By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"I'm not ready to say he's some savior or anything," says fan Jerry Walters, who drove from Aledo to meet Greenberg. "You know what, check that. If what he said in there is the truth, he will be a savior."
Not a bad first impression.
Especially for a guy who, as a kid, cheered wildly against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X, whose childhood memories of the Rangers could fit in a thimble, and who is such a metroplex newbie that he isn't sure if he's house-hunting in Southlake or Westlake.
It is sunny and 70 on March 10 in Surprise, Arizona. A perfect afternoon for baseball.
Greenberg sits in the front row near the Rangers' first-base dugout at the team's spring training complex about 45 minutes northwest of Phoenix. He will, likely in April, officially become the sixth owner in club history, and he spends his first and only day here talking of being both anxious and ecstatic about becoming the Rangers' CEO.
The Rangers on this day are promising, but far from perfect. In a quaint stadium accessorized by retirees wearing caps, chirping birds nesting in the rafters and the unmistakable smell of fresh-popped kettle corn, Greenberg watches pitcher Neftali Feliz strike out the side with 99 mph fastballs one inning, then hit a batter and surrender four runs the next. The regular, recognizable players then are replaced with a bunch of prospects ultimately headed for minor-league outposts like Frisco, Oklahoma City or even Bakersfield, California, and who finish out the 6-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Greenberg would like to tell you he grew up a fan of these Rangers and always dreamed of owning a team in Texas. But he's too honest to stretch his yarn into warm 'n' fuzzy hyperbole.
Truth is, he's a gritty Pittsburgh guy, a sharp entrepreneur who sees the Rangers as an enticing business opportunity rather than some holy grail. He wasn't raised on Fergie Jenkins and Bobby Valentine and Juan Gonzalez, but instead grew up in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, as a fan of Pittsburgh Pirate Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente (his youngest son, Ben, shares Clemente's middle name, Walker) and, later, Willie Stargell's "We Are Fam-uh-lee!" World Series champs of 1979. His knowledge of the '70s Rangers?
"I remember Billy Martin...and Mickey Rivers," says the 48-year-old Greenberg, scratching his healthy head of black hair during the eighth inning of the exhibition loss. "But you gotta remember, those were the days before cable and satellite and interleague play. The Rangers just didn't get a lot of national exposure."
Sitting in the same row with general manager Jon Daniels, investor Ray Davis and team president/soon-to-be co-owner Nolan Ryan, Greenberg is casual, on the verge of being hip. Nothing about him is pretentious, from his family (wife, Jennifer, of 25 years and three 20-something sons—Jeff, Jack and Ben—who kept him a traveling sports dad following baseball and hockey), to his ride (Cadillac Escalade SUV), to his iPod (filled with classic and Southern rock), to his drink (Bud Light).
On his most recent flight from Pittsburgh to Dallas, Greenberg jammed to Johnny Cash. "Love the man in black," he says.
"He's just a normal guy," Daniels says. "Jeans and T-shirts. He's really in tune with fans and knows how to have his finger on the pulse of what they want. He's very impressive. He wants revenue, make no mistake about that. But above and beyond that comes winning."
With the vows not yet formalized, obviously, the honeymoon hasn't commenced, much less ended. But at this point the only discernible blemish in Greenberg's makeup is the fact that he rooted for the Steelers' Terry Bradshaw and against the Cowboys' Roger Staubach in Miami in 1976.
"I respect Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys," he says sheepishly, "but ... "
At Super Bowl X, Greenberg was a wide-eyed 14-year-old more consumed with sports than sex. His father playfully warned him to watch out for fast women in Miami.
Jokes Greenberg, "Not that I would've known what to do with them anyway."
In business, however, he's always made shrewd moves.
It is January 30, a gray, gloomy and frigid day at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. At the team's annual FanFest, longtime promotions guru and voice of the stadium Chuck Morgan is shooting the bull about his prospective boss.
"You talk about hitting the ground running; he comes to me and says, 'Whatever you need, it's yours,'" Morgan says, laughing. "I talked about upgrades to video boards and this and that around the park, and he was nodding, like he'd already thought of the same things. I don't suspect we're going to see that much of a learning curve with Chuck Greenberg. The man knows his stuff."
Given the protracted sale process, Greenberg won't be able to give the old yard a facelift in time for the 2010 season. But if his track record is any indication, the Rangers are now eligible for upgrades.
Born in Englewood, New Jersey, to David and Barbara Greenberg, Chuck moved to Pittsburgh before his first birthday. At Tufts University in Massachusetts, he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's in political science in 1982 and received his law degree from the University of Michigan three years later. As a partner at two Pittsburgh law firms over the next 17 years, he served as a corporate and sports attorney who gained national recognition for crafting a deal that in 1999 handed ownership of the then-bankrupt Pittsburgh Penguins to National Hockey League Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.