By Jeff Kallman
This is for the late Frank Howard, the one Washington Senator above all who didn't want to be hijacked to Arlington, Texas after the 1971 season. The man who also hit both the final-ever Senators home run and the first-ever Rangers home run.
Howard hit the first Rangers bomb in Arlington; they opened on the road against the Angels and White Sox but Howard didn't hit one there either.
This is for Don Mincher, the only man in baseball history to play for two Senators franchises in Washington and in their relocated digs in Minneapolis and Arlington. For Mike Epstein, who went from Washington to Oakland and to Texas, picked up a World Series ring with the middle one, but couldn't live up to unfair hype touting him as the next Mickey Mantle "when I couldn't carry his jock."
This is for David Clyde, the high school pitching virtuoso slammed immediately into the Show, at the insistence of hijacking owner Bob Short—but ruined when Short reneged on promises to his manager Whitey Herzog to farm him out after a couple of gate-goosing starts. The same Clyde who now fights for redress for 500+ fellow short-career major-leaguers frozen out of the 1980 player pension re-alignment.
This is for every Second Nat who made the move to Texas and played on a club that finished worse in its first season in Arlington than in its final season in Washington. For every Ranger since who played on too many clubs to follow that featured no-doubt hitting and full-of-doubt pitching.
This is for every Ranger who visited the then-Indians on Ten Cent Beer Night in June 1974—a week after a Ranger named Lenny Randle triggered a bench-clearing brawl in Arlington—and lived to tell about it without succumbing to the temptation to proclaim, "Twenty-five Rangers, twenty-five Indians, one riot."
(Extra credit if you can name the Hall of Fame pitcher in Rangers fatigues who took one in the breadbasket on a line drive, provoking the bombed to chant "Hit 'im again! Hit 'im again!" in the sixth inning.)
This is for Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, who finished his pitching career as a Ranger, eventually became the team's chief executive officer, and presided over the Rangers' first two World Series teams, back-to-back, 2010-2011, both of which were beaten in those Series—the second of which found them a strike away from the Promised Land when up stepped an interloper named David Freese.
This is especially for Bruce Bochy, who came out of retirement to earn the distinction of managing a World Series winner he'd beaten managing another World Series winner 13 years earlier. Not to mention becoming one of only six managers ever to win four or more Series titles, joining Hall of Fame pilots Joe McCarthy (seven), Casey Stengel (seven), Connie Mack (five), Joe Torre (four), and Walter Alston (four).
But it's also for Nathan Eovaldi, pitching in and out of heavy traffic, managing to escape like a Vespa sneaking through a freeway pileup, keeping the Diamondbacks scoreless. Even while Arizona starter Zac Gallen took a no-hitter into the top of the seventh but the Snakes rewarded him by going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position including leaving the bases loaded in both the first and the fifth.
"I don’t know how many rabbits I have left in my hat," Eovaldi admitted when it was all over. He didn't need them. The Rangers had more than a few other Bugs Bunnies upon which to call.
Because this is also for Corey Seager breaking up the would-be no-no with a leadoff single, Evan Carter doubling him to third, and Mitch Garver singling him home to bust up the mutual shutout. Not to mention Seager becoming one of only two men ever to win Series MVPs with a team in each league.
It's also for the Ranger bullpen—a liability on the regular season with a ghastly 4.60 ERA, but a strength in this postseason—keeping the Snakes from rattling while they got to Diamondbacks finisher Paul Sewald in the top of the ninth to make things stick.
It's for Josh Jung opening the ninth with a base hit, Nathaniel Lowe singling him to second, Jonah Heim singling Jung home with Lowe to follow when usually sure Snakes center fielder Alek Thomas over-ran the ball, and Marcus Semien launching one over the left center field fence.
It's for Josh Sborz pitching two-and-a-third shutout relief innings including three-up, three-down in the ninth. And, becoming only the fifth man to end a World Series conquest with called strike three, behind Julio Urías (2020), Wade Davis (2015), Sergio Romo (2012), and Red Oldham (1925).
But it's also for Adolis García, the Rangers' bombardier, down for the rest of the set after a late Game Three oblique strain, rousing them to go forth and make mayhem in Game Four before playing and winning the Game Five hair-raiser.
It's for a group of Rangers who won 11 straight on the road this postseason, whereas no previous postseason traveling team ever won more than eight straight. It's for Rangers relief pitcher Will Smith winning a third World Series ring with a third different franchise.
It's for a Rangers front office who proved this year that you can spend big to win big, so long as your spending involves brains in hand with the bucks. Even if it takes a guy a couple of inches taller than Frank Howard who once pitched for you to finish what his predecessor Jon Daniels began.
“When I was a kid watching the Rangers,” said executive vice president/general manager Chris Young, “just winning the division was a small victory.”
This time, the Rangers co-won the division (the Astros beat them in their regular-season series; hence their wild card), swept the wild card and division series, beat the ogres from Houston in a seven-game thriller of an American League Championship Series . . . and—after a 2-1 Series lead but the loss of García and ancient starting pitcher Max Scherzer to injuries—out-scored the Diamondbacks 16-7 in the final two Series games.
But this is also for every last philistine who swore this un-boring Series was the most boring Series they'd ever experienced. This Series was many things, many great, some not so great, but boring wasn't even close to one of them.
Sure, the Rangers could and did launch cruise missiles, smart bombs, and atomic bombs almost at will and often in late game hours. But they also pitched with muscle and blood, deployed one of the game's best defenses this season, and whenever they had to they opened run-manufacturing plants to hold fort until the bombers re-calibrated.
It took the franchise a mere 63 years, five ballparks (from ancient Griffith Stadium in Washington through Globe Life Field today), maybe two dozen managers, and 10,333 games to reach the Promised Land. Only the Padres, the Mariners, the Rockies, and the Rays remain among expansion franchises who haven’t gotten there yet.
I’ve said it often enough. In baseball, anything can happen—and usually does. Your new World Series winners are continuing evidence.
Jeff Kallman is an IBWAA Life Member who writes Throneberry Fields Forever. He has written for the Society for American Baseball Research, The Hardball Times, Sports-Central, and other publications. He has lived in Las Vegas since 2007, where he plays the guitar and writes music when not writing baseball. He remains a Met fan since the day they were born.