Friday, October 22, 2010

What the Rangers Making the World Series Means to Me

I spent the early part of my life in San Antonio, TX (where folks know what salsa should taste like). The team I grew up with was the San Antonio Dodgers (previously and now called the Missions). It was at the tiny park (in comparison) and I grew accustomed to this minor league atmosphere. My mother tells a story of the first time I ever saw a Rangers game. I couldn’t have been much older than 5 or 6. My mom says that we went to Arlington Stadium and when I walked out in the big stadium, my mouth dropped. It was like this commercial. And thus began a little boy’s love story with Major League Baseball.
I have got to see some great players. George Brett, Jim Rice, Robin Yount, Cal Ripken, Jr., Frank Thomas, Robin Ventura (and no, I was not at the game where he charged Nolan Ryan), Ichiro, Ken Griffey, Jr., Albert Pujols & Mike Piazza. I saw some great Rangers: Nolan Ryan (and Nolan was treated like a god in Arlington; Arlington Stadium was like a ghost town when he wasn’t pitching), Kenny Rogers, Tom Henke, John Wetteland, Pudge Rodriguez, Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro (Don’t laugh. He was once great.), Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, Michael Young, Dean Palmer, Harold Baines, Jose Canseco (he gave us the ball bouncing off his head), Ruben Sierra, Julio Franco, Juan Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa (pre-steroids). And there were some great players we loved: Geno Petralli, Charlie Hough, Jose Guzman, Pete O’Brien, Mark McLemore, Pete Incaviglia and Steve Buechele. One of my earliest memories was everybody booing this one Rangers player. I asked my parents why they were booing and they chuckled and said “They’re not booing him. His name is Steve ‘Boooooo-shell’.”
I went to my share of baseball card shows and autograph lines. I remember going one time and my mom and I were just about first and we walked in and there was Frank Lucchesi & Mitch Williams. They were so nice and we got to talk to them about being a Cubs fan (which my mom is diehard) and I was in my pre-pubescent heaven. At another convention, the Brewers were playing a weekend series that included an Old Timers’ Game. So you know that the people were gathering around the Johnny Mizes and Lew Burdettes and Leo Durochers of the room. I went right for the Brewers. The two doing duty that shift were Mike Felder and Glenn Braggs. They were so nice and treated me like I was the most special fan ever. They took their pictures with me and that meant everything to me as a kid.
And I have some great memories from my time there. There was a game that the Marlins pitched an 8-0 shutout and my (future) wife was so bored she counted airplanes. There was the game that my wife explained to me what a knuckleball was and then asked me where the designated hitter stood on the field (in the same game). And there was the night we got the foul ball from Larry Sheets.
So from a kid who loves baseball, the Rangers are what I grew up on. But there is one thing we have never known in the city of Arlington. A winner. Yes, we come to your games. We cheer you on, celebrate when we homer and hear “The Natural” theme. We buy your expensive food products, shop in your really awesome merchandise stores and pay $12 to park. I endure your dot races, little kids trying to figure out Three-card Monte and the atrocious butcherings you call a national anthem. But you have never given me a winner. You’ve given me wins when I’ve gone, but you’ve never been the winner.
I am a die-hard Phillies fan. I fell in love with their team back in ’93 with Dutch and Nails and Wild Thing and in ’03 I made the jump and have been with them ever since. When people ask “Why the Phillies? Are you from there?” I always say “The Rangers never gave me a reason to cheer for them” or “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me since 1972, shame on me.”
Now I am not a bandwagon fan nor do I ever plan to be. I look at this as a native of Arlington and as somebody who calls the Rangers a very large part of his childhood. For years we have been a joke. Now finally, we have made the World Series. It has been 38 years in the making but it is here now.
Thank you for finally giving me a winner.

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