Spent the better part of last night re-re-re-re-re-reading Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell, about the '73 to '75 Texas Rangers, which wasn't really the worst team in baseball, though it makes a great story. (The '74 Rangers finished second in the AL West, behind Oakland, which went on to win the World Series with a roster that included Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Vida Blue, Bert Campaneris and Sal Bando -- no slouches.) Those were the years during which I went to my first games at Arlington Stadium; there's a reason Toby Harrah and Joe Lovitto remain among my favorites to ever wear the team's uniform.
Dad says we went to a few games during the Rangers' first season in Arlington, after the Senators moved from D.C.; I would have been 3, so I don't remember. I do know why Dad wanted to go, though -- to see in person Ted Williams, the Rangers' first-season skipper. Teddy Ballgame lasted but a season here after the move to Arlington. Writes Shropshire, Williams "had not, despite the rumors, been driven babbling into voluntary confinement at the nearest madhouse by the habitual flair of the Rangers for less than mediocre public display." Instead, Williams hated the Texas heat. Besides, the players didn't much like him anyhow; one told Shropshire that "Ted couldn't understand why everybody couldn't hit .400 like he could."
As the Rangers vie or the first title in team history tomorrow night (tonight's contest has officially been rain-delayed), Williams's tenure as Rangers skipper is little more than a forgotten footnote to most, at best a reminder of the first of many awful seasons to come. Nevertheless: I see that in its coming sports auction, our cross-the-street neighbor is offering what it's dubbing "arguably the most desirable and significant artifact relating to the Texas Rangers franchise available to the collecting community," a Rangers home-white jersey worn -- and signed -- by Ted Williams, who can be seen here in a for-sale photo taking a swing in a Rangers uni during a home-run hitting contest at Fenway. Says the auction house:
While any Ted Williams jersey carries enormous collecting appeal, this specimen worn three decades after his greatest season is unquestionably his most noteworthy non-playing days representation. By virtue of its managerial status, one could effectively argue that this is the very first Texas Rangers jersey, period. That fact alone establishes the shirt as one of the most historically significant to be offered in recent memory, even without its connection to one of the game's all-time greats.Right now, the bidding is at $5,000. That's too cheap.