The Texas Rangers? In the World Series?

Confession: I haven’t been much of a Texas Rangers fan since about 1993. As a guy who was born in Arlington, Texas, in 1970, lived there for 12 years and now works less than a mile from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, that’s not something I’m particularly proud of right about now.

Confession: I haven’t been much of a Texas Rangers fan since about 1993.

As a guy who was born in Arlington, Texas, in 1970, lived there for 12 years and now works less than a mile from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, that’s not something I’m particularly proud of right about now.

But back in the day – before football, John Elway and the Denver Broncos completely consumed my sports heart – I’d spend my summers with my brother Tim inside old Arlington Stadium, mesmerized by both the state-of-Texas-shaped scoreboard and Bump Wills.

I’d try all season long to master Jim Sundberg’s swing against Tim’s Doc Medich delivery in our front-yard sock ball games. But since Sundberg’s sweet stroke always did seem peerless, I’d ultimately settle for Richie Zisk’s or Buddy Bell’s or Mike Hargrove’s.

The Rangers and their powder-blue uniforms – which, as it turned out, would match the hue of my first car, a 1979 Ford Pinto – were the primary reasons I started collecting sports cards back in 1977. They were the only things I wanted from my packs and the only ones that didn’t get tossed in the 7-Eleven trash can on the way back home.

Somewhere I still have all those Rangers cards, not to mention the maroon-and-white patch signifying my membership in Sundberg’s Dr Pepper Junior Rangers.

I’ve also managed to keep all the recollections.

One of the first memories of my fan life remains one of the finest: Sitting in the outfield at Arlington Stadium draped in one of those flimsy plastic Rangers ponchos enduring a torrential downpour and a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The only thing that made the night bearable? It was Bat Night when Bat Night meant something because you received your stick as you stepped through the turnstile entering the game. (Let’s see that happen today.)

I was there that night in June of 1979 to see Billy Sample’s first career home run – and for countless other nights during the next 15 years, almost always with my brother. Back then, the Rangers were little more than a punch line; a team that started fast, finished last and endured unending ups and downs.

But Tim and I always did have more fun riding the Rangers’ roller coaster than the ones next door at Six Flags Over Texas. So given the choice, we spent most of our free summer time bonding over Rangers losses.

That tradition continued until Tim entered the Navy in the early 1990s, leaving town at about the same time as Nolan Ryan (Thankfully, we got take in a great number of Ryan’s starts before he retired). A few years later, Tim’s first son was born. His name? Ryan.

Somewhere along the way, probably following another promising start that ended in the cellar, Rangers baseball started to matter less and less, Denver Broncos football started to matter more and more and that was that.

So . . . there; I haven’t been a hardcore Rangers fan in 17 years. I admit it. But I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for them.

As an Arlington native, they’re the only true professional hometown team I’ve ever known. They were principals at the first live sporting event I ever attended. They compelled me to collect sports cards. And they served as the backdrop for immeasurable sibling revelry.

And in a bizarre bit of theatre Friday night, they were bringing brothers closer together once again – only this time with a victory. It was the most meaningful victory in franchise history; the one that clinched the AL pennant and the Rangers’ historic first World Series berth.

Tim and I stayed on the phone exchanging shock for most of a surrealistic postgame celebration. And in the span of about three magical minutes, TBS showed Ryan, the team president, hoisting the AL championship trophy and Sundberg, now a Rangers’ executive, in a jubilant locker room soaking up a champagne shower.

Those were sights for sore eyes to be sure.

Makes me wish I’d been paying more attention these last 15 years or so.

Tracy Hackler is the Hobby Marketing Manager for Panini America. Have a comment or question? Email him at thackler@paniniamerica.net.

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