Wednesday, September 11, 2013

July 17- Texas Rangers

Well, it’s been a while, but I’ve finally come back around to writing about the Texas Rangers. I’m hoping this post reaches an audience as it will surely be a difficult read for all of my friends who are ardent Oakland Athletics fans. Unlike most of y’all (you know who you are); I don’t harbor ill-will against other teams to the point where I won’t buy their gear, leaving a hole in my collection. Yes, I totally understand rivalries, and yes, I joke a lot about fans of those teams; however, everything I say in do all takes place in the field of play. I don’t make a habit out of letting my sports-related differences spill over into real life. Well, unless it’s my job. Last I looked I wasn’t getting a paycheck for being “Sports Hater of the Year;” although, that would be pretty tight.

Like a lot of these hats that I’ve written about all ready, this is the first time I’ve worn this cap, my apologies. I know it’s an awesome cap, but when you have over 300 you tend to lose a little bit of focus on which ones you have and haven’t worn. More important, sometimes you just have your favorites that you’d prefer to wear more. In either case, I’m glad I’m finally getting around to this one as it bears some importance to my life a year ago today (July 17, 2012).

For those who have been following since my time during the MLB Fan Cave this day may come as a bit of a “moment of note.” For my friends in the right field bleachers, this is the first day we all met in person. Most of the hugs and hand-pounds part of the story I will leave until tomorrow’s post as it pertains to the hat I have chose for then. What I will schmooze about here was how it was great to finally sit down with the great folks of whom I had befriended during my time in New York. More important, I finally got the chance to get back home to where my Athletics fanhood began, spending the whole game passing jokes back-and-forth to one another, cheering on our team and talking mad trash to Nelson Cruz who had the unfortunate duty of playing right field for the Rangers that day.

I’ve never really been one to shout at a player during a game, let alone smack talk with them, but something compels you to break your manners and good habits the second you sit down in the right field bleachers. Every game I had been to prior to this day was spent in the plaza level above or the first or third base side of the field. No matter where I sat year-after-year I could see the gang yelling, holding up signs and having the best time anyone has ever consistently had at the Coliseum. During my time in the Fan Cave the feeling of wanting to get back to the Bay grew with every game I watched in the “baseball fan’s dream world” which really ended up being a glorified hamster cage. What’s funny about this comment is that there is actually a hamster wheel in there this year. At least they’re aware. Anyway, when the time came to finally get back home I made sure not to tell anyone as to not spoil the surprise. The reaction was about what I expected, but I’ll get into that tomorrow. What I was treated to was a spectacle of rhythmic flag waving, drum beats and specifically-timed chants. It’s quite extraordinary. One chant in particular follows an eight-beat drum lick with “[two syllable name of opposing right fielder] SUCKS!!!” In this case it was, “NEL-SON SUCKS!!!” None of us really mean it of course, it’s just good banter. What I WILL NOT join in on is when anything of a steroid, PED or drug variety is brought up. Personally, I think that’s in very poor taste. Anything else is fair game. The only thing we really needed to bust Cruz’s nuts about was the play in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, something he has since taken in stride.

The thing that I have to admit about Cruz that very few people seem to do is that he is an incredibly generous and wonderful human being. Cruz is one of the few guys who cut it up with us, throwing some smack talk back, but also taking time out to take photos with kids and dish out some autographs. Hell, he even follows quite a few of us on Twitter. How could you not like that? Most important though, the man does a lot of great work in the Dallas/Arlington, Texas community as well as in his native Dominican Republic. No matter what gets tossed around these days that is something that must not go overlooked. Guys like Cruz are a rare commodity. We all make mistakes; some big, some small, but it’s what we do to set things right that show true character. Despite the fact that he plays on a rival team, Nelly Cruz will always be welcome in Oakland. Just be ready to dish some more smack talk out.

As I said before, I can’t believe I haven’t worn this cap before. In the history of Rangers hats it’s definitely one of my favorites. Most of the design I touched on with my Toledo Mud Hens post back on March 11th, but I’ll give you a quick refresher as it pertains to the Rangers. This cap was first introduced during spring training right before the 1972 season, the inaugural year after the second incarnation of the Washington Senators packed up shop and moved to the Lone Star State at the end of the 1971 season. Even after having enough time to come up with a really creative logo for the team’s caps, the Rangers elected to roll with this. 

Don’t get me wrong, there is something very stylistic about it, but it still doesn’t excuse the fact that it was taken from the Mud Hens. For those who think I’m crazy when I make this claim I merely need to direct you to this photo of Jamie Farr who played Corporal Max Klinger in MASH. 

Farr’s character was from Toledo and wore this outfit quite often on the show. For those who forgot, MASH was on air from 1972-1983, but the show took place during the Korean War which was fought from 1950-1953. The Mud Hens first used this logo throughout the 1950s before their first incarnate left after the 1955 season for Wichita, Kansas. It’s all a bunch of craziness really. The Rangers used this particular cap until the end of the 1985 season; however, the cap logo lived on until the end of 1993 season.

What I don’t understand is why the Rangers never used this as their cap logo.

Not so much the “Texas Rangers” part, but just this logo. I think it’s pretty clever, but it was only a primary logo not actually featured on the uniform.

I suppose I could blame Ted Williams and his one and only year as the Rangers manager for all of these mistakes, especially since he did an equally poor job before the team relocated. His 54-100 in 1972 is still the worst finish in the team’s history.

#20- Back in the old days when it was common for high school kids to sign with a team right after graduation the then-Senators used their first pick (first overall) of the 1969 draft on a kid from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California named Jeff Burroughs. If you’ve been following my blog over the year, let alone the last week, you might recognize that name. Jeff is in fact the father of Sean, the San Diego Padres prospect who I wrote about on July 14th. Jeff spent the first year-and-a-half down in the minors between the Wytheville Senators of the Rookie League and the AAA Denver Bears. He made his Major League debut on July 20, 1970 as a part-time replacement player before getting sent back to Denver after a two week furlough in The Show. Burroughs would spend the next two seasons bouncing between the Senators and the Bears and then the Bears and the Rangers until finally making his case to stay at the top in 1973. That season, which also happened to be the first without Ted Williams as the skipper, Burroughs hit .279 with 30 home runs and 85 RBI; however, it would be his next where Burroughs made his presence known.

In 1974 the American League was owned by the AL West, and no two team’s players showed this more than the Athletics and the Rangers. In fact, the top-six finish for the AL MVP was comprised only of A’s and Rangers players with Burroughs taking home the prize behind his .301 average, 25 home runs and league-leading 118 RBI. Granted, the Athletics won the World Series that year and the Rangers finished five games behind them for the divisional crown; however, no one expected the Rangers to do anything that season except continue to stay near the bottom. Burroughs and company had other plans. Burroughs also made an appearance in his first of two All-Star Games he’d play in, but the only one in which he’d be a member of the AL squad.

Burroughs’s next two years in Texas didn’t pan out so well as his average dipped below .230 and his strikeout numbers skyrocketed. At the end of the 1976 season Burroughs was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Adrian Devine, Ken Henderson, Dave May, Carl Morton, Roger Moret (remember this name) AND $250,000. Yah! All of that for one guy! Burroughs would go on to have two fantastic years with the Braves in 1977 and 1978, finishing in the top-20 for the National League MVP both years and making his second All-Star Game appearance in 1978, but after that his power production dipped tremendously and by 1981 he was traded to the Seattle Mariners. At the end of the ’81 season he was signed by the Athletics where he played from 1982-1984 before having the rest of his contract purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 1985 season. His one year in Toronto would be his last.

After he retired, Burroughs later coached his Sean's Little League team, the Long Beach All-Stars. With Sean as their star player, these teams won the Little League World Series in both 1992 (they actually lost the championship game, but were later awarded the title by forfeit after their opponents were found to have used no fewer than 14 ineligible players) and 1993.

#31- One of the more interesting figures in MLB history, Ferguson Jenkins is still considered by many as the greatest Canadian in MLB history. With a 284-226 record, 3.192 strikeouts, the 1971 NL Cy Young, three All-Star Game appearances and a National Baseball Hall of Fame induction in 1991 it’s really hard to argue. Jenkins played for 19 years with the Philadelphia Phillies (1965-1966), the Chicago Cubs (1966-1973), the Rangers (1974-1975), the Boston Red Sox (1976-1977), the Rangers again (1978-1981) and the Cubs again (1982-1983). While I only plan to really focus on Jenkins’s time with the Rangers, I can’t help but share this video clip with you. I doubt most of you remember seeing this unless you’re into bonus features on DVDs as much as I am, but it’s a cut out clip from This is Spinal Tap from 1984. Now, the movie was released in 1984; however, this scene was shot in 1983 as you can tell by Spinal Tap drummer Mick Shrimpton’s (played by RJ Parnell) answer to the question about Jenkins during their in-studio interview. Jenkins ended up finishing his career with 49 shutouts, the last of which he obtained on June 10, 1983 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

After the 1973 season Jenkins was traded to the Rangers. In 1974 he achieved a personal best 25 wins during the season, setting a Rangers franchise record which still stands. Jenkins also finished the year with 12 loses, a 2.82 ERA, a league-leading 29 complete games, six shutouts, a 1.008 WHIP and 225 strikeouts. Jenkins finished second for the AL Cy Young behind Athletics’ star pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter whose numbers were 25 wins, 12 loses, a 2.82 ERA, 23 complete games, six shutouts, a 0.986 WHIP and 143 strikeouts. Hunter received two more first place votes than Jenkins which tipped it in favor of Hunter despite the fact that collectively Jenkins had the more dominant season. Hunter’s team ended up making the playoffs and won their third-straight World Series title which may have been the difference. Either way, Jenkins got hosed.

During Jenkins’s second run with the Rangers he found success within the first year, 1978, when he finished sixth for the AL Cy Young award. Unfortunately for Jenkins it was also during this time that he found himself in a really bad spot. Jenkins achieved his 250th win against the Athletics on May 23, 1980. Later that year, during a customs search in Toronto, Jenkins was found possessing 3.0 grams cocaine, 2.2 grams hashish, and 1.75 grams marijuana. In response, on September 8, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him indefinitely. However, Jenkins' suspension lasted only two weeks before, in an unprecedented action, an independent arbiter reinstated him and he returned to the league. Jenkins was not further punished by MLB for the incident, as he remained active until his retirement following the 1983 season. It has been suggested that this incident delayed his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jenkins was in fact the first player on record to be banned/suspended for a drug-related offense.

#29- Remember when I told you to remember Roger Moret’s name? Well… Moret was born and raised in Guyama, Puerto Rico in 1949 and was later signed by the Red Sox as a free agent in 1968 where he would make his MLB debut on September 13, 1970 just three days before his 21st birthday. He played for the Red Sox (1970-1975), the Braves (1976) and the Rangers (1977-1978). In 168 games (82 as a starter and 86 as a reliever), he posted a career won-lost record of 47–27 and an ERA of 3.66. Moret led the AL in winning percentage in both 1973 (.867) and 1975 (.824).

His career ended in 1978 in a bizarre fashion. Scheduled to be the starting pitcher against the Detroit Tigers on April 12th, Moret was spotted in the Ranger locker room in a catatonic state, with his arm extended holding a slipper. His teammates first kidded with him but as time went on the gravity of his condition brought the team's medical staff. Attempts to awaken him failed. The Rangers staff sedated him and dispatched him to the Arlington Neuropsychiatric Center. By the 25th of April, Roger's condition had improved and he was scheduled for release within a week. He appeared in only six more games after the bizarre incident. In the film Fever Pitch, the incident was cited as an instance where the Curse of the Bambino struck the Red Sox, but this is an error, as Moret was no longer with that team.

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