Major League Baseball Park #21 out of 39
Friday, June 11, 1999
Texas 3, Colorado Rockies 2
W– Jeff Zimmerman
L – Chuck McElroy
Attendance – 39,627
What might have been the best inaugural season for a new stadium in a generation was wiped out by the players' strike in 1994. Arlington Stadium opened on April 1st of what would be a very unusual season. When the work-stoppage occurred on August 11th, the Rangers were leading the division with a 52-62 record. Personally, I think the Mariners (two games back and winners of nine of their last ten) would've caught them if there had been no strike, but we'll never know for sure.
When looking at the outfield seating area at Ameriquest, it seems as if the builders cut-and-pasted the bleachers from stadiums that incorporated very different styles. The center-field section resembles something you'd see at Churchill Downs or Ebbets Field. The right-field -- with its overhanging roof and vertical posts -- looks like it was taken directly from the old Cleveland Stadium and transported to Texas.
From the Nolan Ryan Expressway a few blocks away, the stadium looks like a mirage. The first time I saw the landscaping and the creek running past the brown-brick-and-green-steel exterior of the ballpark, I believe I had some idea how Dorothy must have felt the first time she saw the Emerald City. Sure, the stadium was built out in the middle of nowhere (even though Six Flags Over Texas is just a short distance down the road), but any city skyscraper or parking garage would've just been a distraction.
Like Tropicana Field, Ameriquest Field has a wide-open concourse behind the home-plate area and several escalators. Southwest Airlines is a major sponsor and when a Ranger gets a base hit, the "h" flashes for a few seconds. When an error is committed, the "e" also flashes. A minor thing, I suppose, but something to watch for when they happen.
Too bad the game was kinda dull, fairly short (two hours and 32 minutes), and the team has no history of success (one playoff win in 34 seasons). Everything Nolan Ryan did in front of the hometown fans, he did at the old ballpark.
For this trip, we flew into Houston the night before and then hopped a $99 commuter flight to Dallas, rather than drive for about four hours through the middle of Texas. We didn't have time for a lot of tourist stuff, but we did stop by the old Book Depository -- made famous by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963 -- which contains a museum on the sixth floor commemorating that event. Dealey Plaza looked like it hadn't been used since that fall afternoon 41 years ago. The museum gave me chills, as well. Abraham Zapruder's 8MM-camera can be seen, in addition to his famous footage. Visitors can look through a window next to the one where Oswald had set up his rifle, read and hear Kennedy speeches, and see a miniature model of the Plaza showing the scene from the time of the assassination.
Getting back to another tragedy in progress, the Rangers had a great-looking park, but the team has only topped 90 wins twice since 1977. They've won their division three times since the 1994 realignment, but they faced the New York Yankees all three times and managed only one win in those series combined.
Owner Tom Hicks and GM John Hart must have watched games from the suites in this great-looking park and envisioned a World Series or two or three, but their dreams have so far been dashed by overpaying for Chan Ho Park and Alex Rodriguez. Chan Ho has yet to show the Rangers anything remotely resembling his 75-49 record with the Dodgers. In his past three injury-shortened seasons, he's 14-18 with an ERA around 6.
Alex Rodriguez, as everyone knows, was very successful in Texas and no one believed he would have any trouble adjusting to his new digs and the warmer climate. That being said, I find it hard to believe that anyone actually assumed Alex would play out his entire 10-year, $252-million contract in a Rangers uniform. When he was going to the top pick in the 1993 amateur draft, he wanted to be picked by the Dodgers (franchise success, major media market, and a large Hispanic population), but the Mariners took him instead.
When Alex left Seattle, he claimed he was insulted by the Mariners' five-year, $95-million deal -- which is still more money per season than what anyone else is making, except Alex Rodriguez. Alex was attracted by the Rangers' offer -- and who wouldn't be, honestly -- but he didn't just take the money and run like other players have done and will do. He stated his reasons for choosing Texas were community support (even though football owns the entire state of Texas), winning tradition (see the one playoff win in 34 seasons mentioned above), and ownership commitment (I guess an owner should be committed when they offer one player that kind of money).
Now I'm not going to get into this old news for much longer, but if he had just been honest with everyone except his agent, I honestly don't believe Alex wouldn't have been booed in every Seattle appearance since he left, but his stated reasons for leaving make no sense when viewed in the bigger picture. And few people recall that he signed his name to a letter written by Dallas officials trying to get Seattle aerospace giant Boeing to move their headquarters. Alex said later he made a mistake with that because he claimed he didn't read the letter, but all those comments did was question his intelligence. Alex isn't stupid, just disingenuous beyond all reason.
And now that he's gone, we can return in good conscience to Arlington someday without having to worry about booing one of the hometown guys. Ameriquest Field is a beautiful stadium and if anyone has a chance to go, they should. I don't know when the Rangers ownership will ever be able to attract or develop a decent pitcher because not only is the park fairly small, but the heat and humidity make things very difficult for the guy on the mound.
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