A light drizzle was not enough to stop the baseball game, which was good news to this 11-year-old boy. Many of the fans at Turnpike Stadium in Arlington, Texas, watching the Double A minor league Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs on this cool night in 1967 headed for the safety of the dry concourses. Not me.
I staked out a section in the lower level of the small stadium for myself. All to my lonesome, you might say. Then, as if on providential cue, a batter hit a foul ball that was arcing to my lonely section. Despite no one else within eye shot, I made a foolish decision to try and bare hand the rapidly approaching baseball, rather than waiting for it to take a bounce or two. The ball hit my hand and elicited an “OUCH” from my mouth (I think those were the words). The ball bounced around until it rolled over to the next section and to someone who literally had to do nothing to collect the souvenir thanks to my advance legwork (handwork?).
I felt like putting the “L” hand signal to my forehead. Loser.
Five short years later, the Washington Senators franchise moved to Arlington to become the Texas Rangers. As for the stadium, the shell remained and was enlarged to meet the requirements for a Major League Baseball franchise. I could not wait to get my driver’s license to make the trip from Dallas over to Arlington to watch a by gosh major league game. Well, despite the fact the immortal Ted Williams was the team’s first manager and that indeed other major league teams visited to play games, the results were what you might expect of a new team in a new market. Loser.
Not all was bad. In 1973, on a Sunday in September, I sat in the outfield aluminum bleachers with my brother and cousin to watch the woebegone Rangers play the powerful Oakland Athletics of Charles O. Finley. A’s slugger Reggie Jackson (Mr. October as well as “the straw that stirs the drink”) waited on a Pete Broberg pitch and promptly deposited it on a clear path to the outfield bleachers. As the ball became larger on its approach to our area, time seems to stand still. The ball took a huge bounce on the walkway in front of our seats, before its approach back down. I jumped with all my might and snatched the home run ball, a prize I still have to this day.
It wasn’t enough that the Rangers were primarily a losing team and distant afterthought to the Dallas Cowboys football team. To merely watch a game in the Texas summer meant baking like a lobster in the stands. The best seats in the house were the ones that first drew shade as the sun lowered. Alas, no such luck in the outfield cheap seats.
I enjoyed going to the games. as I moved into adulthood. Countless memories were made at the ballpark, and even if the team came out on the losing end (often), I still had an awesome time with friends and family.
Another highlight came in April 1994, when the new Ballpark in Arlington opened, putting the final nail in the coffin for a stadium that had been born a minor league ballpark some 30 years prior. My wife and I were gifted two incredible seats for the Rangers very first game at the new stadium, an exhibition against the New York Mets. The stadium was beautiful, but it really did nothing to beat the stifling heat. Today, the venue is called Choctaw Stadium and sits directly across the street from the new Globe Life Field. It is home to high school football games for the Arlington Independent School District, as well as the Arlington Renegades of the XFL football league. I am happy that the stadium did not meet a wrecking ball, as it is still a beautiful and functional venue for many events.
In the 1990s, a longtime friend and I got the idea we would get rich by doing public relations and serving as pseudo-agents for one John “The Hot Dog Man” Hunter, a vendor at Ranger games revered by all for his bellowing “Hotttttt Doggggggs” call, followed by what his business card (yes, he had his own business card complete with his being dressed as a wiener inside a hot dog bun) describes as a Cheshire cat grin, but one my wife equated to the look of a serial killer. Regardless, we got The Dog a few gigs, some radio appearances and such, but fame and fortune never materialized.
The Rangers, of course, made the long-suffering fan base happy in 2010 and 2011, with consecutive World Series appearances. Unfortunately, the team came within one strike (twice!) of capturing the latter Series only to fall. It was the ultimate pin popping the balloon and deflated locals faster than tires in winter weather. Was it never meant to be? I mean, we had no curse of the Bambino or such.
By this time, I had acquired Dallas Mavericks season tickets (in 1984-85, actually) and witnessed in 2011 that franchise win its only NBA championship, so I was totally on the basketball bandwagon while still attending some games at the ballpark.
Globe Life Field opened – wouldn’t you know it? – just in time to welcome a worldwide pandemic. The stadium did serve as the neutral home for the 2020 World Series won by MVP Corey Seager and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Once the Rangers got to enjoy their new home field, complete with retractable roof, not much had really changed on the field as the team staggered to 102 losses in 2021.
Management added a couple of marquee signings in 2022 of the aforementioned-Seager, plus Marcus Semien, setting the stage for 2023, a new manager in Bruce Bochy, and some much-needed pitching help. The team led basically wire-to-wire in the standings, but a final futile day of the regular season and a dud of a 1-0 loss meant the team had to travel the Wild Card route on the road.
So, what happened?
The Rangers flew on that final day of the regular season from Seattle across the country to Tampa, where the team began its playoff trek. Miraculously, the Rangers did something no team has ever accomplished on the road in the playoffs by going 11-0. They dispatched the Rays, then the Orioles, then the Astros, and finally the Diamondbacks. Why do I mention the mascot names and not team names? Well, a friend pointed out to me how this team became known as Road Warriors, and if you do the spelling in order of these dispatched teams, it spells R-O-A-D. Freaky, huh?
As for me, I enjoyed the final Game 5 the team played in Phoenix from the comfort of the recliner, after coming home from announcing an 8th grade city football championship game (I know, I know, priorities). The score was a tense 1-0 Texas lead at the time, when I plopped down for the eighth inning with four runs tacked on in the 9th inning. When Josh Sborz threw a called third strike into the mitt of Jonah Heim to win the series, four games to one, I felt pure … I think relief before elation.
It is the cross Rangers fans have borne since 1972, when those lovable losers first arrived on the scene. Like many, I could not help but reflect on the years of being a fan, in my case having my dad take me to watch the minor league farm club of the Baltimore Orioles. This day had finally arrived, and I went to sleep feeling happier than I had most any childhood Christmas Eve night.