Upon the occasion of the awesome honor the Texas Rangers bestowed on me as a new member of the team’s Hall of Fame, people have asked me what were my favorite experiences in the place where they played their games.
These are some of the ways I have answered that question.
Like every other Rangers fan, we celebrated and shared the great moments from that magical Opening Day to staging the All Star Game, to Kenny Rogers perfect game, the first ever division championship, hosting two World Series, watching the Hall of Fame careers of Pudge Rodriguez and Adrian Beltre and much more.
But, for us, it all became personal.
For the first two years in the new ballpark, my wife Sylvia and I amassed a perfect attendance record – we were at every single game.
When selecting our seats as season ticket holders in the new ballpark, I thought it important, as the city’s mayor, to serve as sort of a host to those connected with visiting teams. So, we picked front row seats right next to the opponents dugout that surrounded us with those associated with the out-of-town ballclubs.
Over time we got to meet and visit with team owners, general managers, players’ family members and guests of the visiting teams. After getting acquainted, almost everyone had lots of questions about The Ballpark and how it came to be.
Among the most notable was one game when Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, in town for a series, was sitting next to me. He wanted to know all about how we had formed the partnership with the Rangers and won the approval of voters to build a new ballpark.
About halfway through the game, we began to get reports that television cameras broadcasting the game back in New York kept being focused on the two of us. Commentators speculated that the discussion must have been about how to convince New Yorkers to support a new Yankee Stadium. They were correct.
On another occasion he again was in town, and, as my wife and I approached our seats, we noticed that he was sitting in one of them. Our 15-year-old daughter Amy was walking some distance ahead of us and informed him that he would have to move.
I quickly apologized and explained that she had no idea who he was. His response was delightful.
A couple of years later we were in New York with her for one of the playoff games and standing in the lobby of Yankee Stadium when the elevator doors opened. Out stepped Steinbrenner surrounding by his entourage. His eyes lit up and with a big smile he pointed to Amy, and said, “I know you. You are that gal who moved me out of my seat that time.”
Another time, Yankee Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October,” was sitting next to me when Neftali Feliz came in to close the game. Not familiar with him, Reggie asked about him. I gave him a rundown and concluded my description by telling him that he was the one who struck out Alex Rodriguez looking in the American League Championship Series that sent us to our first World Series.
His response was typical Reggie. “Well, he might have struck me out too, but it wouldn’t have been looking!”
Our youngest granddaughter Ashley, now 16, has been attending Rangers games since she was able to walk. In those seats in front of third base, the little tyke was a magnet for baseballs being tossed to her from players and coaches in that strategic location.
For a few years, after collecting a bucket full of them, she began to give them to other kids in the vicinity – the mark of a seasoned fan.
Then, on another occasion with Amy, she, wearing an autographed Benji Gil jersey (her favorite Ranger), was sitting next to Rangers Managing Partner George W. Bush. She showed it to him, and he quickly produced a marker pen and affixed his signature to the back of the jersey.
When she got home and discovered what he had done, she declared that Bush had “ruined” her jersey. I told her that he was probably going to be our next governor, and it was all right. She wasn’t buying it and left it behind when she departed for college. We still have the ruined jersey.
In his April 11, 1994, speech at the ribbon cutting for The Ballpark in Arlington, Rangers President Tom Schieffer concluded by saying, “I realized along the way that ballparks are museums for memories. They are the backdrop for people to play out the most touching moments of their lives. They are the places where the grass is always green and hope is always alive.”
Some 26 seasons later in this iconic ballpark, my family can confirm his reflections because we have lived their reality.
Saying farewell is a sentimental moment for us. But, we aren’t finished. New ones await just across the street.
Richard Greene served as Arlington’s mayor from 1987-1997 and currently teaches in UT Arlington’s graduate program in the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs.