and I bought a 50th anniversary edition of the Rangers yearbook. And we watched Texas lose 2-1.

The Rangers scored a run on two hits in the first inning, giving us hope for an exciting game and maybe, just maybe, a Rangers win. But then our boys managed only one hit the rest of the way to lose by one. Texas loaded the bases with two outs in the 8th when the White Sox pitcher lost control. He walked two guys and plunked a batter to put the tying run at 3rd base and the potential game-winning run at 2nd. But Leody Taveras chopped at the first pitch he saw and grounded into the inning-ending and, ultimately, game-ending out.

The Chicago pitcher was on the ropes. He was wild. He had walked two and hit one. And with the bases loaded, down one run, in the bottom of the 8th, Taveras didn’t even take one pitch. He didn’t even look. He swung away and bounced it to short. And the game was over.

But I was with Whitney. And a bad day at the ballparkĀ  – even a bad ballpark – is still better than a good day almost anywhere else.

Peace,

Allan

Facing Nolan

I highly recommend you spend 110-minutes this weekend to watch the new documentary on Nolan Ryan. If you’re in a bigger city like Dallas or Houston or Austin, find a theater that’s showing it and see it with a friend or two. If you’re in a smaller town like Midland or Amarillo or Tyler, pay the $4.99 and stream it on the biggest TV in the house with somebody else. Do not watch it alone. It’s too good. It needs to be shared.

If you’re a baseball fan, watch it with another baseball fan – you’ll talk about it together for weeks. If you live in Texas, watch it with another Texan – it’ll scratch so many of your Texas pride itches. If you’re married, watch it with your spouse – it’s a beautiful love story about Nolan and Ruth.

It’s incredible to think that Nolan pitched in the major leagues for a full 27-seasons and holds 51-different major league pitching records. It’s mind-boggling to realize that most of Nolan’s records will never be approached by anyone else, much less broken. As Randy Johnson points out halfway through the film, “I’ve got the second most strikeouts in major league history, and I’m a thousand short of Nolan.” It’s humorous to watch the greatest of the greats like George Brett, Dave Winfield, Pete Rose, and Cal Ripken, Jr joke about how they had no chance against Ryan. It’s mesmerizing watching Nolan mow down batter after batter with his 100 miles-per-hour-plus fastball and paralyze them with his 12-6 breaking pitch. It’s fascinating to understand he holds all those records, including the record for lowest ever batting average against, and he never won a Cy Young Award. It rings so true and authentic when Nolan’s granddaughter attempts an impression of her famous paw-paw’s understated aw-shucks Texas drawl. It’s tragic that Robin Ventura refused to participate.

Naturally, the movie is nostalgic for me. I was fortunate to see the Ryan Express pitch dozens of times at the old Arlington Stadium. I watched him take a no-hitter into the 9th inning, leading 1-0, record one out in the 9th, and then give up back-to-back doubles, get pulled, and lose 2-1. Up until Game Five of the 2011 World Series, it was the most exciting thing I had ever experienced as a lifelong Rangers fan. I hung on every pitch of his 5,000 strikeout game and his record seventh no-hitter as Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel called it on WBAP. I was privileged to interview Nolan several times once I began working for KRLD, the Rangers’ flagship station in the early 2000s. As KRLD’s Sports Director, I was honored to be a voter for the inaugural class in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame and, yes, Nolan received my vote and everybody else’s. The day it was announced that he was going to be inducted, I interviewed Ryan privately, one on one, right after the press conference. I ran into Nolan at Love Field seven or eight years ago while returning from the Pepperdine Lectures and he pretended to remember.

Check out the movie trailer here. Now, take my recommendation and watch the movie. It’s about baseball. It’s about Texas. It’s about love and marriage and family. And character. And legendary myth. Check it out. And then come back here Monday and let me know how it hit you.

Peace,

Allan

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.

Peace,

Allan

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.

Peace,

Allan

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.

Peace,

Allan

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