Skip to content

An American Holiday in Texas

(This is the story of my trip from July 3rd 2002 to Arlington, Texas.)

If you ever want to take a patriotic vacation, I have a suggestion. See a ballgame on July 4th in Texas. Seeing any contest of our national pastime on Independence Day will make your blood run a little red, white, and blue, but Texas? Well, everything is bigger in Texas.

I had never been to Texas before. So I can’t say if the patriotic music blaring loudly out of the PA system at Dallas Fort Worth Airport was for the Fourth, new since September 11th, or if it has simply always been that way. All three seem equally possible.

As my plane landed, I could see a black wall of rain bulldozing toward us. My first thought: not another game like the one in Colorado, please! (See “Mile High Baseball” for that story…) As I picked up my bags, the torrent began. The escalator down to the van pickup area was enclosed in a glass tube, and with the rain pouring down the glass, I felt like I was going down into a Disney attraction. Come to think of it, you know how they spritz you with water every chance they get at Disney World? At the bottom of the escalator we were dumped out into an open air area. Spritzed, indeed. Fortunately there was shelter further on, and by the time the van came to pick me up, the sun was shining again. Phew. I was serenaded from the PA system with various renditions of the national anthem, and Sousa marches, and so on, and then the van came to take me to Arlington.

Arlington is part of the Dallas Fort Worth “metroplex.” The area around the ballpark is three square miles of motels, hotels, and malls that encompasses the convention center, Six Flags amusement park, and the Ballpark itself. I chose my hotel, the “Lexington Suites,” (trust me, it sounds much fancier than it was…) based on the AAA discount and the fact that they offered both a free shuttle from the airport and a free trolley to the ballpark.

Unfortunately, the trolley to the ballpark was not scheduled to leave until 5:30, and at 3:30 I was ready to go. I was eager to see one of the Ballpark’s most unique features, the Legends Sports Museum. The replays of the old Home Run Derbies on ESPN in my room were tempting, but when I went down to the lobby, I found a vanload of young Mexican-Americans on their way to Six Flags. Not as tourists–employees. Apparently the Lexington Suites is a place where lots of Six Flags staff stay and they run a shuttle for the employees. They were happy to drop me off at the Ballpark on their way!

The Ballpark in Arlington

The van left me off at the Third Base gate. By now the clouds and rain were long gone, and the Texas sun had intensified into the usual wet, sauna-like heat. A family of four was making their way around the park. I whipped out my digital camera to get a shot of the two young boys leapfrogging and running from one engraved walkway brick to another. At first I thought my zoom was on. I backed up. I kept backing up. And then it hit me: damn, but This Thing is Big.

Texans have a thing about big; it’s part of the Texas identity. Biggest state in the lower forty-eight and all that. The Ballpark in Arlington is emblematic of that oversize Texas personality. Big. With the huge, vaulted entranceways, and the many stories of exposed steel under the brick facade, and the historical friezes of larger than life scenes of Texas history (one of which featured ballplayers, I noticed) the overall impression was of a massive coliseum where Titans clashed.

Now, the Third Base gate was grand and all, but not the ticket window. I needed to take a guess which way it was. The family of four had gone to the right, circling the park counterclockwise. I decided if home plate was that direction, that made sense. As I walked, I looked down at the brick and marble walkway. I was standing at four squares of marble with four numbers engraved on them: 1-9-7-7. Around them were bricks engraved with the names of people in the community–donors perhaps?–surrounded by a ring of bricks with the names of various players and their stats. As I walked along, the year numbers mounted, 1978, 1979 … and other honorific plaques for various Cy Young winners, Gold Glove winners, and managers, appeared among them. The Texas sun and the stampede of foot traffic out of the ballpark 81 times a year had been tough on the walkway tiles, and many of them were cracked and broken.

I took some photos of the broken tiles, and then my digital camera beeped and the lens retreated turtle-like into its shell. Batteries dead. Uh oh.

I came to Home Plate. No ticket window. Unlike the older ballparks, where the team’s offices usually center near the plate, at the Ballpark in Arlington, the offices are housed in a beautiful three-tiered section of the building overlooking the centerfield kids fun area. I kept walking. The year-number bricks petered out at 1997–was that the year Bush sold the team? Why didn’t they keep it up after that year? Odd. Plenty of plain, unengraved bricks awaited me as I trudged further around the park. My shirt was soaked with sweat–and I normally do not sweat.

I came to the First Base gate. People were beginning to line up. It was four p.m. by this time and die hard fans were eager for the gate to open at 4:30pm. I approve, both of the fans dying to get in, and a ballpark that opens in time for fans to see their home team’s batting practice. However, the ticket window and museum were still not visible. I asked a guard and he told me to keep going. I turned the corner, and at last, the ticket window! Phew! I should have gone the other way, but then I would not have seen all the engravings.

I got my ticket to the game and kept going around to the museum entrance. With a gameday ticket, admission to the museum is only $3. (Without a ticket, $6.) I bought my ticket and they gave me a Rangers 2002 Wall Calendar! Hey, why not? And then I asked if they knew where I could buy some AA batteries.

One thing I have noticed about Texas. If you are a cute, single woman, people will help you. Maybe they treat everybody like this, but of course I can only speak from my own experience. First, the folks there looked around to see if they had any batteries they could just lend me. Then they walked me over to the Rangers team store, which was closed, but they unlocked the door for me and asked the clerk there–to no avail, no batteries. Their final suggestion was to “walk down to the Big K-Mart, about a quarter mile down the road.”

I didn’t have much choice. I wasn’t going to visit a ballpark and a museum with no camera! By this time it was 4:15, the gates would open at 4:30 and I would be on my way to K-mart. Sigh. More walking in the heat.

Remember what I was saying before about things in Texas being oversize? Apparently, the same is true of the mile. After walking the quarter-mile I had been told, I found myself barely past the parking lot of the ballpark, coming to a street christened “Pennant Drive.” (Groan.) Still walking… still walking…

The Big-K was closer to a mile away, but you could see why people might think that the ballpark was only a quarter mile away. There wasn’t much between the two: a condo subdivision, trees, and from the Big-K’s parking lot, you could see the ballpark. From there it looked near, but I already knew the ballpark was much bigger than a casual look would reveal. Its immensity made it seem like it was closer than it was. I began to wonder if I would survive the walk back, much less if I would make it in time to see any of the museum.

As I crossed the sweltering K-mart parking lot, I noticed a taxi pulling up to the doors. An old lady got out, and the cab stayed put. I walked up to his window and asked if he could take me to the ballpark. He said he could take me after he took the woman home. Yeah! I ran in for the batteries, came out, and got into the front seat. The lady came out a minute or two later, we had a quick detour to her house, and by 4:45 I was back at the ballpark! Phew!

I entered through the first base gate and was handed a small American Flag. July Fourth Weekend! I made my way to the museum entrance behind the right field seats and, camera loaded, went in.

I have not been to the Hall of Fame (yet), nor to any other baseball museum, so I cannot compare the collection in Arlington to others. Put simply–they have a lot of cool stuff. Jerseys and equipment from various players, umpires’ tools and equipment from 1950, a collection of World Series press pins. Most impressive to me were the trophies–like the giant silver cup presented for outstanding pitching to one Denton Young, known to everyone as “Cy”. Would that make that the first Cy Young award? And the big crown presented by some fans to Babe Ruth for being “King of Swat.”

Artifacts are compelling for two reasons. One is to remind us of things we’ve forgotten (or that we didn’t know) like what catcher’s masks looked like before 1910. The other is less obvious, perhaps. These game-worn jerseys and pieces of used equipment provide a connection to the players, to the game, that recreations simply would not. Everyone knows what a baseball LOOKS like, but when you see the ball that played a part in a historic moment? The bat that hit the Series-winning homer? The jersey that Mickey Mantle sweated in? It’s difficult to describe why it is so special to be able to examine these objects. Is it, as a recent paper presented at the SABR convention stated, that they are like holy relics of the saints? I’m not sure that I take the reverence into the mystical dimension–I think the awe is more historical than religious. The relevance is to the present, to the history being made in ballparks every day.

And isn’t that what makes a ballpark like Yankee Stadium, or Fenway Park, or Wrigley Field, so special, too? The “Babe Ruth walked here” sense? When you visit one of the classic old parks, the park itself is a giant museum artifact–one that you, the spectator, get to interact with. And where new history is being written nightly.

In the newer, snazzier parks like the Ballpark In Arlington, you lose that element. Putting a museum to baseball history into the park itself, though, goes a long way toward making up for it.

There were other things in the Ballpark that also evoked baseball history, like the entrances to the luxury suites, each one named for a Hall of Famer–like the Ty Cobb Suite, complete with a large scale reproduction of a sepia-tone photo of Cobb in action on the entranceway. Babe Ruth. Etc. The Rangers’ slogan is “America’s Game. Your Team.” It fits. The Ballpark is a showplace for America’s Game. (Now if only they had some pitching.)

As I was leaving the museum to explore the other areas of the park, Betty, the super-nice woman who had sold me my museum ticket and had tried to help my find batteries, told me about getting autographs. “From 5:45 to 6:15 they’ll have four guys autographing. Just look for where the people are lining up.” Wow, I thought, it’s that organized? Usually I just stand at the dugout and hope. It turns out “Autograph Wednesdays” is a special promotion that the Rangers run to boost attendance midweek. Cool!

I headed to the right field seats to try to catch a BP home run, but my suitcase was too full to fit my glove so there was not much hope for that. I ended up watching the Rangers’ new pitching coach, Orel Hershiser, working with a young pitcher in the bullpen. His jersey number was 48 but no one I asked standing at the rail knew his name. (I just looked it up: Colby Lewis). The dozen or so people gathered at the bullpen were more interested in Hershiser.

Cecilia Tan and Orel Hershiser

Yours Truly and Orel Hershiser

Then a fan next to me explained to some folks that if they wanted Orel’s autograph, he would be one of the four signing at 5:45. “My husband just went to get in line for me,” she said. “They’ll give out little tickets to the first hundred or so people and then that’s it.” Aha.

I watched a few minutes of batting practice and saw something I had never seen before. Many pop flies that were not caught would hit the turf and stick dead, no bounce. Apparently the soaking rain had made some soft spots out there. The grass had many spots that looked like worn out carpet, as well, brown and thin. The Texas sun?

Then a home run ball landed in the seats next to me. I decided not to endanger my camera by fighting for it, and the ball was scooped from under a seat by an aggressive father, egged on by his sons. Perhaps it was time for a walk to safer ground. I had a quick wander around the Coca Cola Fun Park, with its games for kids and a mini wiffle-ball field! 56 feet to dead center! And then I got in line for Orel Hershiser’s autograph.

I made a good choice. The others signing that day were Bill Haselman, Juan Alvarez, and Frank Catalanotto. Frank was the other one I thought of doing, but he tweaked his back during BP and was in the trainer’s room getting worked on instead of signing, or so the rumor went.

I was about the 100th person and they let about 200 people get Hershiser’s signature. For those who did not have an item, they had a Texas Rangers postcard for him to sign. I was going to have him sign my ticket stub, but then decided on the Rangers calendar they had given me in the museum. Orel was very nice to everyone and the bevy of security and other personnel they had around him were letting people take photos with him, as well. So I had the wife of the guy in front of me snap a picture with my camera. See, the trip to K-mart was worth it.

Cecilia and OrelI wandered the concourse a bit, signed up in some kind of raffle drawing for a Jet Ski just to get the free Texas Rangers water bottle (I mean, what would I do with a Jet Ski?).

When I visit a ballpark for the first time, I usually try to find a unique food item I can’t eat at any other ballpark. In Anaheim we had burritos and chicken stir fry on rice. In Seattle I had ramen noodles. At PacBell park, it was caribbean chicken. While I was in line for Orel, I thought I could read a sign: “Catfish and Fries.” Mmmm. There were other foods commonly found in places where large groups of people gather: funnel cakes, turkey legs, hot dogs. Bambino’s Pizza. (Did I mention all the homages to the history of baseball? Okay, so that one was a stretch.) I was on my way to get catfish when I saw an even more enticing sign: “RBIceCream.” I was further enticed by the fact that the sundae in a helmet was made with real hard ice cream, not soft serve. It was hard to choose between butter pecan and cookies and cream. Rocky road? The quality of the ice cream made up for the fact that they were sold out of Rangers helmets! I took the Toronto Blue Jays instead.

Among the other interesting concessions: how about the frozen margarita vendor walking through the stands? No, I did not try it.

I had bought my usual favorite seat: upper deck behind home plate. First row. I could hear various PA announcements being made as I drifted toward my seat–some type of pregame entertainment was to take place. Now that the ice cream had cooled me down, I felt quite hungry. I got some catfish and fries, lemonade (it came in a Rangers souvenir cup), and made my way to my section.

As I came down the concourse, I saw the pregame entertainment–a group of Navy Seals parachuting into the stadium. I couldn’t help but be reminded of July 4, 1983 at Yankee Stadium, when there were also parachuters… and Dave Righetti pitched a no-hitter. (Still one of the best days of my life, me and my whole family).

This game was not pitched as well, but I will finish describing the pregame ceremonies before I get to that. Next came the swearing in of 25 new enlistees to the Navy–a quite effective and tasteful demonstration of real patriotism, I must say. So much less corny and fake-seeming than many other Fourth of July entertainments… Then a sailor sang the national anthem, and as he got to “…land of the free…” four jet fighters flew over. A giant flag was unfurled on the “grassy knoll” that is the batter’s eye in center. There was a color guard from each of the branches of the armed services on each part of the field. The rear admiral who did the swearing in threw out the first pitch.

And then it was time to play ball. At the time of the first pitch, I would say the stands were 30% full, with large gaps and many areas as thin as the grass. It would not be a sell-out crowd, but it was 30,762, a respectable number. If they could draw that many every night, they’d draw close to 2.5 million people.

The Texas pitcher was Ismael Valdez. He made fairly quick work of the Devil Rays despite a leadoff single by Jason Conti. The announcer called him “Con-tee.” “Con-TIE” I corrected, not that anyone was listening. Conti was erased on an inning-ending double play started by Alex Rodriguez. Hmm, I thought, it looks like A-rod is really as good as everyone says he is. (He made another beautiful, impressive scoop in the third.) The Devil Rays were gone and the Rangers headed into the dugout.

From where I was, I could not see into the dugouts, but the overall impression I had, as the first two hitters came out to the on deck circle, was of a military strike team preparing for a mission. I could almost hear the shotguns being locked and loaded… here come the Rangers, boys.

The Rangers offense did not disappoint that inning, assaulting Paul Wilson with a single, three doubles, and a home run off the bat of Pudge Rodriguez. (His 200th, it turned out.) When a Ranger hits a home run, fireworks shoot off from the roof of the offices beyond the outfield. And yes, the inning would have gone on longer, but A-rod was thrown out trying to score from second on a short pop fly into left. Okay, so he makes mistakes after all. At the end of one, it was 4-0 Rangers.

After that, Wilson held the Rangers in check, allowing only three more hits through seven, and striking out the side in the seventh. Meanwhile, Valdez was not being as efficient with the Rays. Cox had a solo homer in the fourth. Ben Grieve (whose hometown is Arlington, but the crowd seemed indifferent to that) hit two singles and had a solo shot in the sixth. Jared Sandberg manufactured a run with a leadoff double, sacrifice bunt, and scored on a grounder to second base. So after seven, it was 4-3 Rangers.

Here is where Yankees fans (or any team with a good bullpen) would expect to see a reliable set up man, and then a great closer to hold the one run lead. What Rangers fans saw was Todd Van Poppel for 2/3 of an inning, then Jay Powell for 2/3, and the team entered the ninth with a 5-3 lead (Juan Gonzalez hit an RBI triple in the 8th off Jesus Colome for the additional Ranger run…).

Hideki Irabu took the hill, and he did not pitch poorly, but the team behind him fielded poorly. Carl Everett, it appears, is as much despised in Arlington as he was in Boston, at least by the fans. He’s also just as perplexing–in the middle of the pitching change in the 8th he ran all the way back to the dugout to trade in his hat for another one. What, did he have the wrong guy’s hat? More perplexing was why he failed to catch a fly ball off the bat of SS Chris Gomez. Everett and Kevin Mench converged on a ball that should have been Everett’s all the way. At the last moment, neither one of them caught it and it fell at Everett’s feet. He was booed soundly, and Gomez ended up on second. Irabu, probably pissed at the fielders who were not given an error (the crowd assigned the blame to Everett but the official scorer did not have that luxury), walked the next man. Two grounders brought Gomez in to score and a single by Steve Cox tied the game.

Out went Irabu and in came John Rocker. We heard much ballyhoo over the winter, when both problem children Rocker and Everett went to the Rangers. Perhaps they deserve each other. Rocker would not have gotten into the game if Everett had done his job. The Rangers would have won the game before Rocker was needed.

Rocker did not pitch well. He walked the first two men he faced. “C’mon Rocker, you little racist!” the woman behind me shouted several times. “Throw strikes!” Rocker was saved by LF Dave McCarty hitting the first pitch he saw to third base, where there was an easy force out. Tie game, and the Rangers had last licks.

Thank goodness for Pudge Rodriguez. Despite the offensive drought after the first, you know the Rangers offense has a good chance to get one run. Two pitches later, they had it, as Pudge whacked one just over the wall in left center. Yeah, I screamed, I clapped, cheered, and even stood up. I know, I’m not a Rangers fan, but I root for the home team by policy (except when the away team is the Yankees…) and it was a thrilling moment. Nothing beats a game winning homer for a dramatic finish to a game.

And, because of the postgame fireworks, all 30,000-plus people were still there to see it.

When the cheering died down (it took a while–Pudge was mobbed at home plate, had a curtain call, etc…) they announced that the SEAL team would be doing another parachute jump, this one in the dark, and THEN there would be fireworks. Okay! Bring it on! The SEALs were cool again, this time shooting sparks from their shoes, and doing more dangerous-looking tandem stuff, with guys coming down while hooked together.

Then they shut out the lights. Seeing a ballpark in the dark is not something one normally gets to do. But the way the Arlington park is built, it’s particularly beautiful with the floodlights off. The park is completely enclosed, the three tiers of seats ending in the outfield, but enclosed instead by the multi-floored office and restaurant complex. All gussied up with bunting for the holiday, it looked like a massive Mississippi riverboat was moored in the dark beyond the outfield.

The players’ and their families came out of the dugout and sat on the field. You’ve all seen fireworks so there’s no use trying to describe them other than to say that the show was excellent, varied, and long–no skimping. Choreographed to a medley of eight or nine patriotic pop songs, the display was top notch. In addition to the ones shot from a staging area in a parking lot nearby, there were six places on the roof shooting off, so at times we were surrounded by sparkles and explosions. Very cool. They do everything big in Texas.

And then it was time to hurry down to the trolley for the ride back to the hotel. No time to stop in the gift shop or souvenir store, but then again, I did not really need to. After all, I left the game carrying my autographed Rangers calendar, Blue Jays helmet, Rangers 30th anniversary souvenir cup, Rangers water bottle, and a tiny American flag! Happy Fourth of July everybody.

35 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Homepage on Monday, January 24, 2022 at 4:35 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More Infos here: […]

  2. workout music 2022 on Sunday, February 20, 2022 at 11:58 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] There you will find 14684 more Information on that Topic: […]

  3. … [Trackback]

    […] Find More to that Topic: […]

  4. hemp oil vs cbd on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 at 11:31 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Info to that Topic: […]

  5. สโบเบ็ต on Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at 11:56 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More on to that Topic: […]

  6. sbo on Thursday, March 3, 2022 at 12:44 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More Info here to that Topic: […]

  7. printpictureonwood on Thursday, March 3, 2022 at 5:06 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More Information here on that Topic: […]

  8. tỷ số trực tuyến on Monday, March 7, 2022 at 8:58 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More to that Topic: […]

  9. slot999 on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at 11:24 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More here to that Topic: […]

  10. relx on Thursday, March 17, 2022 at 2:30 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Information on that Topic: […]

  11. funkymedia on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 at 8:12 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More Information here on that Topic: […]

  12. ip stresser on Thursday, March 24, 2022 at 9:18 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Here you will find 56648 more Information to that Topic: […]

  13. ล่องเรือเจ้าพระยา on Thursday, March 24, 2022 at 11:59 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More Info here to that Topic: […]

  14. magnum research desert eagle on Friday, March 25, 2022 at 10:39 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] There you can find 25106 more Info to that Topic: […]

  15. darkfox market url on Saturday, March 26, 2022 at 6:11 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More here to that Topic: […]

  16. kardinal stick on Wednesday, March 30, 2022 at 1:57 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More to that Topic: […]

  17. slot999 on Wednesday, April 6, 2022 at 12:19 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Information on that Topic: […]

  18. cz p07 for sale on Friday, April 8, 2022 at 12:50 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More Info here on that Topic: […]

  19. Firearms For Sale on Monday, April 11, 2022 at 11:12 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Info on that Topic: […]

  20. คาสิโนออนไลน์เว็บตรง on Monday, April 25, 2022 at 10:21 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More on on that Topic: […]

  21. beer777 on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 10:55 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Information to that Topic: […]

  22. pgslot99th on Sunday, May 1, 2022 at 12:43 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More Info here to that Topic: […]

  23. blog on Wednesday, May 4, 2022 at 10:36 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More here on that Topic: […]

  24. web design app free on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 at 10:41 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More Information here to that Topic: […]

  25. truck driving school on Monday, May 23, 2022 at 11:17 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More Information here to that Topic: […]

  26. sbo on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at 10:14 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More here to that Topic: […]

  27. บอลโลกโซนยุโรป on Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 11:19 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Here you can find 51295 additional Info to that Topic: […]

  28. Godrej Splendour price on Thursday, June 9, 2022 at 3:40 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More to that Topic: […]

  29. providing cc dumps on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 9:01 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More Information here on that Topic: […]

  30. DBD hacks on Friday, June 17, 2022 at 11:31 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More on that Topic: […]

  31. best cvv shop on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 at 4:51 am

    … [Trackback]

    […] Here you will find 63944 more Info on that Topic: […]

  32. Buy Brand New Firearms Online on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 at 1:17 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Here you can find 78672 more Info on that Topic: […]

  33. Alyssa SALT - the best on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 at 1:26 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More to that Topic: […]

  34. TVS Jardin on Friday, June 24, 2022 at 1:59 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] There you can find 74763 additional Info on that Topic: […]

  35. ขายเฟสบุ๊คยิงแอด on Saturday, July 2, 2022 at 11:41 pm

    … [Trackback]

    […] Here you will find 8135 additional Info to that Topic: […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *