By Will Martin
Forever a believer that life has a funny way of repeating itself in a familiar form of a circle I was struck with an irony about the events that may or may not play out on a recent certain evening in Arlington, Texas at Rangers Ballpark.
The forecast called for possible thunderstorms and with my luck that meant we would see some sort of delay before the pre-game festivities began.
Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez would be the 16th Ranger alum being honored into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. That process of honorees began ten years ago on a hot and humid August day in 2003.
The very first induction of Texas Ranger greats included no less than FOUR deserving candidates with Texas ties. Jim Sundberg, Nolan Ryan, Johnny Oates, and Charlie Hough.
In case you weren’t aware your Rangers skipper at the time was Buck Showalter. The man on the other side in the visitors dugout this weekend in Arlington. The opponents on that August 2nd evening were the Cleveland Indians. It also got me to thinking about the passing of Thurman Munson in Canton that very day 24 years prior. The mood of the sellout crowd that evening was a sad one.
Johnny Oates-one time catcher in the Baltimore Orioles organization and manager of the Rangers in the 90s when they started to get good-was diagnosed with cancer. He needed a cane when he spoke as Tom Hicks spoke and Buck watched from the dugout. To this day I was struck by how deferential Oates was when stating, ‘I am being honored this day not because of what I did for anyone but because of what others had done for me.’
The same can be said about Ivan Rodriguez. A love for the game and not one to be too concerned about himself and the magnitude of being him. Rather, quite content to let the people in the media and front office make the call on what is noteworthy and honorable. One of the many reasons this induction was needed and long overdue.
Something about a catcher being team oriented first and not wanting the attention placed upon himself. Tears flew as many in the crowd could see the amount of pain Johnny Oates was in. I’ll never forget when Johnny Oates spoke about, ‘seeing the Rangers in a World Series…so make it quick!’ Buck nodded in the distance. There was a standing ovation for the four Ranger inductees that day. Jim Sundberg with the line of the day, one I use often. ‘I wasn’t born in Texas…but I got here as fast as I could’.
Thus the irony: Everywhere Buck Showalter has stopped off to manage from New York to Arizona to Texas those teams would subsequently reach the World Series. Buck built that Yankee dynasty in the 90s. It would be four years after Buck left Texas that a World Series run would commence.
The irony in this is when Pudge Rodriguez returned to Texas in 2009 for six weeks before heading out again. Did Pudge Rodriguez know the Rangers of 2010 were going to be special? There’s a question to ask the 21 year veteran personally.
So here we are ten years later with Buck Showalter managing the team Johnny Oates once played for and another Texas Ranger being honored on this night for perhaps the greatest Ranger of them all. An argument can surely be made. Just like 2003 Buck Showalter now has a legion of good players, many of them ex Texas Rangers making magic in the tough American League East.
Again, an example of life repeating itself in a weird but familiar way. Rodriguez became the 16th person inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall Of Fame. You can find the plaques of all the inducted Rangers behind the concourse on the wall between home plate and third base.
Looking forward to hearing some funny anecdotes from the players Ivan Rodriguez joins an elite fraternity of Ranger players who have served and are now immortalized in plaque style and grace. Thank you Pudge!
Now onto some baseball! Play Ball!