October 22, 2010, is a night that Texas Rangers fans will never forget. The Rangers were a single out away from their first World Series appearance and all that stood in their path was one-time-savior-turned-pariah Alex Rodriguez. On a one ball, two strike count, rookie closer Neftali Feliz delivered an 83-mile-per-hour slider that Rodriguez watched for a called third strike. The Texas Rangers had done the unthinkable; they were headed to the World Series.
In this month’s issue, “born-again” Rangers fan Bryan Curtis writes about America’s newest idols set against the backdrop of their own troubled history, from the team’s first manager Ted Williams (yes, that Ted Williams) to Ron Washington, who recently admitted to using cocaine. Here’s the story behind the story.
Let me begin by saying that as a lifelong Rangers fan, I am glad you got a seat on the bandwagon before they were all taken.
Thanks! I think. I still feel horrible about abandoning them in the first place. I’d also like to clarify that I never selected a “new” favorite baseball team during those dark years. Taking a hiatus is forgivable. Replacing a favorite team is blasphemy.
In the first line of the article you describe Rangers Ballpark in Arlington during game four of the World Series as a “reunion.” What did you mean by that?
I spent a huge chunk of my childhood in Arlington, first watching ballgames in the old Arlington Stadium, and later in the Ballpark. What’s funny is that though I was a big sports fan, I don’t remember watching all that much baseball. My friends and I used to go on Huck Finn expeditions through the concourses and talk, gossip, or whatever, rushing back for Ruben Sierra at-bats.
Being a fan is extremely personal for some people. Was writing this article a cathartic experience for you?
I felt like writing about the team, in some cosmic way, made up for missing out on Jeff Kunkel’s booted ground balls. Forgive me, Jeff.
In the piece, you alternated between current and former Rangers players. Why did you decide to structure the story the way you did?
Two reasons. I thought it was important to show that the Rangers weren’t just going to the World Series for the first time. They were washing away many, many, many years of miserable baseball. To understand what a big deal 2010 was, you have to understand 1972.
The other thing was that those little vignettes were scenes from my own Rangers-addled brain, back when I was paying attention. I couldn’t write about the Rangers and not call Oddibe McDowell.
With a barrage of interesting players, coaches, and executives, did you find it hard to give each of them the attention you wanted?
Absolutely. I wanted a whole separate section on Alexi Ogando, who lost years of his career to a visa-wife scheme. The Rangers have enough heartrending stories to keep ESPN’s Outside the Lines busy for years.
Were there any current or former Rangers stories that you wanted to include but could not?
Rafael Palmeiro didn’t answer my letter. Call me, Raffy.
Who did you most enjoy to talking to?
C.J. Wilson and I “vibed,” to borrow a word from his Orange County lexicon. I walked up to Wilson’s locker and said, “I want to talk to you about writing”—a first for me and an athlete. Two days later, we were at Starbucks comparing notes on morality and The Lord of the Rings.
Were you surprised at all by the outpouring of love and support for this team by the fans?
Everybody loves a winner! The Metroplex was saving that one up for nearly four decades. People wanted to go nuts for the Rangers. They’d just never had an excuse to do it.
During the playoffs people were showing up at the Ballpark with real deer antlers glued to baseball helmets. Do you own any Claw and Antler paraphernalia?
In hipster Brooklyn, antlers are so 2009. (I’m not actually kidding.)
Final question, what are your predictions for the Texas Rangers in 2011?
I don’t make sports predictions. They make us all look stupid. I’ll say this: I bought the MLB Extra Innings package so I can see all 162 games. I wouldn’t do that for a loser.