Recently it was suggested that I check out some of the Texas Rangers “back in the day” greats. My knowledge of the game before my birth was a little bit foggier so I did my research on a few suggested players and stumbled across a couple interesting guys myself. Here are some guys who I wish I had seen take the field in a Rangers uniform.
Toby Harrah was actually not drafted to the Texas Rangers; he was drafted to the Washington Senators. The Senators franchise moved to Arlington in 1971 and Harrah went with them. He was the starting shortstop for the brand new Texas Rangers organization, but soon made the shift to third base where he spent the majority of his career. He was a three-time all-star while playing for Texas (1972, 1975, 1976) and in 1977 he lead the MLB in walks. He played for the Rangers for 11 years and finished with an accumulative .257 average, 1174 hits, 124 home runs, and 153 stolen bases. Harrah is still very much involved in the game and actually has his hands full right now as the hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers on their run to the World Series.
Sunberg started playing for the Rangers in 1974. He is commonly regarded as one of the greatest defensive catchers to ever play the game of baseball. He was chosen for the All-Star Game his rookie year and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. He won 6 consecutive Gold Glove awards behind the plate from 1976-1981. In 1975 Sunberg finished the year with 101 assists and was the first player to finish with more than 100 since World War Two. While he was never one to blow you away in the batters box (only a .256 average with Texas) Jim Sunberg was a force to be reckoned with behind the plate. As far as Texas Rangers all-time great catchers go he is second only to Pudge.
Buddy Bell was a name I had heard before because I had watched his son, David Bell, play as I was growing up through grade school. What I didn’t know was what a monster this guy was over at third base. Bell was part of a pretty bizarre 1979 trade between the Rangers and the Indians that sent Bell to Texas and Toby Harrah to Cleveland. Both teams just straight up swapped their starting third basemen. As much as losing Harrah was tough for Rangers fans to cope with they soon had all they ever wished for and more from Buddy Bell. This guy won the Gold Glove award six times in a row from 1979-1984. He was chosen to the All-Star team in 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1984 (he also won a Silver Slugger that year). Bell had the highest fielding percentage in the league three times and finished his time with the Rangers hitting an accumulative .293 with 499 RBI’s and 87 homers. While I watched his son play well in the pros I wish I had been around in the 80’s to watch Buddy at the hot corner.
Being from the Northwest I had seen Mike Hargrove many times out on the field coaching the Seattle Mariners. However, I had never looked into his past on the Texas Rangers before. Hargrove, during his time playing, was known as “The Human Rain Delay” which referenced his abnormally long adjustment ritual he would perform before each pitch. It consisted of knocking the dirt off his shoes, adjusting his batting gloves, pulling up his sleeves, yanking up his waistband, and shaking around his helmet each and every time before he stepped in the box. When he finally did manage to get himself ready for the pitch he was a machine. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 1974 thanks to his .323 batting average. The following year he was chosen for the All-Star team as well. His stint with the Rangers ended in 1979.
Known as “The Gambler” because of his identical name to the famous musician, Rogers was a pitcher with the Rangers from the late 80’s to the early 2000’s. He was drafted straight out of high school where he only played baseball his senior year! Picked in the 39th round, he spent seven years in the Minors before being called up to the Big Leagues in 1989 as a reliever, and eventually became a starter in 1993. He is the only player in Rangers history to throw a perfect game which he threw against the California Angels in 1994. For all of the superstitious baseball fans out there: Rogers’s perfect game was exactly three years after, to the date, the previous perfect game thrown by Dennis Martinez of the Expos. It was the 14th perfect game tossed in Major League history. He won five Gold Gloves with Texas and is ranked second all-time in pickoffs with 93. He was also an All-Star in 1995, 2004, and 2005. His career with Texas ended with 21 complete games, 6 shutouts, and 1201 strikeouts.
All of these players have made their mark on Texas Rangers baseball and indeed on Major League Baseball as a whole. While I would not agree in saying that guys such as Harrah, Bell, or Hargrove were better players than other great former Rangers (Alex Rodriguez hit 57 home runs and drove in 142 RBI’s in a single season) I do think it is vital to take in to account the amount of time they played on the team and their leadership on the club. Also, the game of baseball has changed a ton in just a couple decades with regards to the kinds of numbers hitters are putting up. It would have been very interesting to see how the Rangers 20 years ago would have fared in a game against today’s Rangers.