In 1985 the Rangers were still reeling from the stupidity of trading away Jim Sundberg after the 1983 season. 1984 had been a catching disaster with three players splitting time behind the dish. In an effort to solidify things the Rangers traded for Don Slaught, shown here on card number 159 of the 1985 O-Pee-Chee set. The same trade would take Jim Sundberg to Kansas City where he would take over from Don as the number one catcher for the Royals. In October Sunny would be in the World Series with the Royals and help them win it all.
In October of 1985 I turned nine years old. We didn't have cable in our home but my Dad set up the rabbit ears to watch the World Series. An old Cardinals fan, he wanted the Redbirds to win. My Grandfather was pulling heavily for KC, mainly do to the Sundberg factor. Over 500 miles of phone line the debate raged after every game. I was enthralled. I knew about baseball and considered myself a Rangers fan. I had even been to a game or two. Standings? What were those? I had little idea of what the World Series was until 1985.
Following the '85 Series I reflected on the excitement and hoopla. Right then and there I decided that it would be awesome for the Rangers to play in the Series. Maybe even win it. No luck in 1986. In 1987 I rooted for the Cardinals. By 1988 I was in the habit of choosing a surrogate team during the postseason. That didn't mean I gave up on the Rangers though. I followed the boxscores and trades. My Grandfather and I discussed the team whenever we could. In between I daydreamed of seeing a Rangers team take the field in the Fall Classic.
Through high school I listened to WBAP on the skip after dark in the summer and prayed for Rangers wins. There were never enough it seemed and the long-awaited late season surge never materialized. 1994 seemed to be the year though. The Rangers were on top in the A.L. West and had a powerful lineup. There were stormclouds though. Just as the team was scheduled to play in Kansas City, the players went on strike. I cried. How could they? Stupid unions. Stupid owners. Stupid players. That was it. If the players and owners didn't care about the game and the fans, I wasn't going to follow them anymore.
Through the rest of the nineties I would hear sporadically about baseball. Mostly who was in the World Series. My Grandfather would occasionally talk to me about the Rangers and their chances. I half listened and missed a lot. I missed 1996, 1998, and 1999. The long-awaited postseason appearances. No World Series though. I can't even really remember my Grandfather talking to me about those years.
Along about 2000 or 2001 I returned to the game. Gradually, haphazardly. The Rangers were going downhill fast but my Grandfather was still there, waiting to discuss the team and next year. Through much of the decade the team stayed in the cellar, or close. By 2005 I was fully back and dreaming again of a Texas World Series appearance. It seemed so far away though. By now I was looking at the game from an adult perspective and understood how hopeless it looked. Back to picking surrogate teams in October.
My Grandfather passed away during the summer of 2007 and in the midst of another dismal Rangers' season. I talked to him less than a week before he died and he was still talking of how Texas could improve and how it might be different in 2008. Well it wasn't, but the end of 2009 inspired true hope. I could almost hear Pop's voice, "Perhaps with a couple of good moves..."
Perhaps happened and now here I am, waiting for game one of the 2010 World Series to start. This year there is no surrogate team, no daydreams of glory. This year they're here. 25 years after I became aware of the World Series I am trying to pass on the awe and wonder to my six year old son. Thankfully the team that helped me introduce him to the game of baseball is also available to help with this as well.
Go Rangers! It's time.