Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Two significant things happened to me in 1976. Each cemented me as a life-long Rangers fan. Both happened on the same summer trip, from OKC to Dallas, where I spent a couple of weeks with my cousins.

First, we all joined the Dr. Pepper Junior Rangers--we got an official club identification card, a cheap batting glove, and some general admission tickets with severe restrictions (I think we could only go see day games against the Twins or Indians). I felt like part of the team--I was a Junior Ranger. It sounded like I was in the farm system. Certainly all of us Junior Rangers would grow up and one day become Senior Rangers! Isn't that the path that Fergie Jenkins followed?

The second occurrence made an even greater impact: I went to my first Rangers (and first MLB) game. June 25th. My Uncles Don and Ronnie took a bunch of us cousins to old Arlington Stadium. We sat down the third base line. It was a doubleheader against the White Sox. Gaylord Perry pitched and won game one. Toby Harrah hit a grand slam. I'll always remember how the giant Texas scoreboard in left flashed "GRAND SLAM" and how the place went crazy. I got a game program, and for the next year or two, I memorized every inch of every page. I fell in love with the old logo--a baseball wearing a cowboy hat. I fell in love with the Rangers.

Never did I, or any of the 29.049 there that night, think we would have to wait through the 70's, 80's, 90's and 00's before we would see our Rangers win a postseason series. No modern day fan of any pro franchise has been forced to wait like that. But this October, our suffering was rewarded. God Bless Clifton Phifer Lee.

I was born in Amarillo and grew up in OKC, so I always tried to root for the teams that were geographically closest to me. That meant growing up a Sooners fan, a Cowboys fan, a Spurs fan (remember, it was the 70's--they were the closest NBA team since there were no Mavericks), and a Rangers fan. I've been blessed--I've seen the Sooners, Cowboys and Spurs win 13 championships in my lifetime. But being a Rangers fan balanced things out, and kept me in touch with fans whose teams don't win much--or ever.

The Rangers won a division series, not a World Series--but it sure felt like the latter. To watch Cliff Lee shut down the Rays while wearing "Texas" across his chest was almost too much--I almost sports cried. It made me think of all of those Rangers teams, players and skippers who paved the way for Lee's heroics. Here's to the heroes of my childhood--the 70's and 80's: Billy Martin and the great '74 squad with Hargrove and Harrah, Burroughs and Fergie. The late 70's teams that I was sure would win it all--Scoop Oliver, Richie Zisk and Bobby Bonds at the plate; Matlack, Blyleven, Perry, Alexander, Medich, Lyle and Kern on the hill. The great Buddy Bell (thanks to Sunny and Buddy for making the All-Star game most years, and giving the Rangers their only national publicity each season), Pete O'Brien, and Mickey Rivers (what--we got the Yankees center fielder?!). Charlie Hough, who threw knucklers each half inning, then smoked in the dugout the other half of the inning--and who kept us in every game he pitched. Oddibie and Inky, Boo and Hoss. They may not have delivered like the boys did in Tampa, but they were a part of the process, the journey.

We know the Cowboys mean a lot to folks around here. But, until this week, I never realized how much the Rangers mean as well. I've heard from so many people who were also Junior Rangers, who also used to sit in those vast outfield bleachers at the old park on hot summer nights cheering a Rangers team that was 20 games out. I've heard from so many Rangers fans who shed a tear when the Tampa series ended because their father or grandfather, who loved the Rangers and took them to games in their childhood, didn't live to see this day. It wasn't a title--it was a moment. A moment that really touched a lot of people.

Fernando said to me the other day "I pity the people who don't like sports." Amen. They are missing so much. Moments like game 5. Moments that make the journey seem worth while. Moments that you never think will come, but they do. Finally. Now, if only I could get that call-up to the bigs from the Junior Rangers, my baseball life would be complete.


  1. Craig, this is a great post. I have to admit I'm one of those people who've fallen head over heels for the Rangers again over the last few months, I struggled last night to understand why my sense of elation over their ALDS win wasn't just last-minute bandwagoning. But you hit the nail on the head. I'm one of those guys who loved the Rangers as a kid. I'd watch every game on TV if I could, and if my parents hogged the TV I'd listen on the radio. I loved the games my dad took me to, and I remember watching some of those players you mention, and how great I thought they were. And then I guess I grew disillusioned with the strike of the 90s, and after I stopped being angry about that I found I just didn't care that much anymore. But what the Rangers have done reminded me of how much I used to love baseball, how much I must love it still to care so much about this team, and more importantly why I love it: because it reminds me of every great thing about my childhood.

    Anyway, thanks for summing it up for us.

  2. I'm 28 years old and have lived in the D/FW area my entire life. This age means I was just a little too young to fully appreciate the Cowboys' glory years of the 90's, although I remember feeling a sense of entitlement to awesomeness, even at the age of 12 for even being a Cowboys' fan. And when the Stars won the Stanley Cup, that was cool, but I've never been a huge hockey fan, so what was a minor joy in my life. And even thought the Mavericks have been incredible for a decade, every single year has ended with a feeling of disappointment more than anything else..
    But this....... this is easily the most happy and excited I have been for a sports team in my entire life! Not only that, but this team is just a joy to root for. You can see on their faces and in the dugout that they are a true definition of a "team". They love each other. They have endeared the fans to them not just by winning, but by doing it and having fun at the same time. I love these guys. I love Cliff Lee. And last night was the biggest thrill as a sports fan that I can remember! I want to live in this moment forever!

  3. I'm right there with ya on all this stuff. I remember going to about one game a year when I could sweet talk my dad, who didn't grow to appreciate baseball until later in life, into taking me. I always picked a promotional night, like gym bag night (I still have that), bat night (I still have that), or jersey night (don't have that one). The Rangers were almost never on TV back then, but I remember how exciting it was when they were. I built stadiums out of Legos and blocks, and made the Texas scoreboard out of cardboard. I painted Rangers caps on the baseball cards of players that Texas traded for. It is truly amazing how much of that came back to me as I watched something last night I thought I would never see. My childhood came back to me, and I remembered winning a Rangers dugout jacket in an HSE promotion, and I remembered a rainy night in Baltimore when a shiny-domed Toby Harrah made a diving stop at 2nd and scrambled to get the last out at first in a 13-11 victory that saw the O's hit 2 grand slams in one inning and Harrah hit one for Texas...What a great day yesterday was. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to do some work on a baseball card with a picture of Cliff Lee as a Mariner on it.

  4. Great post. I have now decided that I want the Rangers to win the World Series just to see them go to the White House. The anticipation of the awkward verbal exhchanges between Obama and Ron Washington is too great.

  5. That sports writer guy from NY pilip is a loser.all NY fears anything Texas. When someone writes a colum like that its because he is scared!!!!! go rangers

  6. I had one of those cheap batting gloves! I may still have my Junior Ranger patch somewhere. The first baseball game I can remember is my dad taking me to see the Rangers and Red Sox at the old stadium - '76-'78 timeframe - Yaz was playing.