Editor’s note: Major League Baseball and its fans lost Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry on Thursday, Dec. 1. Perry pitched in the first Texas Rangers game I ever witnessed in Arlington, so I wrote this post to commemorate that event and what I remembered from seeing the Hall of Famer pitch in the game.
Let me tell you the story of my introduction to the Texas Rangers.
In the spring of 1976, I moved to Abilene, Texas, to go to college at Abilene Christian University. I was transferring my credits from a community college and started at ACU in the second summer semester while working at a small retail store in Abilene..
Anyway, I drove back to Fort Smith to visit my folks the week of Independence Day, and then drove back to Abilene on Monday, July 5.
I had grown up a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but became acquainted with the Rangers through their radio broadcasts after moving to Abilene.
So, as I was driving down from Fort Smith that Monday, I tuned the radio to WBAP 820, the Rangers flagship station. I learned they would be playing a home game that evening.
I detoured into Arlington and got to the ballpark about an hour before game time. I had read about how sparsely attended Rangers games were at that time, so I was surprised to find the parking lots surrounding Arlington Stadium almost completely full.
I parked and walked to a ticket window, where I was told that the only tickets remaining for sale were general admission in the outfield. It was a July 4 sellout.
Good enough for me.
I bought a ticket and found a spot deep in left field bleachers next to a man and his son, who was approximately 6 years old. The guy had a transistor radio with him that was shaped like Mickey Mouse and had the volume and tuning dials in the ears.
The Mickey Mouse radio was tuned to WBAP, so we had radio play-by-play throughout the game while sitting in the stands. I guess that’s how we rolled in 1976.
Don’t remember much about the game except for the fact that the Rangers won and I got to see all-time great Gaylord Perry pitch for Texas (I was saddened to learn on Monday that Perry had passed away.)
The Hall of Famer and spitball legend started that 1976 game, although I wasn’t certain until I looked up the boxscore.
My real adventure started after the game as I left the stadium. I did not know my way around Arlington and had no map to consult. So, as I left the ballpark I found myself on Randall Mill Road, which I thought would take me back to I-30 and then west to Abilene.
Instead, Randall Mill Road seemed to go on forever with no sign of the Interstate. Finally, after seemed what was about an hour on the road to nowhere, I pulled into a 7-11 to ask for directions.
“How do I get to I-30,” I asked the clerk behind the counter.
He pointed to the west. “It’s right there.”
Sure enough, I had come within a few yards of the Interstate without realizing it, although I was actually now in Fort Worth.
So, about 11:30 pm on Monday, July 5, 1976, I pulled onto I-30 West and headed for Abilene and the rest of my life.
But I drove into Abilene now a Texas Rangers fan and a memory of watching Gaylord Perry pitch in a Major League game.
I remain a Rangers fan to this day. RIP Gaylord.