1. Third Time's the Charm! Right?
For the third straight year, the Texas Rangers head into the postseason with hopes that are high and realistic. Led by perennial MVP candidate Josh Hamilton, they’re the best-hitting team in baseball. They’ve got a lights-out closer in Joe Nathan and, despite some devastating injuries, enough starting pitching to be a smart-money pick to take the World Series, all to the delight of a massive local fan base, which has begun looking to October the way Cowboys fans used to look to December and January. Though the Rangers have come up short in the fall classic the past two years, they’ve created an expectation that they’ll at least get to play in it.
It was not ever thus. Before the Astros (née Colt .45’s) brought the big leagues to Texas, in 1962, the state’s favorite baseball club was the St. Louis Cardinals, who had a farm team in Houston and a radio broadcast that reached this far south. For the two decades that followed, the ’Stros did little to change that. The Astrodome was home to mediocre baseball; the real draw was the air-conditioning. When the Rangers settled in Arlington, in 1972, their appeal was also of the sideshow variety; the early Strangers made headlines for beating up managers and greasing up baseballs (see Lenny Randle and Gaylord Perry). And though both clubs flirted with respectability in the eighties, nineties, and aughts, those teams were good but never great. There was no threat of an America’s Team–type dynasty in the making for either.
The current Rangers look poised for just such a run, thanks to the same man who helped the Astros first sniff the mountaintop in the eighties. Team co-owner and president Nolan Ryan has built one of the best farm systems in baseball and made gutsy roster moves, all without turning the long season’s ups and downs into the Nolan Ryan Show (Jerry Jones, take note). Now if they could only win a World Series . . . —John Spong
2. The end of the world as Justin Cronin knows it
In 2010, when Houston literary novelist Justin Cronin published The Passage, a thriller about an America overrun by vampires, many people must have assumed that he was simply selling out—trading in glowing critical notices for the rewards of best-sellerdom. In fact, Cronin was able to create a science fiction story that has thrilled millions because he's genuinely fond of the genre, as evidenced by this annotated list he offered us of five apocalyptic novels he has loved since he was young. The second installment in Cronin’s trilogy, The Twelve, comes out October 16.
1. Earth Abides, by George Stewart: “The granddaddy of modern apocalyptic fiction tells the story of a handful of survivors of a worldwide pandemic who join together to form a new civilization. (There’s a quick homage to it in The Passage. )”
2. The Stand, by Stephen King: “An epic masterpiece of the conflict between good and evil.”
3. On the Beach, by Nevil Shute: “Humanity’s last remnants await their demise as the radioactive cloud from a global nuclear conflict heads toward them. The story would be unremittingly bleak if not for the dignity with which the survivors grapple with their fate.”
4. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury: “A life-changing boyhood favorite, these gauzy vignettes of human settlement on our closest celestial neighbor turn dark when the colonists realize—uh-oh!—that an atomic war back home means there is no Earth to go back to.”
5. Children of Men, by P. D. James: “In this strikingly original work, mankind, for no discernible reason, has lost the ability to reproduce. The story's eeriest detail: in a world without children, women heap their frustrated maternal love on large, lifelike dolls.”
3. You picked a fine time to dis me, Lorne Greene
Houston-born singer Kenny Rogers’s new memoir, Luck or Something Like It, which arrives October 2, has no index—and that’s a shame, given how many bold names ( Bob Hope! Pat Benatar! Bert Convy! ) he has rubbed shoulders with. Below, an excerpt from the index that could have been. (Page numbers are actual; enjoy!)
4. Bad Dog!
When the State Fair of Texas runs from September 28 to October 21, Allan Weiss will be where he has been every fall for the past forty years: at his concession stands, serving up his singular deep-fried concoctions. Weiss, who won the 2011 Best Taste award for Buffalo Chicken in a Flapjack, admits that not all of his culinary experiments turn out well. Here are a few that fairgoers have never had a chance to eat—and probably never will. —Katy Vine
THE TAMALE DOG
“It was a hot dog bun with a tamale instead of a hot dog, with chili and cheese. But it turned out to be too much bread. That was the end of that one.”
CHEESE ON A STICK
“It was cheese on a stick made into a corny dog. We developed a cheese cutter, and I had a shop manufacture it. But it didn’t work—the cheese was too soft.”
THE SKIPPER DOG
“It was a corny dog with a biscuit-type batter that had jalapeño and cheese in it. But the batter wouldn’t stick to the dog. When you fried it, the batter popped off.”
5. A Tale of Two Districts
Call it a class-faction lawsuit. One reason the school finance trial that begins this month is so mind-bogglingly complex is that the six plaintiffs who have been consolidated by Travis County district judge John Dietz into one lawsuit are suing the state for different—and, in a few cases, conflicting—reasons. Perhaps the most contentious issue is that of inequities between districts, as demonstrated by the budgets of two neighboring ISDs: “property-poor” San Antonio, a party to the Texas Taxpayer and Student Fairness Coalition’s lawsuit, and “property-wealthy” Alamo Heights, a party to the Texas School Coalition’s lawsuit.