The Texas Rangers are one of only a handful of MLB teams not to have played in a World Series. Despite being founded nearly half a century ago, their unsettled history and numerous owners have led to disappointment and frustration on the field, a trend which they will be hoping to change when the next season gets going.
The Texas Rangers’ story began in 1960 when the MLB team then playing in Washington, the Washington Senators, moved to Minnesota.
It was decided that a new club would be needed in Washington, and plans were made to introduce an expansion team. In the negotiations that followed, Elwood Richard Quesada led the group that eventually bought the franchise, and an expansion team was founded, originally taking the same title as the previous club.
They made their debut in the 1961 season, playing at Griffith Stadium. However, they soon moved to the District of Columbia Stadium, which in 1969 became known as the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.
From the very beginning, things did not go well for the new team. It was true that they had Frank Howard, a great batsman, to help them out, but he was the only player of any real distinction on the team, and they did not perform as they would have liked.
Quesada was also criticised for seeming to possess very little knowledge of the game. Many also saw his signing of only a 10-year lease at the stadium to be a mistake, because it failed to provide the new club with any certainty.
In 1963 he decided to get out while he could, and sold his stake to James Johnson and James Lemon, who came in as chairman and vice president respectively.
Williams makes an early impression
However, their reign was not to last. Johnson died in 1967, and Lemon sold the club the following year to Bob Short.
Short gave himself the position of general manager, and in an interesting move brought in Ted Williams as manager. Williams had enjoyed huge success as a player and, although his management skills were yet to be tested, it was a move that would please the fans.
Williams performed well in his new role, managing to keep the Rangers in with a chance of winning the division for most of the season. They achieved a respectable 86-76 record, which was a great success seeing as it would prove to be their only winning record in the first 12 years of their existence.
An unpopular move
Short had borrowed heavily to the tune of $9.4 million in a bid to bring in talented players to get the club going, but he soon needed to make sales to pay back the debt. As the performances steadily got worse the fans stopped coming to the matches, and the team sank to the bottom of the division. One factor that was causing problems was the proximity of the Baltimore Orioles, who were proving to be a much more popular team.
Short wanted to sell the club, but as no one came up with the money he decided not to renew the lease at the stadium. Instead, he started to look at other stadiums in the country for a possible relocation.
On September 20th, 1971, he finally got approval to move the franchise to Arlington, to the huge disappointment of the Washington-based fans.
They made their feelings clear when, during their last game in Washington on September 30th, the fans made use of a lack of security to cause chaos at the game, forcing it to be forfeited.
The Texas Rangers
On April 15th, 1972 the team played their first game as the Texas Rangers. Any hopes that the move might have given them a boost, however, were dispelled when they lost to the California Angels.
Ted Williams did not hang around for long, and left after the first season. He was then followed by Whitey Herzog, and after Herzog came Billy Martin.
In 1974, things began to look up as the team finally started to settle into their new home. After two consecutive seasons with 100 losses each, they suddenly changed things around and came back to record a 84-76 winning season. This was a stunning turn in their fortunes that saw them almost clinch the division, finishing only one place behind the Oakland Athletics who would go on to win the World Series that year.
A whole host of awards followed for the club, including the American League Rookie of the Year for Mike Hargrove, the Manager of the Year for Billy Martin, and the American League Most Valuable Player for Jeff Burroughs. It finally seemed that they would be able to work on this form to gain the success that they so craved.
Unfortunately, the following year, they failed to build on the momentum that they had accrued and Martin’s award was not enough for him to keep his job.
Between 1977 and 1979, they enjoyed a good run of form, albeit with no trophies to show at the end of their campaigns. However, things were continuing to look up, and in 1981, after the club had been sold to Eddie Chiles, they nearly made it to the playoffs for the first time. It would have been a fantastic achievement for the club, but a strike came into force at the wrong time and ruined their season.
The team were not proving popular with the crowds. One of the problems was that theirs was an oppressively hot stadium and, coupled with the fact that their results were not proving anything to shout about, it led to a steady decline in fans coming to spectate at the games. As a result, they began to play their games at night, a move that proved so popular that they still do so to this day.
Valentine fails to make an impact
1986 was the next winning season, although they had to settle for second place behind the California Angels. Bobby Valentine was brought in as manager, and was responsible for bringing in a number of good players to the team, including Nolan Ryer and Kenny Rogers amongst others.
But success still failed to come their way, and Valentine was dispatched in 1992.
George W. Bush
In April 1989, Chiles sold the team to a company led by George W. Bush, who would remain Managing Partner for five years. It was during this time that the decision was reached to build a new stadium for the team, which was then known as the Ballpark in Arlington.
1993 saw Kevin Kennedy take over as manager, and he made an early impact by almost taking them to the playoffs. Leading the division in 1994, things were looking up for the Rangers. However, the players’ strike came into effect and put an end to the season, quashing all hopes of a trip to the playoffs.
Instead, the highlight of the season would only amount to a perfect game by Kenny Rogers.
First shot at success
In 1995, Johnny Oates came in as manager and led the team, playing at their new stadium, to the American League West division title the following year. It was the first time that the club had ever reached the postseason, and hopes were high.
They won the first game, allowing the success-starved fans to begin to believe. However, it was to be their only victory, as they were swiftly wiped out by the New York Yankees.
Oates got the American League Manager of the Year award for his efforts, and continued to do well with the club, by leading them to back-to-back Championships in 1998 and 1999. However, on both of these occasions they went out in the playoffs to sweeps by the New York Yankees.
Nolan Ryan also became their stand-out player by becoming the first ever team member to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
Off the field, Bush sold the company to Tom Hicks to mark another change of ownership.
The next few years were not good times for the club. From 2000 until 2003, the team performed disastrously, falling to four consecutive last-place finishes in the division, which led to the loss of Oats and a string of further unsuccessful managers.
During this period, the club became involved in the most lucrative deal in baseball history, when Alex Rodriguez was brought to the club from the Seattle Mariners, receiving $252 million for a 10 year contract. He performed well, but the team still didn’t find success due to their lack of pitching talent. In the end, he did not hang around for long and was traded to the New York Yankees.
Picking up form
2004, although unsuccessful, saw the Rangers coming desperately close once again to getting to the playoffs. Although they were in contention for the entire season, they ended up coming in third place, even though it was only by three games. In response to their improvement in form, key players Michael Young, Hank Blalock and Alfonso Soriano were all named in the All-Star game.
The Rangers have failed to make any significant impact in their division in the last few seasons. In 2005 Jon Daniels took over as general manager from John Hart, and immediately got involved in many transfers and player deals to provide them with a chance for the coming season.
However, they could only manage third place once again, posing a losing record of 80-82 at the same time.
The 2007 season saw the stadium renamed the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. However, despite finally having a stadium named after themselves, the season ended in a disappointing fourth place with another losing record of 75-87, leaving the Rangers looking for a chance once again to reach the postseason.
American League West Division Titles
- 1996, 1998, 1999
Projected Line-up for 2008
- Josh Hamilton: CF
- Ian Kinsler: 2B
- Michael Young: SS
- Hank Blalock: 3B
- Milton Bradley: RF
- Marlon Byrd: LF
- Ben Broussard: 1B
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia: C
- Frank Catalanotto: DH
- 34: Nolan Ryan
- 42: Jackie Robinson
- Ferguson Jenkins
- Gaylord Perry
- Kenny Rodgers
- Jeff Burroughs