With the first warm spring day, I fall in love. By mid-summer my heart lies in shreds. This has been going on for a very long time, since my kids were kids in the ‘60s, as a matter of fact. Baseball is the reason. I grew up in a family where baseball was the center of discussion at the dinner table. Dad subscribed to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram because it was the best paper to get the major league scores. He and his brothers had all played baseball for various teams and he pitched some for semi-pro teams.
My interest and love for the game continued after Tom and I married.
It was something we shared. In the summer of ‘61, we took the kids to New York and Washington to see the Yankees play. We planned a vacation that was educational with visits to the Statue of Liberty, the Empire-State Building and the Museum of Natural History and we included a visit to Yankee Stadium in that education.
It was an exciting year in baseball and especially for the Yankees. Nineteen sixty-one was the year of “Homerun Twins,” Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Both outfielders were chasing Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season. Mantle had to drop out due to injury but in the last game of the season, against Boston, Maris hit number 61 and there were cheers but an equal number or boos from fans of the immortal Babe.
Sammy Sosa sent 66 baseballs flying into the outfield stands a few years later, Who did? Yes, that was the same Sammy that was traded by the Texas Rangers and is now back with the Rangers and up to his old tricks hitting home runs. That is why this baseball fan’s heart is wrecked every summer, because the Texas Rangers keep trading players who keep popping up in some other team’s success story.
The year we flew to D.C. on another educational trip, we watched the Yankees play the old Senators. Mickey Mantle didn’t play. He had run into a fence in Baltimore the day before and broke a toe. I was especially disappointed because I was his biggest fan, but we got to see Maris and Yogi Berra and all the other players on that year’s World Championship team.
The Senators were in their usual slide into the cellar and soon after we saw them in Washington, they arrived in Arlington as the Texas Rangers! Presto! We had an American League team to tie our hearts to. We wouldn’t have to drive to Houston anymore to see major league ball! My family fell in love with the Texas Rangers.
We formed a caravan to games in the old Arlington Stadium.
The first few seasons were pretty bad. We expected that with rebuilding and everything but we did expect that a winning team would come out of it eventually.
There have been some satisfying games especially during the golden years when Nolan Ryan was on the mound and Palmario was taking care of first base and Pudge was throwing a fireball to second to catch base-stealers. Our family usually traveled to games in a bunch and there are lots of great memories scattered in the wind from the outfield. I have only to drag out a collection of hats, bats, gloves, balls, and cards to attest to all that. There are five balls autographed by Bobby Valentine in this collection. Each grandkid needed one so they kept asking him for a signature.
With the first crack of a bat every spring, a fire ignites in the heart of Ranger fans but generally by July, it is just smoke. This season, the team didn’t wait for July to disappear. They started out in the cellar and stayed there until this past month. Right now the team is mostly competing without embarrassing anybody.
Former Ranger players shone in the line up last week at the All-Star Game. There was Pudge who still has that rifle arm. His rise from a crouch behind the batter to throw a runner down is always exciting. He is still the best catcher on the field although the Rangers threw him away as finished several years ago.
Francisco Cordero was a solid closer for the Rangers but as soon as he struggled a little, he was “outta there.” Now he’s with the Brewers, and having his best season ever. There are so many others, including that snotty Alex Rodriquez who went to the Yankees with both pockets stuffed full of Hicks’ money. The list of one-time Texas Rangers, now wearing some other team’s uniform is long. The thought can bring tears to the eyes of those who care about such things. Yet we’ll keep watching our team and hoping for the best, because in the game of baseball, as in the game of life, there’s always springtime with a new beginning and everything to be won or lost is somewhere down the road.