Arlington Stadium, The Texas Rangers, and Me

Arlington Stadium was the original home of the Texas Rangers. Although it was never shrouded in baseball lore like Yankee Stadium, it is where stadium nachos were invented and it was the professional ballpark of my childhood.

Arlington-Stadium-500We weren’t season ticket holders but we went fairly regularly, particularly on promotion events. My most vivid memory of a promotion night was bat night. Most of the flooring in the stadium (at least in the outfield) was steel plating, so you might imagine how loud it got when thousands of kids pounded their bats on the floor during a rally. Presumably for safety reasons, bat night was discontinued.

One season, we went frequently enough that I was able to get a pennant for every MLB team, buying one per visit. The walls in my room were covered with team pennants. I also liked to get the miniature bats, which were great for cup ball games in the parking lot while we waited for the traffic to clear after the game.

Craig Dunning and Lenny Randle, Father's Day 1975, Arlington Stadium

Craig Dunning and Lenny Randle, Father’s Day 1975, Arlington Stadium

I loved going to the park, especially when we got there early enough to get autographs and see pre-game batting practice. The sights, sounds, and smells continue to be a thrill for me though I rarely go to games anymore. I’ve been priced out of Major League games.

A few visits to Arlington Stadium from my childhood are seared into my memory. When I was about 10, for some reason I placed my brand new baseball glove on the back bumper of our car before getting into the car. I also forgot that it was there. We drove out the Turnpike (I-30) and just before the 360 exit, the traffic backed up to a crawl and a passenger in another car noticed my glove … still on the bumper almost 10 miles later! As they passed us, he pointed to the back of our car and incredulously said, “There’s a glove on your bumper.” It took a second, but I realized what he meant, and shouted,”My glove! I left it on the bumper!” My dad immediately pulled on to the shoulder and I jumped out and retrieved my glove. My dad was so amazed the glove was still on the bumper, I didn’t even get in trouble for leaving it there.

Craig-Jeff-Burroughs-19740616-500pxa

Craig Dunning and Jeff Burroughs, Father’s Day 1974, Arlington Stadium

In the mid to late 70s, the outfield wall in left and right fields didn’t extend all the way to the bleachers, which left an open area just beyond the railing. Home run balls frequently landed in that area about 8 feet below the front row seats, and fans always went over the rail and jumped down to retrieve those balls. Frequently, several fans went for a ball and sometimes they would even end up wrestling for it, which was always exciting.

Whenever we sat in the outfield, we usually sat in the right field bleachers because the setting sun would not be directly in our eyes. Once, though, when I was 11 or 12, we were sitting in the first few rows of the left field bleachers when a ball fell short of the stands. I immediately scaled the fence and dropped to the ground below. Several others did the same, but I was the first to pounce on the ball. It. Was. Mine. At least for the moment. By the time we all climbed back up into the stands, a few ushers were waiting for me. They demanded the ball because I was not supposed to leave the stands. Of course, they were right, … but everybody jumped down there. I wasn’t even the first that night, and they hadn’t bothered anyone else. Nevertheless, with great disappointment, I surrendered the ball, and the ushers left to a great chorus of boos.

When I was in high school, I and a couple friends had a very unusual experience at Arlington Stadium. The father of one of the kids from my high school made arrangements for the visiting teams, which included seating for the wives/girlfriends, hotel accommodations, and transportation to and from the stadium. One night, the Detroit Tiger’s team bus was slow in leaving the stadium, and a handful of the players were anxious to get out of there. I’m not sure how word got to three high school kids (I was 16, at the time), but we were told that some players were looking for rides to the hotel. We immediately said that we would take them, and as quickly as possible drove our cars around to the visiting team exit. To my absolute surprise, three Detroit Tigers piled into my two-door, 1973 Camaro for the short ride to the hotel. That was in 1982, and now 34 years later, I can’t remember the names of those players. Five minutes after they got into my car, we were at the hotel. I didn’t ask for autographs or tickets or anything else; I barely even talked to them because I didn’t know what to say. I can’t imagine the same scenario happening today, but it did in 1982. I gave three Detroit Tigers a ride from the stadium to their hotel.

I was disappointed when I learned that Arlington Stadium was being replaced by a newer, better stadium. I suppose the Ballpark in Arlington (its original name) is a better and nicer stadium, but it will never replace Arlington Stadium, the park of my youth.

Comments

  1. Bucky Nance says:

    Awesome stories. I am sure we crossed paths a few times. I was only in 4th grade in 1982 and had only gone to about 15 games prior to that. They were horrible in ’82 but that was the first year that I followed the Rangers on a day by day basis. Only had about 40-50 games on TV back then and they were all road games. I always listened to them on WBAP and since 1995, have hardly ever made it a point to listen since they went to KRLD, The Fan and ESPN and back to The Fan. It just doesn’t sound the same on FM.

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