David Elfin On Sports: 40 Years Later, I Still Can’t Root For Rangers
After outplaying the underdog St. Louis Cardinals in the clutch in three of the past four games, the Texas Rangers are now just one victory from their first World Series title.
I was in the visitors’ clubhouse in Baltimore in April when the Rangers were in town and found second baseman Ian Kinsler, shortstop Elvis Andrus, designated hitter Michael Young and manager Ron Washington to be all be cooperative interviews for a magazine piece.
In 1989, I spent a memorable hour chatting with Rangers president Nolan Ryan as the 42-year-old fireballer and I watched from the dugout as a deluge drenched Arlington Stadium. Goofy lefthander Derek Holland, who shut out the Cardinals in Game 4 on Monday night, has an engaging personality.
However, I would just as soon root for the detestable “Greed is Good” New York Yankees or the Baltimore Orioles of Peter “Washington is part of our market” Angelos than for the Rangers.
You see, I’m old enough to remember that the Rangers used to be our Washington Senators, the expansion version, that is. My first sporting event was a Senators-Cleveland Indians game in 1966, that my dad took me to at then-DC Stadium.
I was soon in love with baseball. My first team was the Cardinals because they won the World Series when I was 7, but I also rooted for the Senators since the teams were in different leagues. Graceful center fielder Del Unser, slick-fielding shortstop Eddie Brinkman and hard-throwing Joe Coleman were my favorite players.
When the Nats would play out West against the Angels or A’s, I would sneak my transistor radio and earphone under the covers so my parents wouldn’t know I was listening into the wee hours.
The Senators were lousy, but they were ours. And in 1969, they had a magical season under rookie manager Ted Williams complete with hosting the All-Star Game.
Unser hit .286 while Brinkman choked up his way to a unheard of (for him) .266 average. Frank Howard slugged 48 homers and Mike Epstein belted 30. Dick Bosman led the league in earned run average while Coleman threw four shutouts. Washington finished 86-76, its best record since the dawn of the Truman Administration, but still way behind the American League champion Orioles.
And then just two years later, carpetbagger owner Bob Short ripped out a piece of my heart and those of many of fellow Washingtonians by moving the team to a burg halfway between Dallas – home of the hated Cowboys — and Fort Worth in hopes of wringing more dollars out of fans in a new market.
My allegiance transferred to the NFL’s Redskins, who coincidentally became contenders that same month for the first time in a quarter century. But during the ensuing three decades, I got excited every time there was talk of a team replacing the Senators.
My dad and I put money in special baseball bank accounts in 1987. I proudly wore a Senators cap, T-shirt and jacket, figuring there would be no questioning my journalistic objectivity since they had last played a game when I was 11.
Baseball finally returned to Washington in 2005, but I’ll never forgive Short and his co-conspirators in the Lone Star State. So even if they weren’t dueling with the Cardinals in the Series, I can never root for the Rangers, the team that was once mine and ours.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.