The Texas Rangers are, if anything, a team with some very unique distinctions. Their all-time roster reads like a list of baseball legends, especially in the managerial department: Whitey Herzog had this assignment in the early 70's before moving on to Kansas City and, eventually, riding the St. Louis Cardinal juggernauts of the 80's into the Hall of Fame. Billy Martin was a Ranger before he returned to his beloved Yankees to take the reins, leading to World Series glory and a retired number. Buck Showalter also took a turn in the hot seat. They all couldn't figure out what to make of the mess in Texas. Ted Williams managed the team before they even moved to Texas, when they were still the second incarnation of the Washington Senators. It wasn't until Ron Washington, the current manager of the team, won the 2010 Pennant that the poor Rangers finally had something to show after 50 years on a baseball diamond, although Johnny Oates led them to numerous division titles in the 1990's.
They haven't fared any better in the player department, either: 50 years, one Hall of Famer inducted wearing the T shield. To be fair, though, that Hall of Famer is Nolan Ryan. But the list of Hall of Famers who played for Texas at any point in their careers looks like a small group of people seeking asylum - or perhaps exile - to the Rangers because they preferred it to retirement: Goose Gossage, Bert Blyleven, Gaylord Perry, and Ferguson Jenkins. (Note: They're all pitchers. Hm.) Their stars have included Jeff Burroughs, Rafael Palmiero, Larry Parrish, Toby Harrah, and Ivan and Alex Rodriguez. Many of those guys went on to greater glory with other teams.
When the Washington Senators headed for the plain of Minnesota in 1960, they were replaced on the spot with another team which was also called the Washington Senators. The new Senators apparently weren't quite as beloved as the older Senators; those old teams included greats like Bucky Harris, Heinie Manush, and the incomparable Walter Johnson. They lost tons of games, but in 1924 they were finally able to put it all together and win their first World Series title, and they took the Pennant the next year as well. Then in 1960, they moved to Minnesota and changed two things: Their name to the Twins and their legacy into a winning one, winning the World Series in 1987 and again in 1991. The new Senators lasted for a paltry ten years in Washington before Dallas beckoned. Tax breaks, ya know.
As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The reappearance of the Senators in Washington didn't turn the expansion team into winners. Their move to Dallas didn't turn them into winners either. The team got really, really good at losing no matter what the circumstances. Even when Oates was winning division titles in the 90's, the team kept getting swept out of the ALDS in the first round.
The Rangers also have the distinction of once being owned by George W. Bush, who ran them (into the ground) from 1989 to 1994 before leaving the position to run the state of Texas and eventually the United States (also into the ground). Nolan Ryan is currently in the owners' booth. My assumption is that he must be doing something right, because the Rangers are finally winning consistently and last season, they produced all-star Cliff Lee and American League MVP Josh Hamilton on the way to their first-ever Pennant.
The team can easily be summed up as a study in wacky characters, at least for the 1970's. One of the very few things baseball fans unfortunate enough to be saddled with the Rangers can take pride in is the scathing, funny memoirs of author Mike Shropshire. He wrote the immortal take of his own years covering the woeful Rangers, including the final year of Whitey Herzog in 1973, when the team lost 105 games. He also caught the turbulence of Billy Martin. There is another book Shropshire wrote about those Rangers teams called The Last Real Season, which I haven't had the fortune to read just yet.
The Rangers are doing quite well for themselves this season and are currently holding onto first place in the AL West. They're certainly capable of at least winning the Pennant again if Boston doesn't stand in the way. They play at The Ballpark in Arlington, which was built during the recent retro ballpark craze. It's one of the better-loved venues in Major League Baseball, although it gets considerable knocks for lacking a retractable roof.
The Rangers are among the largest markets in the United States - they play in the greater Dallas area, and Dallas is the ninth-largest city in the country. But one thing Dallas isn't known for is its baseball fanaticism, and so the Rangers are forever the second or possibly the third banana. The Cowboys, one of the great football teams, will forever be number one in the city's collective heart, and the NBA's Mavericks have recently cut loose, weaving themselves into the city's character for good because they just won their first championship and are manned by a maniacal rogue of an owner. The Rangers don't have such a strongly defined character, like the Yankees, Cubs, or Braves. Or if they do, it's tough to pinpoint because the fans are so tough to find outside of Dallas. They're turning up NOW, mostly because the team is winning and winning sells.
The Texas Rangers have been around for 50 years and have virtually nothing significant to show for it. There's the Pennant from last season, Kenny Rogers pitched a perfect game for the team, Mike Shropshire is a wonderful writer, but… Well? The Rangers also have a hidden fanbase far away from any of the country's baseballvilles, no real blood feuds with other teams, no famously dramatic games, and they exist in a damned suburb. If you're a baseball fan in, say, Idaho, I can virtually guarantee you won't be looking for your reflection in the Rangers. Or if you are, well, good luck with that.
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About the reviewer
Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial. Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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