Thursday, February 28, 2019

Around the Horn: Texas Rangers

The players and the crowd in the picture above are celebrating. Why? Because it's time for another edition of "Around the Horn", this time featuring the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers were actually born all the way back in 1961 as the expansion version of the Washington Senators. Despite being a new team with new promise (as the original Senators moved to Minnesota to open the 1961 season), they were just as bad. During their time, they only had one winning season (1969).

For the first few years, Cincinnati native Claude Osteen (bottom middle) was one of the standout pitchers compiling a 33-41 record with a 3.46 ERA in 108 games (90 of those starts) over four seasons before being swapped to the Dodgers for the man shown next to him, Ken McMullen and a trade that also netted the Senators slugger Frank Howard.

I love these 1971 Senators cards for a number of reasons. First, being they're 1971 Topps and who doesn't love that set. Second, 1971 was the final Senators season before they moved to Texas the next year and set up shop in Arlington as the Texas Rangers. The Ted Williams card is the only vintage Ted Williams card I own.

This Rangers team card is glorious. Check out the old school uniforms but the thing I love most is that you can see the bottom of the Texas shaped scoreboard in the background.

Here's a couple more Rangers cards from the 70s. Bert Blyleven could be considered a short term stop I think as he only spent a season and a half with the Rangers.

Al Oliver and Bert Blyleven were involved in a crazy four team trade in December of 1977. As part of the deal, Blyleven was sent to Pittsburgh and Al Oliver arrived in Texas. During his stint in Texas, he was a two-time all star and played all 163 games of the 1980 season.

There's a lot to like about this card in general. First, the old Rangers uniform. Then there the cameo of an unnamed Brewers player scampering back to first on a pickoff attempt. Last, looking at the background, it has the feel of a spring training game. It's just a glorious card.

Billy Sample spent the majority of his career with the Rangers and was a decent outfielder and DH. Between the picture of him and the Larry Biittner card above, how can you really not like 1984 Fleer. The design is just so simple. 

By the time this card was released, Fergie Jenkins was playing for the Cubs. He'd only hang around the majors for two more years after this, retiring after the 1983 season. Fergie had two different stints with Texas (1974-1975, 1978-81). In 1974, he won 25 games for a Rangers club that won 84 and finished 2nd in the west. For the 1981 club, he was 5-8 over 19 games.

Here's an interesting card, the man for who the "Mendoza Line" was named, Mario Mendoza. This would be his sunset card for Donruss (he also had cards in the 1982 Fleer and Topps issues) but none of them actually capture him in action like this card. He only played in 12 games for the 1982 Rangers, hitting a paltry .118 in 18 plate appearances.

I'd forgotten how many interesting players donned Ranger uniforms in the 80s. Most of the players from the 1982 Donruss batch above I'd forgotten played down south, except for Hough and Darwin. The 1987 Topps Toby Harrah card is a sunset card. He was the last link to the original days in Washington as he played for the team before the move to Texas. 

Throughout the 80s, the Rangers were a middle-to-bottom of the standings team in the AL West. Only three times finishing the season with an above .500 record. One of those years was 1986,  which was Bobby Valentine's first season managing the team. Don Slaught was in his second season in Texas and split catching duties with Gino Petralli. That team also had a young Ruben Sierra and Pete Incaviglia and also featured grizzled vets like Charlie Hough, Toby Harrah, and Darrell Porter.

The Rangers signed Nolan Ryan as a free agent after he left Houston over a contract dispute. His first season in Texas was his best, going 16-10 with a 3.20 ERA and making the All-Star team. When I first got back into collecting, the card shop I went to had some packs of 1989 Upper Deck for sale. I took a chance, while I didn't get the vaunted Griffey rookie card, I did get this Nolan Ryan card from said pack. 

The 90s are when I really starting noticing the Rangers, especially when Ivan Rodriguez started becoming a household name and when they made the deal for Jose Canseco. Of course, everyone remembers the infamous moment with a ball bouncing off Canseco's head for a home run.

Yep, that.

Here's a random assortment of 90s cards. I wonder if the scoreboard in the background of the 1991 Topps Juan Gonzalez card is the same scoreboard that's in the background of the Rangers team card from earlier?

Goose Gossage is probably the only true "short term stop" I could find in my Rangers collection. Goose made a comeback to the majors in 1991 after spending the 1990 season in Japan and pitched one season for Texas. There was a weird coincidence on July 23 of that season where Gossage recorded his 308th career save to preserve Nolan Ryan's 308th career win.

I think everyone is well award of A-Rod's 3-year stint in Texas. I remember when he signed with them and I found it a little bizarre that he signed with Texas from out of nowhere. The three seasons he had were might successful, especially with him winning an MVP his last season there. The giant contract turned out to be an albatross on the Rangers who shipped him to the Yankees during the 2003-04 offseason after Aaron Boone suffered a knee injury playing basketball

As far as player collections go for the Rangers, I'd say probably Nolan Ryan would be one even though I don't really look for his cards. If I find a cool card of his in a bargain bin, I'll probably snatch it up.

Adrian Beltre seems to be an unintentional player collection, although I think I might add him officially to my list. I never got to see him play much put I always heard that he had a good time playing the game. He was also an anchor for the 2011 team that made a run to the World Series.

After this past season, Beltre retired after a 21 season career with the Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Rangers. I would be he'll be a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer once he's eligible. I'm not sure if he has a card in the 2019 Topps issue but if he doesn't, then I think this 2018 card is a pretty fitting sunset card.

Speaking of sunsets, this edition of "Around the Horn" is riding off into the sunset.

Next up ... the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays.


  1. The 1991 Gonzalez appears to be from the Oakland Coliseum before Mt. Davis took the scoreboard and the view of the hills away.

  2. Beltre might just be my favorite Ranger of all-time. Loved watching him and Andrus playing together.

    P.S. That's definitely the Oakland Coliseum in the background of the 1991 Juan Gonzalez.

  3. The year he played for the Red Sox, I constantly heard from the TV announcers what a great player and person he was.