Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rangers Baseball

Today is a very special day in the life of a Texas Rangers fan. No, I don’t mean those greenhorn sorts that started wearing a Rangers’ hat 2 weeks ago. I’m talking about those of us who have truly LIVED life as fans. Those of us who have grown up with the Rangers in our homes and experienced the anxiety of waiting for a World Series. And, coincidently, wondering if it would ever happen in our lifetimes. As any sports fan will admit, there is a certain level of nostalgia that accompanies their “team’s” road to victory. After success, it is only natural for fans to acquire a sense of entitlement in their belief that they somehow contributed to the triumph. And, yes, I too am going to go down that road. Well, not just myself, but also my family. See, I grew up with two younger brothers and 7 close knit cousins, all of which were Rangers fans. The “Cousins”, as Toby Harrah labeled us, were staples of every Texas Rangers event during the mid-80s to early 90s. Countless miles traveled to games, baseball card conventions, and autograph sessions have attributed to oodles of stories, and coincidently die-hard fans. I feel that this World Series is for the “Cousins”. We earned it because we LIVED it.

Let me start by stating my belief that baseball is a dying sport. Don’t believe me? Ask any 5th grader who Joe Maurer is and see what you get. Hell, ask them who won the batting title in the American League last year. Follow it up by asking to see their baseball card collection. In a world where we have a million different components competing for our attention, the game of baseball seems to have fallen behind. We live in a fast paced society, with short attention spans, and a general desire to appreciate only what is sexy. Baseball is not sexy – but it is beautiful. I don’t need to go into a melodramatic description of why, but it is. And I believe that the only way to find beauty in the game is to LIVE it. Well, the “Cousins” have certainly done that and my Top 5 Jive will examine some of the moments.

On July 31, 1990, Nolan Ryan recorded his 300th victory against the Milwaukee Brewers. I don’t need to look up any of the details of that particular game because I remember it crisply. I watch the game with all of the “Cousins”. See the day before, our Grandfather had passed away and we had come together as a family. Like most kids, we all had different emotions and were dealing with them in our own certain ways. But there was a brief moment where we were able to escape reality. None-the-less we came together, as a family, amongst the mounds of food that neighbors from the community had brought over, and cheered for Nolan to get the victory. He did, and in a way it felt like he did it for us.

I tell the previous story, not to dramatize, but to paint a picture of how important a singular game was to me. How important it was to the “Cousins”. And there are more. Many of which are extremely insignificant to most, but not to us. In ode to the Top 5 Jive, I have comprised my top 5 list of fondest Rangers memories. Coincidently, they all revolve around the “Cousins”. Funny how that works.

1. How Frank nearly changed the history of baseball by trying to get an autograph.
On the day that Nolan Ryan was expected to record his 5000th strike out, Arlington Stadium had the fortune, or misfortune of having the “Cousins” in attendance. After several attempts to get Nolan’s attention while warming up, Frank decided that he would throw the baseball that he wanted autographed. Without warning it one-hopped from the outfield bleachers and hit The Express in the shoulder. No harm was done, but crazier injuries have been inflicted. In typical, stoic, Nolan Ryan fashion he picked up the ball and threw it back.

2. Advise from a former Knuckleballer.
While getting an autograph from Bobby Witt, Jimmy Ray Kostiha, who had experienced glory as a Gordon Longhorn baseball pitcher in the 60s, sat the struggling pitcher down and gave him a motivational “talk”. We have all had the “talk” with JRK and know that there are no boundaries that prohibit the conversation. No one knows exactly what was said, but Bobby Witt went on to win 12 and 17 games the following two years. He also experimented with a knuckleball to no avail.

3. Showing Love for your favorite Ranger with a Mullet.
Idealizing your favorite Ranger is normal for a 10 year old kid to do. Until you look back and realize that you cut your hair into a Mullet, because of Steve Buechelle. Certainly the history of baseball will not show in influx of mullets because of this particular player, but any photograph from 88-91 will show myself proudly supporting one. BTW – I also named my first dog after him.

4. $25,000 Grand Slam
When Frank’s name was called during the Sonic Grand Slam inning, there was a certain feel that something crazy was going to happen. It was midday on the 4th of July and we were watching the game at our house. The Chamberlains were watching at theirs, which was just down the block. What I can remember is running down the street screaming like a banshee all the way to Frank and Chris’ house, where we proceeded to dance in the middle of the living room. You would have thought “Crazy Game of Poker” was playing.

5. Juiced gives Lyle a game ball.
Every kid who has the fortune of catching a ball at a baseball game will never forget it, especially when it is from Jose Canseco. In the center field bleachers Canseco saw a joy-filled little guy pleading for a ball and made it a point to throw him one. A bully, who was at least twice his size, jumped in front of Lyle and took it away. Canseco could see the disappointment in the young fans eyes and sternly told the bully to give it back, which he obliged. I’ve always though a lot of Canseco because of that moment.

As you can see the Texas Rangers hold a special place my heart. You ask if I’m excited that they will be playing in the World Series. Damn right I am!!! But for reasons that supersede the normal fandom that follows a winning hometown team. Win or lose, we have LIVED Rangers baseball.


Lyle said...

Nailed it!

And those are only the Top 5 amongst scores of other such stories.

Go Rangers!

Joko said...

not sure if it was the score of the game or what but it is hard not to get a little emotional....

well said....

Go Rangers....

Lyle said...

Wonder if all the bandwagon jumpers have burned their newly bought Rangers shirts and hats. If I see any negative posts on Facebook I might go off on someone. Every game, win or lose in this series should be relished with an appreciation for all of the history we have experienced with the Rangers.

Qualification limits for fans should include answering at least one of the following questions, (and they are not too hard):

1) Name five Rangers players from the 80's.

2) Name five Rangers players from the 2002 season.

3) Name five previous Rangers managers.

or at the very least:

4) Name the 2010 opening day starting rotation for the Rangers.

Christopher said...

I enjoyed your Jive tremendously and hope that you contribute a lot more in the future.

We did in fact grow up with the Rangers.
I was listening to Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel when a guy named Bergman(sp?)hit a blooper into center-field, ending Nolan Ryan's No-Hit bid in '89. I was so disgusted that I could not eat my Dad's awesome lasagna.

I was equally let-down when Nelson Liriano ended a Big Tex no-hit bid with a one-out triple with one out in the 9th. That was 1991.

Don't even get me started about how disappointed I was when a guy named Jacoby broke up one of Nolan's No-Hitters with a double into right field. As a ten year old, I could still tell that Ruben Sierra didn't give his best effort in catching it.

I remember the sad day in which Pete Inclaviglia was being dealt away.

I remember how sad it was to see Steve Buschele cry to the camera on Channel 5 News bc he was so disappointed in being traded away from Texas.

I remember being sassed by Jeff Kunkel at a baseball card convention.

I remember Mike Henneman, Matt Whiteside, R.A. Dickey, "The Japanese Nolan Ryan"Hideki Irabu, and Chan Ho Park...amongst several others.

A World Championship would mean so much to me.

Dana said...

I would like to personally thank the Rangers for making me a baseball fan again. I've been in disgusted mode since the strike in the 90's, but this year brought it all back.

I remember each and every episode listed here vividly; I lived it! Especially the Jose Canseco one. That guy that tried to take the ball from Lyle seemed so big, so old, so vile at the time; but it is probably safe to say that he was at that time as old as we are today. I went to a Ranger game this year, and I might have tackled a kid if I had a chance at a ball...

Incidently, I alway wondered what that guy thought Canseco was going to do to him, jump over the outfield wall and beat him up? Maybe it was the red-eyed glare that was enough to scare him into having a conscience...though, knowing what we do now about what Canseco was on, he just might have had enough synthetic adrenaline going that he could have jumped that 15+ foot wall. Who knows? But one thing is for sure, he wanted, (forcefully pointing a finger while flexing his huge bicepts) "THAT KID," to have the ball. And that kid was my bro, making me a fan for life.

The Franker said...

This blog was definitely a nice trip down memory lane and really reminded me of how many memories are directly related to all of us being Ranger fans.

Thinking back on meeting all of the players, there are a whole lot of them who most fans wouldn't recognize (ex: Gary Mielke, Drew Hall, Jeff Kunkel, Cecil Espy, Scott Chaimparino...even Bobby Witt or Pete Incaviglia were not household names outside the metroplex.) But to us, these were big stars of the sport and meeting them was definitely something special.

Also, I want to submit this season as one of my best Ranger memories. Even though the World Series didn't turn out in our favor, this entire season was so much fun that I really couldn't ask for anything more. After the Series ended, I actually wasn't all that devastated....after all, to me, the entire season was a gift. The best thing is, the Rangers are definitely a team on the rise and it seems that the next few years are worth looking forward to.

Lyle said...

Field of Dreams was on last night, so of course I had watch some it, including one of my favorite quotes:

Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones):

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again."

People ask me how I can watch baseball on TV, particularly regular season baseball; they find it boring. I find it comforting. I think the quote above sums it up, this game is a part of my past. Reminding me of all that once was good and that could be again. I don't know. Maybe that is too philosophical, but I can't help but think it rings true.

Also, I try not to nitpick movies that I revere, like a 'Field of Dreams', but wouldn't Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) be arrested in connection with Terrence Mann's disappearance.

A famous author goes on a cross-country excursion with a stranger unknown to friends and family never to return again. Don't think the "he walked into a cornfield to another dimension" alibi would convince the law enforcement agencies. I mean, I guess Ray couldn't be convicted of murder without a body, but all the same I believe a dark cloud of suspicion would hang over Ray for some time.

Again, doesn't diminish the movie for me, just a thought. If you don't get a tear in your eye when Ray has "a catch" with his dad at the end, then you sir don't have a heart.

Lyle said...

Also, I have to weigh in on Frank's desperate lob of the baseball to Nolan Ryan from the right field seats on the day of Nolan's 5000th strikeout.

The ball did not one-hop the warning track and strike the Express in the left shoulder. No. As I had a prime vantage point to witness this event, I can still see the act in my mind like it happened yesterday...and here is what I recall:

As Nolan strolled heading westerly along the right-field warning track towards the bullpen (which was on the field along the right field foul line in the old ballpark) Frank, filled with pre-adolescent angst and a rush of adrenaline at the sight of his idol, lobbed the ball towards the great Express. Nolan was walking with his head down along the track, clueless to the events unfolding above. Suddenly, he was struck by the baseball in his left shoulder.

Though this point has been argued and disputed many times (with Frank even saying the ball did not hit Nolan) the ball DID NOT bounce and hit Nolan in the shoulder, but was a direct, in-the-air shot from Frank's right arm.

The laws of physics would not allow the ball to bounce up to hit Nolan at shoulder level from Frank's projectory, as he was not that high in the bleachers and the ball was not thrown that hard.

It had to be a direct hit.

In true Nolan fashion, he was unphased by the 'attack' and picked up the ball and tossed it back into the stands. Of course, this turned into another ordeal to retrieve the ball as another fan had caught Nolan's return toss and the ball itself had numerous other Rangers autographs on its cover, which were treasured by Frank. Eventually Frank got the ball back and order was restored, but the great white whale of Nolan's autograph got away that day.

These are the events as I remember them. On the bright side, no harm was caused by Frank's toss and today Frank's name is not synomous with Steve Bartmann or even the knife-wielding attacker of tennis star Monica Seles.

brent Dawson said...

Is Frank wearing a Boston cap in the first pic?