Some of my fondest memories while growing up in Dallas in the 1970s and early '80s involve running home from the neighborhood pool and turning on the radio in time to hear the Rangers games, broadcast then on WBAP 820 AM. They had a great broadcaster in the '70s named Dick Risenhoover, whose keen insight and smooth delivery made a nice contrast to the utter incompetence on display on the field below him and in the team's front office. Because many Rangers couldn't hit the side of a barn with a 5-foot bat, I seldom got to hear Dick's trademark line, "Goooooooodbye Baseball!" Instead, I also recall his saying things like "error on Harrah," "Bump Wills scoops the ba...no, it went beneath his glove", or "Heading into the bottom of the first, it's Orioles 9, Rangers nothing." I recall a particularly spectacular display of baseball buffoonery which sounded something like this:
Yep, them Rangers made me laugh and sometimes made me want to cry. Often, they were so inept it was funny. The strategies employed on the field by any of their many managers, and in the front office before the trade deadlines, were puzzling, outrageous and sometimes just plain stupid. And the players and managers...my gosh...the cast of weirdos that passed through those rosters would stock a county jail and an insane asylum. And some of the tragic misfortunes were worse than bad luck, almost bordering on accursed. Looking at the whole picture, this team may be the most bumbling, stumbling, bizarre and misfortune-plagued franchise in baseball history.
The Rangers fan can't take it all too seriously, or he would soon have psychological problems. All one can do is chuckle a little, shake his head and say, "Oh well, that's just the Rangers." In that vein, here are some of the most spectacular lowlights in the history of the Texas Rangers, in no particular order...
During his brilliant 1979 season, reliever Jim Kern snatched a book from Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Jim Reeves...and proceeded to eat the the last four pages.
Heckling of the bullpen by Oakland fans on September 13, 2004, led to one of the ugliest incidents in team history. During the ninth inning, Rangers relievers became far too irritated with the loutish behavior of the crowd above and charged the stands, brawling with several fans and drawing a large crowd of players from both teams, as well as security officers. During the commotion, pitcher Frank Francisco hurled a metal folding chair across several rows of fans, striking a woman who then needed hospital treatment for a broken nose and facial cuts. Oakland police booked Francisco on a charge of aggravated battery. The Rangers lost by one run. No word yet on whether Bobby Knight wired bail to the Oakland jail...
Amidst a two-out, ninth-inning rally, Michael Young got called out because the umpires misinterpreted a "runner's interference" rule. Young had been brushed by third-base coach Dave Anderson while returning to the bag, in a September 2010 contest against Minnesota. Instead of going "by the book" that the runner must have been physically assisted to be called out, the umps ended the play--and the inning, and the game--merely for the touching. Final score: Twins 6, Rangers 5.
After firing manager Don Zimmer, Eddie Chiles asked Zimmer to manage a couple more games because he couldn't decide who would replace the latter as interim manager. He narrowed his search to assistants Fred Koenig and Darrell Johnson, then just to Johnson after deciding that Koenig's black eye (acquired by accident, not by fight) wouldn't look good on TV. Problem was, Chiles didn't know what his own employee and choice for manager (Johnson) even looked like. While trying to find Johnson in the clubhouse to offer him the job, Chiles asked the man in front of coach Wayne Terwilliger's locker for the whereabouts of Darrell Johnson. That man was Darrell Johnson.
As the early part of the 2000 season started to roll--around the bowl and down the toilet!--the Rangers committed one of the most unusual game-losing blunders in history: a walk-off balk. On April 28, shaky reliever Jeff Zimmerman (who had been an All-Star the previous year) trotted to the mound with the score tied 3-3 against Baltimore. After yielding a leadoff single and a double, Zimmerman faced Greg Myers with runners on first and third, and a 1-1 count. In mid-motion, Zimmerman stepped off the rubber for a balk, sending Lewis home. Game over. Orioles win.
A Rangers pitcher was once yanked from a game in the fifth inning for his awful performance--during a no-hitter, with 10 strikeouts! The rest of the story: Bobby Witt also had 8 walks, 2 runs, and 4 wild pitches.
Late August, 2007, found our Lone Star heroes cemented firmly in a familiar place--the basement of the A.L. West, sporting a 54-70 record. Salvaging something positively historic from an otherwise lame season, Texas scored the most runs by any major league team in 110 years, by ransacking the Orioles 30-3 in an otherwise meaningless game. For once, manager Ron Washington was able to say, "We set a record for something on the good side of baseball."
On July 28, 2015, the Yankees became the first team in history to fall at least five runs behind...then score 21. The generous provider of the three-touchdown, three extra-point outburst: naturally, Rangers pitching.
Before the 1975 season opener, a helicopter that was supposed to dry the Arlington Stadium turf instead crashed in the outfield.
Ball boy Rich Thompson's insults toward announcer Howard Cosell were caught on a microphone in Arlington Stadium and beamed to the nation on ABC. Next time the Rangers appeared on ABC, Thompson involuntarily wore a piece of tape over his mouth.
Renowned hitter, admitted steroid abuser, erratic right fielder and self-styled ladies' man Jose Canseco won a World Series title with Oakland, before arriving in a blockbuster trade with the Rangers during the 1992 season. On 29 May of the next season, he destroyed his elbow while pitching during the 8th inning of a 15-3 defeat to the Red Sox. The Rangers' stud slugger suffered ripped ligaments and was finished for the year.
This was a peculiar case where the Rangers were cursed by their riches, at least at one position, causing them to swap out a player who became a star at a different position. How? As usual with this team, truth is stranger than fiction. Behind what then was a "conga line of power hitting first basemen," according to Sports Illustrated's Franz Lidz, a hard-hitting young player "languished in the Texas bushes." After being traded to the Indians, Travis "Pronk" Hafner went on to become one of the top hitters in baseball, as a DH. Ironically, when Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson plunked Pronk with an inside fastball in September 2006, breaking Hafner's hand, the resulting RBI set a Cleveland team record for a DH at 110.
In an otherwise forgettably mediocre 2017 season, one of the most bizarre games in club history occurred -- and that's saying something. Longtime ace Yu Darvish got shelled, badly, from a first-pitch home run onward. That was his worst pro start since moving from Japan several years before...while on the trading block, no less. All told, the Rangers gave up a Marlins-record 22 runs to the Fish from Miami. The 22-10 final meant 32 total runs scored, a rare feat in itself. Slugger Adrian Beltre, who had been on an absolute tear in his attack on the 3,000-hit milestone, had a homer and two doubles, but was ejected before his next at-bat for arguing with an ump...over his positioning in the on-deck circle. The last straw came when Beltre picked up on-deck circle and dragged it ten feet back toward the plate. The Marlins pitcher called the incident one of the funniest things he ever saw on a baseball field. Beltre and Rangers fans were not as amused.
In their first season in Texas, the Rangers led the league in errors with 166. Subtract 66 to get their total games lost that season!
Early in the 2019 season, I opened the Dallas Morning News website to see this headline: "How once-struggling Rangers pitcher Martin Perez has suddenly become the best story in baseball with the Twins". Hmmm...where have I heard something like this before? [Hint: keep reading this website for a few answers to that question!] Perez had been a hot prospect for the Rangers starting at age 16. After 7 mediocre seasons and a 43-49 record with our boys in red and blue, the last one sporting a 6.22 ERA, his first month with the Twins featured a 5-0 record and 2.83 ERA. Perez's fastball went from 90 mph in Texas to 97 mph up north, and he suddenly developed the best cutter in baseball by one metric -- a pitch he long had resisted trying when with the Rangers.
The 2008 season already was turning into a thudding clunker by the end of April, with the Rangers firmly cemented at the bottom of the standings. Seeming somewhat indignant at this development with which we fans are quite accustomed, some national sports writers made the following observations in their respective rags in the same week:
Promising fourth-year Major League catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who holds the record for longest last name in Major League history, had to be sent to the minors in 2010...mainly because he suddenly lost the ability to toss the ball back to the pitcher.
In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, a team gave up 4 grand slams in 4 games. Even if you don't know the answer (hint, look where you are), you had better guess correctly if you have even superficial understanding of baseball history and snakebitten franchises.
FISH BAIT, Part I: The Rangers made this future All-Star pitcher a top draft pick. He earned 14 victories before the All-Star break and 21 total wins as a Ranger in 1991. Several years later, Kevin Brown would be the starting pitching ace...of the World Champion Florida Marlins.
FISH BAIT, Part II: The Rangers, trying to bolster their bullpen, traded him to Florida for relief pitcher Cris Carpenter in 1993. Robb Nen would later become the Marlins' relief ace, helping them to win their first World Series.
FISH BAIT, Part III: Longtime catcher and cinch Hall-of-Famer Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez was the most gifted all-around catcher of his era, winning multiple Gold Glove awards, an AL batting title and an AL MVP. Heavily involved in the community, he was among the top three most popular Rangers of all time (along with Nolan Ryan and Jim Sundberg). Yet, in 2002 and after three straight last-place seasons, the Rangers decided he was on a decline and that they no longer needed his services. The Rangers jolted and jilted their fans by casting Pudge adrift into the free agent market. The next season, Pudge led Florida to their second stunning World Series championship, and in 2006, Pudge would play for the Tigers in another World Series. Attention, future Rangers GMs: If you are considering letting a player go who is wanted by the Marlins, for gosh sakes, don't!!!
The best hitting done by any of the 1972 Rangers was by their manager! It was in a pregame exposition at Fenway Park, a contest between radio announcers and retired players. Former Red Sox legend and then-Rangers manager Ted Williams was not on the docket, despite who and where he was. The fans loudly demanded his appearance. Williams, after he had enough of the chanting, angrily stomped out to the plate impromptu and with no preparation. Using Tom Grieve's Ted Williams bat, this pot-bellied 54 year old, in a Rangers uniform, put on a hitting clinic like his players had never seen. He ripped liner after liner all over the field, including a homer-length shot over the wall that was barely foul, before silently walking through a standing ovation and into the clubhouse.
Yes, two lowlights for the price of one! Southpaw ace Rick Honeycutt led the AL in ERA in 1983--the first time a Ranger pitcher had ever done so. The Rangers showed their appreciation by trading him to the Dodgers in August. One of the two relatively unknown pitchers acquired in that trade was Ricky Wright, who faded away. The other was used mainly in relief and posted a 12-22 record over three seasons before going to Oakland. There, Dave Stewart would quickly become staff ace and win a World Series.
At home, in the best-of-five 2015 ALDS, Toronto fell behind the Rangers two games to none. Facing elimination in each game thereafter, the Blue Jays won each game thereafter. In Game 5, Texas entered the 7th inning up 3-2. Elvis Andrus bobbled a ground ball for an error, couldn't handle a poor throw from Mitch Moreland for the forceout at second, then dropped a throw from Adrian Beltre that would have been another forceout. Toronto went on to score four unearned runs in a horror show of an inning, ultimately winning the game and sending the Rangers home from the playoffs.
Pitcher Roger Moret didn't accomplish much on the field; but he will forever be remembered for a pre-game scene in 1978 when teammates found Moret standing in a catatonic trance next to his locker, holding a shower shoe.
The former American League record for balks in a season was 26, but in 1988, Rangers pitchers offered 57 of them. Despite this ignominy, Oakland actually set the new A.L. record the same season with 76.
For most pitchers, allowing a homer every 5-1/3 innings would be quite undesirable. A homer every 5-1/3 at bats would be a terrible night, surely causing an early stroll to the showers. Rangers pitching has different standards of ineptitude however: a homer every 5-1/3 swings! Early in the 2006 season, in a 10-6 loss to the Tigers, righthander R.A. Dickey got smacked for six homers in 32 swings, tying a record in the modern era of baseball (1900 onward). He promptly headed back to the minors with an ERA that was high even for the Rangers: 18.9.
During his presidential campaign, Texas governor and former Rangers owner George W. Bush called this trade his biggest mistake of his adulthood. On 29 July 1989, the Rangers acquired infielder Fred Manrique and DH Harold Baines from the White Sox for shortstop Scott Fletcher, future All-Star pitcher Wilson Alvarez and a 20 year old rookie outfielder--some guy named Sammy Sosa.
Relief pitcher Mitch Williams hit 11 batters in just 98 innings in 1986--an average of one plunking per 8.9 innings. The "Wild Thing" was so feared by his own team that 1985 manager Doug Rader prohibited him from pitching to left-handed batters during practice.
Utility man John Ellis began the 1976 season blistering AL pitchers for a .419 batting average in his first 11 games, before badly fracturing his leg on a slide and missing the rest of the season. Though he spent several more years on the roster as a backup, Ellis was never the same again.
In 1981, relief pitcher Steve Comer became Don Zimmer's closer, but had one very bad day. First, a practice ball ricocheted off a batting cage and into his mouth, busting a couple of teeth. That night, while waiting at a DFW Airport bar for a flight to the next road game, Comer ordered a drink with actual fire on top. He spilled the flaming concoction on his face, in turn torching his beard.
Flamethrowing (not flame drinking) young righthander Danny Darwin won 8 straight decisions in 1980, despite busting a knuckle on his pitching hand. He injured his knuckle on the face of a Chicago fan who was heckling teammate Mickey Rivers.
Veteran pitcher Kenny Rogers had an unpleasant stretch in June 2005. It began when he broke his right (non-throwing) hand while attacking a water cooler. Rogers still lost one start and pitched poorly in another, allowing six runs in three innings in a loss to the Angels. Rogers later told the media, "I did something that was irresponsible. I've done those things more times than I care to talk about. But I went out and made my next start, and I was a pitcher that simply didn't have a clue what I was doing." Nearly two weeks later, he pitched a tirade instead, shoving one cameraman outside the dugout and busting the video camera of another. That misdeed earned him a suspension, a lawsuit and a postseason release. It was an ignominous but fittingly bizarre ending to the Rangers career of a pitcher who once hurled the only perfect game in team history. He went on to lead the Tigers to a 2006 World Series, pitch 23 scoreless innings in those playoffs, and earn consecutive Gold Gloves.
The Rangers were fined $250,000 by commissioner Peter Ueberroth late in the 1987 season for bringing aboard pitcher Steve Howe, who was notorious for his numerous drug violations and suspensions. Howe was cut the following spring after flunking his after-care program.
In March 2010, manager Ron Washington admitted to his players and the public what his team's administration and MLB offices knew since the previous summer: He used cocaine, allegedly just once, shortly before a drug test that likely would have nailed him for it. This is the only time, to my knowledge, an active Major League manager has been caught for using hard drugs.
In April 2000, with a 1-0 lead over the Indians late in the game, 4 (yes, four) Rangers batters struck out in one inning. Ace reliever John Wetteland then came in to ice the game--but instead, promptly ruined Esteban Loaiza's masterful shutout by serving up two straight two-strike home runs in the bottom of the ninth. Game over. Indians win.
Ace starting pitcher Aaron Sele won 19 and 18 games for the Rangers in 1998 and 1999, respectively. His reward for those efforts: A multimillion dollar contract...with talent-rich intradivisional rival Seattle!
In 1977, the Rangers' talent was immense--probably the best until the mid 1990s, and maybe the most balanced Rangers club ever: Gold Glovers Jim Sundberg (C) and Juan Beniquez (CF), Topps Rookie All-Star Bump Wills (2B), former AL Rookie of the Year Mike Hargrove (1B), club homer and RBI leader Toby Harrah (3B), speedsters Claudell Washington (LF) and Bert Campaneris (SS), and a solid pitching rotation led by strikeout master Bert Blyleven (5 shutouts and a no-hitter), 17-game winner Doyle Alexander, solid starter Dock Ellis, and future Hall-of-Famer Gaylord Perry. The team had their finest season ever, winning 94 games. They also played for four different managers and finished second behind the Royals in the AL West.
In 1994, the Rangers finally found themselves at first place in the AL West at season's end...with a winning percentage of only .456! To add insult to insult, season's end was September 14 when the players went on strike, meaning no official division title and no playoffs.
In 1996, after 24 years of futility, the Rangers officially won the AL West and went to the playoffs for the first time. They lost to the Yankees in the first round. In 1997, the Rangers won just their second division title ever. They lost to the Yankees in the first round. In 1999, the Rangers won their third division title in four years--an unprecented run of success. They lost to the Yankees in the first round.
Two-for-one painful weirdness to kick off the 2014 tilt! Starting pitcher Derek Holland was declared out for half the season before springtime because he injured his knee--while playing with his dog. Relief pitcher Joe Ortiz then suffered a broken foot--when he was walking on a roadside and got run over by a motorcycle. These were just two of a horrifying cavalcade of injuries to almost all the team's best players, rendering a promising season into the third-worst record in MLB.
The Rangers once lost a game by striking out an opponent in the bottom of the ninth inning. Yes, it is true; and even Rod Serling couldn't have written a more bizarre ending. In 1986, knuckleballer Charlie Hough took a no-hitter into the ninth with a 1-0 lead, when left fielder George "G-Man" Wright dropped a fly ball in the corner for a three-base error. The next batter broke up the no-hitter with a single, scoring the run. Another Angels hitter struck out on a knuckleball; but backup catcher Orlando Mercado lost the ball, allowing the runner to advance to second. The final batter also struck out; but Mercado let this knuckleball scoot past him too! The Angels' winning run scored from second base.
New manager Doug "The Rooster" Rader introduced many unfamiliar routines to spring training in 1983. Among them, he would smack the same tree every day...with his car. Team GM Joe Klein delicately described his prized hire as having a "hint of unsteadiness."
Outstanding reliever Tom Henke started with the Rangers in 1982, and set a Ranger record for saves in 1993 with 40. He also was the top reliever for his team in between, during the prime of his career, when he helped Toronto to win a World Series.
The 1977 Rangers had 4 managers in a one week period, including three in three days and one never seen by the home fans! During a Minnesota road trip, on 22 June, they fired Frank Lucchesi and hired Eddie Stanky. Homesick after one game, Stanky caught a plane from Minneapolis back to Alabama. Connie Ryan became the interim manager, but refused to assume full-time managing duties. Former Twins slugging legend Harmon Killebrew was offered the job, and also turned it down. [Clearly, this was not a job in great demand.] Finally, on 27 June, the Rangers hired Billy Hunter as manager.
Only one team in Major League Baseball failed to get a single complete game from any of its pitchers in the 2007 season. That team plays between Dallas and Ft. Worth.
In 2010, Rangers bankruptcy judge Michael Lynn told lawyers for both sides: "If any of your clients want to take a contract out on me, tell them to be sure to aim true and make it as painless as possible. Do you understand me?"
Early in 2015 spring training, the Rangers (who already had second baseman Rougned Odor on the roster) signed Rougned Odor. Hey, wait a minute...what? Yes, they had rights to two players with the otherwise unique name Rougned Odor. For toppers, Roogie the Younger (17 at the time) is the little brother of Roogie the Elder (21 then).
After taking over the sad-sack Rangers and promising legions of skeptical fans that he would put them in the pennant race, this manager did exactly that. He led the Rangers to the best season in their history to that date--finishing five games behind Oakland in the AL West in 1974. After engineering this astounding turnaround, he was the first Ranger to be voted AL Manager of the Year. The following season, the Rangers showed their gratitude, firing him during a mid-season slump. Billy Martin went on to manage the World Series Champion New York Yankees.
The Washington Senators moved southwest before their 1972 season and became the Texas Rangers. They were managed by one of the greatest hitters of all time, "Splendid Splinter" Ted Williams. Too bad he couldn't manage like he could bat. The Rangers' inaugural effort to impress their new fans ended in a record of 54-100, placing them 38-1/2 games behind first and flat on the basement floor in the AL West. The main reason: Ted Williams' team batted .217 for the season!
In early April 2020, with spring training and the season itself on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, one child's toy took out pitcher (and former outfielder) James Jones for the season, regardless. Tripping over his son's toy tore his patellar tendon.
In 2003, Alex Rodriguez was only the second modern player on a last-place team to win a league MVP award (after Andre Dawson of the almost-as-woeful Chicago Cubs). He perenially contended for AL batting title and Gold Glove honors at shortstop, won respect among players and coaches around the league for his deep work ethic and community involvement, and led the league in home runs two of three previous seasons. [The information in the next "OH NO" wouldn't be known for another five years.] Yet, after the 2003 season and their fourth consecutive last-place finish in the AL West, the Rangers decided that the cure for their woe was to trade away the best player in baseball at the time. Hugely publicized "private" talks with the Boston Red Sox dominated the sports media for over a week, during the stretch runs of college and pro football seasons, no less! The Rangers' brass was so inept, however, that they endured a humiliating public failure in the trade attempt.
In February 2009, after Sports Illustrated claimed that Alex Rodriguez took testosterone and the steroid Primobolan while a Ranger in 2003, he admitted that he ingested banned substances while--and only while--with the Rangers. "I was stupid for three years. I was very, very stupid," said the disgraced slugger in his ESPN interview. He blamed his youth and naivete, his humanity, and the pressure on him to play well to fulfill fans' expectations rooted in the huge cntract he signed ($252 million, largest in baseball history at that time). Thanks a bunch for saving all that stupidity for the Rangers, "A-Roid."
Irate after a road loss to the Twins in 1993, manager Kevin Kennedy demolished a mirror in the clubhouse--using a baked potato.
Fireballer and Ranger reliever Jim Kern sustained the worst injury among many during his subpar 1980 season when he suffered a nine-stitch mouth laceration, a concussion and brief amnesia. The culprit? A baseball thrown back to him from his catcher in practice. Apparently, his pitching amnesia was not temporary; the "Great Emu" went 3-11 that season with an ERA near 5, only a year after holding opposing hitters to a .199 average with a 1.57 ERA.
During the 1985 season, the Rangers acquired unknown and unheralded Duane James from Detroit for 1984 Ranger Pitcher of the Year and longtime star Frank Tanana. James remained unheralded and unknown.
Ten Cent Beer Night in Cleveland was definitely a bad idea. Of course, guess what visiting team earned a forfeit win by being attacked by hundreds of drunks who poured onto the field in the ninth inning. The Rangers...who else? The Rangers also made history in that 1974 season by securing both a forfeit win and a separate tie.
The 1986 Rangers set a major league record with 94 wild pitches--22 by the notoriously erratic Bobby Witt. Also padding that dubious stat: 38 year old knuckleballer Charlie Hough and fiery reliever Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams. Witt also walked 143 batters, the most by any major league pitcher in 18 years.
In 1978, the Rangers were led by manager Billy Hunter and a powerful cast of players including: Al Oliver (hitting .324), slugger Richie Zisk, multipurpose threat Bobby Bonds, perennial Gold Glove catcher Jim Sundberg, Mike Hargrove at first base, future Hall-of-Fame pitcher (as a Cub) Fergie Jenkins, hard-throwing lefty Jon Matlack (2.30 ERA), and solid starters Doyle Alexander, Dock Ellis, Steve Comer and Doc Medich. They finished second in the division and won 18 of their last 22 games. They fired manager Billy Hunter with one game left in the season.
The hapless Rangers lost 105 games in 1973, buried deep in the cellar of the AL West. Their two managers during that worst of seasons? Future World Series skippers Whitey Herzog and Billy Martin.
Once the 1983 season was over, longtime catcher and six-time Gold Glove winner Jim Sundberg had played in more games as a Ranger, with more at-bats and more hits, than any other player. He appeared in several All-Star games, and was probably the most popular player in Rangers history to that time. "Sunny" was respected by his peers for his work ethic and by the community for his charitable activities off the field. Manager Doug Rader, citing his desire for a "a different kind of human being," traded Sundberg for Brewers backup catcher Ned Yost. Feeble at both batting and throwing, Yost hit only .182 as the 1984 starter, and stopped just 13% of opposing runners' steal attempts, prompting his release the following offseason.
1989 was a disappointing year for the Rangers, who finished fourth in the AL West, 16 games back. At one point that season, former Ranger player and GM Tom Grieve stated, "You can't compete...with one starting pitcher." Pitchers for the Rangers in 1989 included Nolan Ryan, Kevin Brown, Kenny Rogers, Wilson Alvarez, Jose Guzman and Charlie Hough--all of them All-Stars at some point in their careers.
One fine evening in August 2010 found the Rangers in a very unfamiliar place for that time of year: first in the A.L. West. It also found a pregame parachutist dangling by his spent chute from a flagpole above the Ballpark scoreboard.
Before buying the Rangers in 1980, fast-talking Texas oilman and former owner Eddie Chiles was best known for his series of 30-second radio ads, ranting against Big Government's regulation of his industry and others. His closing advice in every one of those spots was, "If you don't have an oil well, get one!" His vanity plate read, "IM MAD," in reference to those politically charged "I'm Eddie Chiles, and I'm mad..." radio spots.
The AL West-leading Oakland A's racked up a franchise record for runs scored in a single game, in a 23-2 win over the Rangers late in the 2000 season. This game also guaranteed the Rangers' last-place finish in the West, an accomplishment which made them only the fourth team in history to finish last in their division one season after finishing first.
During 1986 spring training, a line drive by rookie slugger Pete Incaviglia busted a hole through inch-thick plywood in an outfield fence. This impressed manager Bobby Valentine, who told awestruck reporters, "The fat kid is something, isn't he?" "Inky" could indeed slam the ball very hard--when he could make contact at all. His total of 788 strikeouts in just four years set a team career record.
One fine May evening in 2006, the Rangers set a team record by losing a nine-run lead against the hated Yankees. Our heroes appeared to bust the game wide open with scores of 9-0 and 10-1 that seemed utterly insurmountable. Of course, this being the Rangers, the bizarre cascade of uncharacteristic individual blunders that ensued should be no surprise to longtime followers of the team. Gold Glove first baseman Mark Teixeira bobbled two bad hops and got thrown out twice (once at home) from overaggressive base running. A series of runs allowed by rusty relievers was capped off by closer Akinori Otsuka, who hadn't blown a save in three weeks. With a one-run lead, a man on base and two outs in the ninth, Otsuka served up a fat, juicy, 3-1 fastball that a Yankee obligingly blasted into the right field seats. Texas scored 13 runs...and lost by one.
In 1983, one season after firing Don Zimmer and failing to give "interim" manager Darrell Johnson the job, the Rangers passed over one promising candidate whom they were considering. Instead, GM Joe Klein hired Doug Rader, who would be gone within a couple of seasons. The man Klein considered--Jim Leyland, who would turn around a moribund Pittsburgh Pirates franchise and later guide the Florida Marlins to a World Series championship.
You could say that the 1978 deal that brought infielder Larvell "Sugar Bear" Blanks and quirky but effective reliever Jim Kern to Texas was a real "pisser." The trade was sealed by Indians general manager Gene Paul and Rangers owner Brad Corbett while both were urinating in a men's restroom. Kern himself probably helped to force the matter that season by frequently quacking like a duck in the Cleveland locker room. As for the trade itself, the Rangers gave up 20-20 threat and perennial All-Star Bobby Bonds (Barry's dad), as well as starting pitcher Len Barker, who would hurl a perfect game for the Indians with infield help from former Ranger Toby Harrah.
Fans rightly have claimed that the Rangers have been bankrupt, in terms of winning, for decades. But in 2010, in an extraordinary rarity, a Major League club filed for literal, Chapter 11 bankruptcy, early in the season. Of course, it was the Rangers. The biggest creditor listed on the filing: Alex Rodriguez, still owed deferred pay of $24.9 million after being gone six years. The next five creditors also were ballplayers (past or present): Kevin Millwood ($12.9 million), Michael Young ($3.9 million), Vicente Padilla ($1.7 million), Mickey Tettleton ($1.4 million) and Mark McLemore ($970,000).
On 26 May 1993, Jose Canseco (RF) misjudged a long fly ball, which was nothing unusual. Problem was, it bounced off the top of his head and over the fence for a home run! The Rangers lost that game...by one run.
In August 2002, as yet another skunk-stinkin' awful Rangers season wound down, a roster loaded with high-priced talent plunging precipitously into the abyss of league standings, Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw wrote the following, reproduced here by his expressed permission. It concludes quiet well to the "outside world" what we Rangers fans have been dealing with all this time!
That's the curse of the Rangers. After 31 years, the longest streak in the majors without a trip to the league championship series, this team's fans at least deserve their own curse.
The Red Sox have had their Curse of the Bambino for 84 years now. The Cubs are working on 57 years of trying to rid themselves of the curse that Billy Goat Tavern proprietor William Sianis put on them when his goat was refused admission to the 1945 World Series.
But the Rangers are working on a pretty incredible modern run of self-generated misery. Few franchises have accomplished less with more. The Rangers have had more league MVPs than the Yankees the last 30 years, and with what to show for it?
In October 2010, after all of that insanity, futility and stupidity, against all odds and predictions, contrary to everything this team ever has known, the most improbable thing imaginable happened:
That, loyal readers, is the most bizarre occurrence of all. Of course, they lost their first World Series; but now that the biggest barrier was hurdled on the way to their first title, the sky seemed the limit. Then in 2011...
Leading the 2011 World Series 3 games to 2, with two outs and two strikes, the Rangers were ahead 8-6 and just one pitch away from closing out the Cardinals and winning their first and only championship. Normally reliable closer Neftali Feliz had David Freese down to his last strike in the ninth inning, whereupon Freese hit a two-run triple to send the game to extra innings. Josh Hamilton dropped a dinger past the outfield wall in the tenth to take a one-run lead. Down two strikes with two out, the Rangers again were in ideal position to win the World Series. Instead, the Cards' Lance Berkman slapped an RBI single off Scott Feldman. In the bottom of the 11th, Freese hit a walk-off homer in what reporters described as "one of the greatest thrillers in baseball history"--but not for our side. Demoralized and defeated before starting Game 7, the result was anticlimactic, almost a foregone conclusion for Rangers fans: a final loss in what may be the closest the Rangers come to a ring in our lifetimes.
Texas Rangers websites: Official team page and Dallas Morning News
As a Ranger, he pitched the final two of his seven career no-hitters, along with his 5,000th strikeout and 300th win. He hurled that sixth no-hitter as a 43 year old with a stress fracture in his back...and the seventh at age 44 with a 96 mph fastball and 16 strikeouts. This humble but legendary iron man was the most popular superstar in Texas sports history and arguably the best pitcher ever: all-time strikeout king and landslide Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan!
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