Hello. I'd intended to provide an end-of-season piece or fall/winter ball update, but life intervened. The usual work deadlines. The heartbreaking and stress-inducing revelation
that Austin ISD intends to close the school my daughter just entered, forcing me to devote time to community meetings and the district's history and politics.
And then, a little over two weeks ago, my mother, sister and I said goodbye to my father. He'd fought various illnesses for years, warding off cancer twice, undergoing a bypass a week after my daughter's birth, functioning on one kidney for a while, etc. Late last month during a third round of cancer treatment, everything went wrong at once. He fought all that too, bravely, until he and we knew it was time to stop.
So, on this final day of the 2019 season, some games we saw together:
Sometime in 1972: Years ago, I asked my father if we'd attended a game during Texas's inaugural season, when I was mostly three years old. He didn't know for sure, but he said he'd taken me to a few games when Arlington Stadium still housed the AA-level Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs. Odds are good I saw Ted Williams, Frank Howard, and a 24-year-old Tom Grieve in person. 5 July 1976
: Not my first game with my father, but the earliest from which I have a ticket stub. In the late 1990s, my South Carolinian grandmother handed it to me from a desk drawer. How it made that journey, none could say. As for the game, Gaylord Perry had an off night, but we saw the best-ever MLB performance from Jeff Terpko, who dealt five innings of one-run ball. Down 6-4 in the 7th, hits by Gene Clines, Mike Hargrove, Jeff Burroughs, Tom Grieve and Lenny Randle resulted in four runs, and Texas won 8-6.
April 1980: I was a Dr Pepper Junior Ranger, as one was, but in the early 1980s, my father occasionally scored superior tickets near the visiting dugout. I can't remember which game we saw (maybe this one
), but I do recall Boston manager Don Zimmer having to pull a pitcher early, followed by a fan mocking him he walked back to the dugout. Zimmer's spirited reply contained several forms of profanity new to my eleven-year-old ears. There's no permanent record of this event, which is for the best, but my memory is of fans responding with laughter, not outrage. 25 June 1983
: New manager Doug Rader peaked in popularity around this time, teasing a division title mere months after Texas's worst season since 1972-1973. Alas, Rader and the Rangers continued a theme of early contention and post-All Star collapse. On this occasion, the Rangers maintained a half-game lead over the Angels (with eventual runaway division winner Chicago still three back) by knocking out rookie Bill Krueger early. 28 August 1993
: My sister and I took our father to our final game at Arlington Stadium as a belated Father's Day present. In an 11-1 drubbing of Baltimore, Juan Gonzalez homered three times, Dean Palmer also went deep, and Roger Pavlik threw eight strong. The win kept Texas within 3.5 games of division-leading Chicago. Texas's first division title was not to be, but on that day, it seemed possible. 7 September 1999
: Burnt out on work and, to an extent, life, I'd quit my job and loaded the car for a lengthy road trip. Before heading out, my mother said "weren't you going to visit us first?" To which I replied, "...umm... of course I was!" I spent Labor Day weekend with the parents and grabbed two tickets in the Home Run Porch for Tuesday's game, a playoff-atmosphere tilt against 86-51 Cleveland. Pudge Rodriguez's late go-ahead homer landed a few rows below our seats. 30 September 2011
: A month ago, my father told me this was the last game he saw in person. Although I didn't mention it to him, I was skeptical, and I subsequently found a picture of him at The Ballpark with my nephew from 2014. I knew he couldn't have gone eight years without seeing a game. Still, it was the last game we saw together, along with my wife and mother, the latter of whom is not known for venturing to the ballpark. Unfortunately, the game itself was arguably the least compelling of any in Rangers postseason history, a 9-0 drubbing by Tampa Bay to open the ALDS. 29 September 2019
: I didn't have plans to attend the final game at The Ballpark or even be in the Metroplex that weekend, but I found myself two miles from the stadium when the game started, aside my father's bed at Arlington Memorial. I had to head back to Austin that afternoon and caught most of the game on the radio, but we watched the first inning together on the tv. He was still lucid, still optimistic of recovery, and we talked of the team's chances in 2020.
We'd all hoped my father had a few more years in him, but he hung around long enough to travel with my mother, to spend time with his three grandchildren, to talk a little more baseball with me.