In this corner, entering his 30th consecutive season as the radio voice of your Texas Rangers...Eric Nadel!
And in this corner, approaching his 2,000th consecutive game as a Major League Baseball public address announcer in Arlington except for one season...Chuck Morgan!
Though mired in a local baseball environment that long ago grew stale through eras of losing, Nadel and Morgan somehow stay loyal and upbeat, albeit masochistic. Vivid recollections of Seven Seas, Farm & Ranch Night and those hideous powder blue road outfits be damned, the duo endures.
As the Rangers commence their 37th season Monday in Seattle, the two remain the team's signature voices—Morgan's booming-yet-understated intros at the ballpark; Nadel's classically appeasing descriptions on the radio.
"Even if we're out of contention," Morgan says, "I've got to remember that it's somebody's first time to the ball park."
Adds Nadel, "Regardless of your record, baseball gives you a chance to win every night. Some of the most incredible things I've seen have come when the Rangers were 20 games out."
They have varied pasts: Morgan's a St. Louis Cardinals fan who was once the voice of the Grand Ole Opry; Nadel's a Brooklyn boy who arrived to call Dallas Diamonds women's professional basketball.
They have differing views of the future: Morgan would be "very happy" with an 81-81 Rangers season; Nadel predicts only that "they'll be fun to watch."
But today, holed up in the scoreboard control room at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, we demand they agree. They are hereby charged with ignoring the franchise's legacy of losing and working together to name an all-time Rangers roster.
Two voices. Two votes. One team:
Manager: Johnny Oates
Morgan—"No doubt. He won our only three division titles and was one of the all-time class acts."
Nadel— "Can't go against Johnny's unparalleled success."
Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez
Nadel—"Easy. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer with the greatest throwing arm in the history of the game. Other than Nolan Ryan, Pudge was probably the most popular Ranger ever.
Morgan—"I'll never forget the night he caught a pop-up by the stands and reached over and stole a nacho from a fan. He had charisma."
First Base: Rafael Palmeiro
Morgan—"Gotta go with Will Clark. Lot of people didn't like him, but he had a toughness we'd never had before."
Nadel—"Rafael Palmeiro, on sheer numbers. He had two tremendous tours of duty, growing from a singles hitter into a power hitter and winning Gold Gloves."
Morgan—"You're right. Gotta have Raffy's bat in this lineup. And his glove ain't bad either."
Second Base: Michael Young
Nadel—"Julio Franco is the toughest out the Rangers have ever had."
Morgan—"Even though he's moved to shortstop, Michael Young started at second and he's one of the greatest hitters in Rangers history. With his consistency, we've got to find a place for him on this team."
Nadel—"OK, let's put Michael here. But we've got to find a spot for Julio somewhere."
Shortstop: Alex Rodriguez
Morgan—"Some will cringe, but it's A-Rod. When he was here—on the field—he produced like one of the best of all-time."
Nadel—"I'd put Michael Young here, because I never liked the way A-Rod left this franchise. Leaving him off may sound ridiculous, but you have to be a good leader to make this team. But since we're putting Mike at second, A-Rod goes here, no doubt."
Third Base: Buddy Bell
Nadel—"My all-time favorite Ranger on and off the field. My single strongest Rangers memory is his walk-off grand slam against the Brewers' Pete Ladd at Arlington Stadium."
Morgan—"He was what baseball is all about. Made an error once in '83 and the next morning he was taking grounders."
Left Field: Rusty Greer
Morgan—"I like Ruben Sierra here. Incredible raw talent with all the tools."
Nadel—"Rusty Greer. He was a clutch hitter and gritty fielder on three title teams. He ran through walls. Unfortunately, it's that quality that shortened his career."
Morgan—"I can certainly live with Rusty in left."
Center Field: Juan Gonzalez
Nadel—"This was the toughest choice because we've never really had a genuine star. Mickey Rivers, Tom Goodwin, Darryl Hamilton, Gary Mathews, even Juan Beniquez had their moments. But people forget that Juan Gonzalez started out in center and, in fact, still holds the club record for homers by a center fielder."
Morgan—"I'll give you Juan here if you let me move Ruben to right. Though I still see Rusty's diving catch in center in the ninth inning to save Kenny Rogers' perfect game in '94."
Right Field: Ruben Sierra
Morgan—"Juan was the greatest player to ever put on a Rangers uniform. He was Señor Octubre. Had 100 RBI at the All-Star break one year. To me, he says right field. But he'll be just as great in center for our purposes."
Nadel—"Since you let me move Juan to center, I'll let you put Ruben here. He could do it all."
Designated Hitter: Julio Franco
Nadel—"Larry Parrish was unbelievably streaky. And he was funny. One time long after a game in The Kingdome, he walked to the plate in his shower shoes and underwear to work on his swing."
Morgan—"This is where I wanted Raffy. But I can't imagine the chemistry between him and Will. I'd be willing to put Julio here because, I agree, no Ranger ever hit the ball harder."
Nadel—"Right, perfect spot for Julio's bat."
Pinch Hitter: Bill Stein
Morgan—"1986. Monday night sellout. National TV. Roger Clemens pitching for the Red Sox in the eighth inning. Pinch-hitting for Steve Buechele, he smashes the first pitch he sees for a game-tying homer. How can it be anyone but Geno Petralli?
Nadel—"There's an art to pinch-hitting, and Bill Stein still holds the AL record with seven consecutive pinch-hits."
Morgan—"Hard to argue against the record-holder, I guess."
Right-handed Pitcher: Nolan Ryan
Nadel—"How do you choose between two Hall of Famers like Fergie Jenkins and Nolan Ryan? In '74 Fergie pitched 29 complete games in 41 starts. That's mind-boggling. But Nolan put the Rangers on the baseball map."
Morgan—"If you venture 1,000 miles from here and mention Texas Rangers, people's first reaction will be 'Nolan Ryan'."
Left-handed Pitcher: Kenny Rogers
Morgan—"He had some unfortunate things happen on his way out, but with the perfect game and the way he competed, it's an easy choice."
Nadel— "No contest."
Relief Pitcher: John Wetteland
Nadel—"Jim Kern had the single greatest season for a reliever in '79 when he won 13 games with 29 saves and a 1.57 ERA. That said, John Wetteland was more consistent, and he slammed the door on two division titles."
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Morgan—"If I need three outs to save a Rangers game, I'm giving the ball to Wetteland."
After an hour of back-and-forth, give-and-take, sacrifice, acrimony and, finally, accord, we've reached hardball harmony:
A Rangers team with a combined 2,711 home runs, 11,112 RBIs, three batting titles, 63 All-Star appearances, seven AL MVPs, one World Series MVP, 29 Gold Gloves, 582 wins, 364 saves, 8,404 strikeouts, eight no-hitters and one perfect game.
"This team might not win every game," Morgan says, "but, boy, they'd sure sell a lot of tickets."