Tonight, the Texas Rangers will enter a place they have never been. There will be an excitement never before felt. A sense of fear and anxiety; a sense of pride and accomplishment. And for a Ranger-fanatical kid of the 1970s and 80s, a sense of heaven.
Finally, it truly is time.
There was a day in the not so distant past that televisions showed 13 channels instead of 300. There was no Fox Sports or ESPN. Baseball games - specifically Texas Ranger games - were followed on the radio instead of the TV or internet streaming to your computer.
They were the days of Hough and Wills; Harrah and Hargrove; Sundberg and Perry; Randle and Wright. And they were glorious days in the own right. Call it the magic of baseball.
The Rangers history has never been something to write about for the national media — or, sadly, even the local media — until today. This franchise hasn't been tormented like the Cubs or pre-2004 Red Sox. No, it was worse. This franchise was irrelevant. It didn't matter. Pre-Nolan Ryan, the "Strangers" were just that - unnoticed and unspoken of, unless Lenny Randle was punching out manager Frank Lucchesi in spring training or Willie Horton was charging the mound, swinging his bat far better than he ever did at the plate. Roger Moret brought some publicity to the team, but only because he was found naked in the locker room in a catatonic state, with one arm extended holding a slipper. At least he didn't sit down on the field during a game. Yeah, that happened, too.
But those "Strangers" mattered at home. We listened on the radio to every game, learning the nuances of a scorebook while keeping up with Claudell Washington and Al Oliver. We were enamored with the promise of George Wright and Billy Sample and devastated by the close calls in the late 1970s, when the team put together a streak of three straight winning seasons, only to fall short of the playoffs each year.
Yes, there were dark years. The team finished 70--91 in 1988, only two years removed from an 87-win season. The Rangers won 94 games in '77, and lost 98 in '82. In fact, there were more dark times than good times. The nation may not have cared, but we did.
Now, this franchise is the darling of the Major Leagues. The upstarts who knocked off the Evil Empire. They are all over ESPN and Fox Sports. The sporting world is paying attention.
But to those at the front of the bandwagon, who lived and died each season with teams nobody noticed, this is a very special moment. Tonight begins the culmination of years of dreaming. This franchise could go on to win 27 World Series and it wouldn't be as wonderful as it is right now. Right now is heaven. Right now is baseball magic.
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