Tag Archives: Nolan Ryan

Root Root Root for the Home team

4 Nov

Let me start off by saying I’m very proud of the Texas Rangers. I grew up a Cowboys fan and was 14 the first time we won a Super Bowl. It was a big deal. I lived in Dallas for three Super Bowl wins.

It was cool, but after the first one, everyone always expected the Boys to win. We were used to it. Texas is a football state. And Dallas was a Dynasty even before I was born. My dad and my uncles were alive when they won titles in the 70’s.

They always told me stories of when they were great. Legends of Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Roger Staubach, Cliff Harris, Mel Renfro.

And because of that I was just waiting my turn for my own moments to witness “Super Bowl Greatness” and in 1992 it came.

But I never in my life imagined or dreamed that there was a chance the Rangers would ever make it to the World Series in my lifetime.

Well I realized a couple of weeks ago, that truly anything is possible.

I was rooting for the Mavs in ’06 and I ‘d have been happy if they’d have won. But I’ve never really been a Mavs fan like I was Rangers and Boys, they just sucked too much during my formative sports years. They were atrocious. The joke around Dallas was that they’d win less games than the Dallas Cowboys. In fact I think they won one more game I think in 1993. They were terrible.

So when I started watching basketball my favorite player was Philly’s Charles Barkley and when he got traded to the Suns I rooted for them and the New York Knicks (for whatever reason I really liked Xavier McDaniel who played for them then–plus I hated Jordan)

But before the Cowboys became relevant again, I was in love with the loveable losers, the Texas Rangers. They were always a pitcher or two from making some noise in the AL West (this was back when the A’s won the division every year for like six straight years)

They always had the bats but never enough pitching and always lacked the fielders. But they were charming. I used to go to old Arlington Stadium. My first game there was a double header experience with Nolan Ryan pitching the nightcap after Charlie Hough pitched during the day game. We brought food and drinks into the bleachers and it was a big party. Wally Joyner and Dave Winfield played for the Angels back then–as did Luis Polonia.

This was 1989. I spent the next 6 summers in agaony watching those guys lose. But they had personalities and good players and would score 8 runs but give up 11.

But Nolan then was the big draw. Everything he did was legendary. No hitters, big curveballs for strikeouts and high heat. I remember him striking out Wade Boggs four times in a game once. It was incredible.

A true Texas Legend

Every fifth day was pure excitement. What was going to happen? What milestone were we going to see? Who could he strike out next? Alomar? Bo? Rickey? If I didn’t watch many games, I always made sure to tune in when Nolan pitched. The Rangers (and baseball) were a bigger part of my teenage years than anything else.

I even had my senior prom at The Ballpark in Arlington. Where I spent half of it looking out at the field in awe instead of dancing.

They finally made the playoffs in 96 and I was on board but the Yankees then stood in our way and the extra round of playoffs seemed to cheapen the whole affair for me. So it didn’t hurt at all during those years. I was heavy into my own life and there was the strike of ’94 and I had bigger fish to fry at that point. College was looming and as well as the necessity of getting out of my Dad’s house.

So I kept up with them but always at a distance and I didn’t even watch baseball for at least a couple of years. I knew they were good this year but in the back of my mind was a wait and see approach. They had to get through the summer first, then past the first round to peak my interest.

And sure enough they did. And sure enough they did again. And sure enough they did again.

I watched World Series and rooted for other teams and it was always great when someone beat the Yankees but it wasn’t until last month when I really understood what its like to see your hometown actually get “in.”

I almost cried after the last Yankee out. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
And it’s only now that I really understand. And its really changed my perspective on what it means to be a sports fan. I can root against the Lakers and root for the Celtics because they have a lot fo my favorite players. I was extremely happy when the Celts won the title in ’08. Because it was against the Lakers and because I liked the Celtics team.

But it wasn’t nearly the sense of satisfaction of seeing my hometown Rangers win against the dreaded Yankees (the team that always drubbed us in the mid ’90s). I felt like I had a stake in the team’s destiny. I felt like they’d won it for my grandmother who didn’t quite make it to see our favorite team make the World Series.

This girl at my job is a Yankees fan and and she’s not from New York. She’s from Tulsa. If they ‘d have won, she’d have been happy but how happy could she have been in comparison to sombeone who’s hometown wins? She’s never even been to New York. She has no real stake in it other than hating Texas (and why would anyone hate Texas? It’s the greatest country in the world)

It aint the same man. Not even close.

Now I know what it feels like to root for my home team in the World Series and now I know how it feels to be dealt a crushing blow when that World Series opponent hits a game winning home run. It hurts. And I felt it immediately, but also I felt grateful just to be in the position to feel that pain–kinda like yer first true love and consequent heartbreak.

And it hurt to see the Giants celebrate the title. It hurt almost as badly as when the Niners took the title away from the Cowboys in 1994.
(And now I have even more reasons to hate the city of San Francisco. And I thought it was because they’re stuck up and pretentious– but it runs deeper than that doesn’t it?)

Watching those teams celebrate was like watching my worst enemy get married to my one true love, and having to watch helplessly from the pews.

All you kept hearing was how SF was a baseball town and how there was gonna be a huge party when they won. I’m sorry. I’m calling bullshit. I’ve spent lots of time in San Francisco and I know their definition of a party.

It involves a lot of wine and a little bit of dope and everyone leaves around 11pm , and the party dies down around 1:15 and then people go to sleep. Fuck that. THey don’t know what partying is. I’m from Texas and I went to college in Denton and in Austin. I know a good party when I attend one and I can honeslty say that they do not know how to party in San Fran. (L.A. maybe but that usually involves cocaine–and that to me is cheating)

I’m proud of my boys though. I just wanted them to beat the Yankees and everything else was a bonus. I can’t say they’ll be back because you never know. But I thoroughly enjoyed this playoff run and I’m grateful that the Rangers gave me a reason to tune into baseball again. Congratulations on a great season fellas.

Our first true ace since the legendary Nolan Ryan

Mick

First Love

22 Jul

the moment my love for a certain  Algerian was cemented.

the moment my love for a certain Algerian was cemented.

The first baseball game I ever went to was in the spring of 1989.
It was an Astros game at the Astrodome versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Some old school cats in that game. Had no idea I was seeing THE Barry Bonds, back then. I was in fourth grade and was more interested in this older gal Peggy, than in seeing Craig Biggio, Glenn Davis, and Bill Doran eek out a win.

She was kind of a fan, and her older sister was a big fan and they were both really kind to me, and somehow I became interested in baseball. Thus beginning a 15 year affair.

I started playing that following year and got my hand eye coordination good enough to play in a few all star games as a teenager before the pressures of high school sucked the joy out of playing (and sometimes living).

For a long time I hated my father for putting so much pressure on me to be a good player, and I grew to hate him even more for trashing my collection of baseball cards as a kid.

Recently though I realized he might have done me a favor. I used to view those cards as a gateway to my youth. Seeing the old cards of Cal Ripken Jr. Bob Tewksbury, or Lance Blankenship still bring about memories of riding my bike to the card shop and plopping down some moulah for the chance at a Darryl Strawberry in Dodgers uniform…….

but now…… not quite the same…….

two strike years lost, and a huge steroids scandal has jaded me a bit.

Finding out about the ‘roids made me feel like James Spader character in Sex, Lies, and Videotape, when he finds out the girl he had on a pedestal fucked his college buddy behind his back.

Names came up and more names came up and everything jsut kind of made sense. All the talk about juiced balls, and all the on the field, bench clearing brawls were suddenly put into a different context.

But in a way i’m like so what? How many of us are on performance enhancing drugs? I’m sitting here writing this blog (and about to work on a short story) with the help of two gigantic, 16 ounce Red Bulls.

So what if it takes years off my life? I have to get this stuff done. And maybe that was the thinking during the Steroids Era. Getting it done, putting up stats and being as good as possible while you still have the chance, because when your career is over, its over, and no one thinks about you because there will always be another player to eclipse your statistics.

So in a way I get it, but still, it takes a little of the luster off the game I had held in such high esteem.

I guess aging does that to you. You get a different sort of perspective on things, and players become people, fucking up like everyone else but having it appear in headlines everywhere.

Players die, players retire, players go bankrupt and get divorced.

I finally learned to seperate what a player does on the field with the off the field stuff.

True Lenny Dykstra had one of the most phenomenal post season runs I’ve ever seen (and should’ve won the ’93 MVP in my opinion), but does that make him a decent human being?

Even if there weren’t the scandals and the strike stuff, it seems inevitable that I’d outgrow the sport. The last world series I watched with any interest was the last one with the Yankees, in 2003 when they lost to the Florida Marlins.

Even back then my interest was waning. A friend of mine once remarked that baseball was too slow for him, and boring, and I told him I liked the pace of the game, that I found it relaxing.

But that changed. Maybe my life got more complicated and the pace of basketball and international soccer resonated more with me, or maybe baseball really did become boring.

I just noticed that going to the game and sitting still for three hours became harder and harder. Unless I went with a friend, I found myself falling asleep in my chairs, a bit too relaxed by the near silence of crowds, smell of chalk, grass, and roasted weiners and peanuts.

The days of visiting cities just to watch a game in their ballparks are over. Tickets are too expensive and I don’t know any of the players out there anymore.

New and exciting NBA players have won me over, and the intensity of international soccer draws me away from the stop and start of baseball and football.

Besides I can’t stand all the constant advertisements that bombard you inside and outside the stadium. All the parks are owned by banks, and billboards dominate the venues, it used to be a simple church organ between innings and a generic wall. Now every outfield is sponsored by TBS or Staples, or Taco Bell.

In 2006 I fell in love with a certain soccer player who reminded me of a certain hockey player I had a man crush on.

Zinedine Zidane took the French national team as far as it could go without winning. Displaying the characteristics of something I’d recognized. Armed with deft passing skills, a steely glance, and a champion’s cool, I found myself wrapped up in the ’06 World Cup, realizing that the intensity of the fan base was a major attraction to the sport.

No matter where I was, no matter the nationality of a person I came across while traveling, I found that soccer was an interesting starting point to engage a complete stranger (often foreign) in conversation.

That combined with countless hours of playing the FIFA video game with my roommates in Austin, got me to start tuning into UEFA Leagues and Champions Leagues and I’m a full fledged fan now, even if Zidane retired.

So it goes. Old relationships die, new ones start up, right?

I went to a Tulsa Drillers game tonight with teh kids and it was fun. I didn’t know a single player’s name, and didn’t care. I was just watching baseball. Didn’t care about stats or anything, just enjoying the fundamentals of executing a bunt, or a double steal, and witnessing the beauty of a 6-4-3 double play.

It was great. Tickets are cheaper at minor leauge games. Less frills between innings, better seats, less lines for cheaper concessions, and real fans.

The kids were ready to leave after six innings and I didn’t blame them, baseball is a slow and often boring game. Kind of like 1,000’s of people sitting down to watch a chess match (although I rather enjoy chess).

Its not for everyone and maybe not for me anymore, but I will always look back in fondness at certain players and moments I was lucky enough to witness.

I got to watch the two greatest World Series of my lifetime in 1991 (Twins-Braves Smoltz and Jack Morris 10 inning duel) and 2001 (Diamondbacks-Yankees 7 games extra inning affair as well).

I witnessed in person a perfect game thrown by Randy Johnson with a high school teammate in Atlanta in 2004.

I got to see Bo Jackson, George Brett, Matt Williams, Andre Dawson, David Cone, Nolan Ryan, Carlton Fisk, Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley play ball at one time or another.

I’ve been to Wrigley Field, Turner Field, Dodgers Stadium, Roylas Stadium, The Sky Dome, the Astrodome, Ballpark in Arlington. I’ve been on the field at Oakland Coliseum. I even took a plane to Pittsburgh to see the Pirates game. I was a huge fan of the sport.

I enjoyed just coming to the game and sitting for hours, watching and thinking, and talking ball.

And as much as I loved watching, I enjoyed playing even more. Just stepping across the chalk lines brought a smile to my face. I miss having teammates and having reasons to high five, and focusing on tendencies and stealing bases.

Had I known how much focus, and preparation went into being a good player, things may have been different for me. I wish I’d have known just how much of playing the game (and even living life) was mental.

I certainly regret not getting the most out of my ability. Its tough knowing that I wasn’t as good of a player as I could’ve been. I’m thirty years old now, and in what should be the peak of a player’s athletic conditioning and career.

I’d like to think I’d join another men’s league and play until I’m seventy like Bill “the Spaceman” Lee. And if not that then at least coach a bit. Who’s to say what will happen.

I can say that the only way you’ll catch me at a major league game is if someone I know is playing on a major league ballclub. Its refreshing to say that I have better things to do than to spend 30 dollars on a seat in a ballpark named after some corporation.

That’s too expensive of a nap. I’d rather just turn on the television and fall asleep on the couch.