The Texas Rangers were always a strange team in my life growing up. I almost never saw them play and because they did not make the post season until 1996, when I was 24 years old, there didn’t seem to be a lot of moments when the Rangers were in the national spotlight.
And yet they always seemed to appear in my packs of baseball cards and they never did have a shortage of familiar names on their teams. Sometimes those names had originated from more familiar teams.
As a Red Sox fan who saw a lot of Yankee games in 1979, it was odd to hear that both Sparky Lyle and Mickey Rivers, two life long Yankees as far as I was concerned, were traded to the Texas Rangers.
The club in 1979, as pictured in this 1980 card, had no shortage of interesting figures. Along with Rivers and Lyle, Dock Ellis pitched a few games there. So did future White Sox broadcaster Ed Farmer and the always smiling Jim Kern.
Future Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins led the rotation. Doyle Alexander, a solid pitcher who was traded for a Hall of Famer also contributed. Familiar veterans named like Danny Darwin and Jon Matlack were there.
The lineup featured two former guests of my podcast, Bump Wills and Billy Sample. Richie Zisk and Al Oliver were also there for pop.
In all, seemed like a solid team. And with the Royals having an off year in 1979, it would stand to reason that this Rangers team would have been primed to win their first ever Division Title.
The squad jumped ahead with a 12-7 start and after a good May, entered June if first place by themselves. They slumped badly in mid June but finished the month but then went on an 11-1 run to get back into first. Their lone loss was a 13-12 defeat in 15 innings by the A’s.
It would be their last stand. After starting July in first place, they finished July in third, 4 1/2 games out. A blistering end of the season was too little too late as the Angels clinched the West. A losing season in 1980 sealed manager Pat Corrales’ fate.
I do love the old font on the Rangers uniforms and the Texas style scoreboard in the background.
But as the Rangers continue to look for their first ever title, this 1979 squad missed out on what could have been.