The Texas Rangers were all set to play their first baseball game in Arlington, and Janet Middlebrooks was there.
The year was 1972, and Middlebrooks, then 26, had just landed a job as a bookkeeper for the team.
Sitting inside a Downtown Arlington taco shop, the 74-year-old holds the 1972 Texas Rangers media guide she recently bought through eBay.
“I got it,” she says of the memorabilia that has her photograph inside. “And I am really, really thrilled.”
Handling the mint condition ephemera with all the care of a priceless artifact, Middlebrooks explains how she’d searched for a copy ever since her own guide disappeared decades ago. Reflecting further upon her time as one of the first employees of the Texas Rangers, she also recalls some coworkers and a few notable experiences – like working across from Ted Williams and meeting Mickey Mantle.
“They came in from Washington [D.C.],” she says about many of the office staff pictured in the guide who’d worked for the team since their days as the Washington Senators.
“There were, like, four of us that were hired here in Arlington,” she continues. “I did the books, the journal and ledger. They were hand done.”
When Middlebrooks first began, she paid bills and completed other tasks from a makeshift workspace at Arlington Stadium, formerly known as Turnpike Stadium. Charles Wangner was her boss, and when the offices were finished, she carried her things up to her new office right across from the team’s manager at the time, baseball legend Ted Williams.
“Ted Williams was rather shy, super quiet,” she says. “He was the direct opposite of [one of his ultimate successors] Billy Martin.”
Middlebrooks, who worked for the organization from 1972 until near the end of 1974 season, says the job was quite interesting and she enjoyed getting to know the people she worked with, as well as those who came through the front offices.
Including another baseball immortal.
“Mickey Mantle came up to do a publicity photo in the Rangers ballpark in his Yankee uniform,” she recalls. “And they let a few of us go outside and watch because we had never seen such a thing before.”
Since native Texans were then accustomed to mainly football, Middlebrooks says “it took Arlington a while to realize that the Rangers really were major league.”
“The Rangers were there, and that was one thing, and that was big,” she says. “But when the Yankees came in to play the Rangers that was, like, ‘oh wow.’ It was just totally amazing, because, you know, that was baseball.”
Middlebrooks, who graduated from Arlington High School and has lived in and around Arlington most of her life, says she spends a lot of her time these days volunteering for community and political organizations.
“I’ve waited a long time to have the time to volunteer and to give back to the community,” she says. “And I thoroughly enjoy it.”
Middlebrooks notes that because of the Texas weather, she expects Globe Life Field to be “absolutely practical” when it opens for games this month.
“The Rangers continue to be an asset to Arlington, in general,” she says.