Tuesday, June 5: RANGERS 7, OAKLAND A’S 4
Every stop on #TenStadiumsTenDays so far has been pretty much West Coast (plus Denver, which feels more West Coast than Midwest to me), so the two-stop journey into the heart of Texas will give the trip a bit of a right-turn feel. First off, it’s been relatively chilly in most stops so far (except, again, for Denver, where I sat in the Burning Incinerator Section near the right field foul pole). San Francisco games are always cool. Seattle was downright cold. Even San Diego wasn’t nearly as warm and sunny as I was expecting; it was definitely sweatshirt weather.
But now, NOW we’re in Texas. And it’s not just bigger in Texas. It’s mostly just back-sweatingly, face-meltingly hot. Which
reminds me that I’ll likely need to do some laundry today or risk smelling like this guy >>>. The heat hit me upon leaving the plane and it hasn’t really let up. And honestly, compared to what it could be, it’s probably not even that warm. Nearly every person I’ve encountered feeds me the same line when I mention the weather: “Oh, you should have been here LAST week.” No. No, I shouldn’t have.
Arlington also marked my first night in a motel after one night in the Seattle airport and two in pleasantly surprising hostels. It was, well, kinda gross, but that’s pretty much what I was expecting when I booked it. I’ve also gotten used to being able to get around via public transportation but that’s not really a strong suit here. For one thing, there’s no train that goes from the airport to anywhere near Globe Life Park, so Lyft is the only option. And once you GET to the park, you realize that there’s very little around it besides parking lots and construction sites. Having spent nearly all of the last few days in the hearts of urban bustle, Arlington was a hot, desolate surprise.
Idiotically thinking I could still make do by walking as much as possible, I set out from my motel room headed for Smokin’ Bones BBQ, which seemed like a Texas requirement and was only 0.8 miles away. There were two issues with that plan, though: one was the god-awful heat. The other, even more problematic, was a slow-moving train blocking the road I had to take to get to my bbq.
That train felt somehow symbolic of my time in Arlington. It moved really slow, for one thing. And then it stopped, for another thing. And then it actually started moving back in the opposite direction, for a third thing. I stood at the corner in front of a seemingly-abandoned car dealer lot, dripping sweat and watching the train’s non-progress for about 10 minutes before deciding I wasn’t going to get past it [note: a train was in the same spot when I got back after the game. I am fairly sure it was the same one]. I walked back to the motel, where I called for a Lyft to take me to the ballpark, praying that Thaddeus, the responding driver was on my side of the tracks and not the other. He was on the other. For the better part of 15 minutes we were about 200 yards from each other but there was no way for us to meet. So close to Thaddeus. And yet so far away.
Finally he found another way around and took me to the ballpark. Along the way I asked where I could get some good bbq near the stadium.
“My house would be your best bet,” Thaddeus said.
“Wait, really?” I couldn’t tell if this was an invitation. It probably wasn’t.
“Well, around here I’d go to Dickie’s I suppose.”
“Can I walk to it from the park?”
“Uhh…no. I mean, it’d be pretty far. It’s pretty hot.”
I always assume the protocol with Lyft and Uber drivers is that you don’t alter the route while you’re mid-route. I mean, I don’t necessarily take enough of them to know if you can even broach the subject, but I’m never bold enough ask. So if I’m halfway to the scheduled destination before realizing that it’s not going to be a very good destination, I just politely get out of the car where I’m supposed to and pretend that it was what I intended all along. But Globe Life Park isn’t near anything. I mean, nothing. If I was going to get some bbq before the game, I’d need another plan.
And since I felt like I had already Lyfted enough for one day (this was not even close to the case, it eventually turned out), I decided I’d punch ‘bbq’ into Yelp and find something that I could get to on foot. That turned out to be Bru City Stadium, which is described as having “Barbeque, Beer Bar, Burgers” (see photo for proof). It turns out they have two of those, but isn’t really an actual bbq joint. I discovered this after walking to it, past AT&T Stadium (known derisively as “Jerry’s World” to literally every person I spoke to in Arlington. You have to roll your eyes when you say it). The Cowboys’ home has a bit of a desert mirage-y feel to it, in that you can see it from approximately Oklahoma provided the land is flat, which it is. But it’s large enough so that walking from one end of it to the other makes you seriously sweaty. I think I mentioned it’s hot.
So yes, that meant another Lyft, this time from Bru City Stadium which I’m sure is nice but wasn’t what I wanted, to Dickie’s, which Thaddeus had already told me about. The ride over was with Gary, a former Ohio State walk-on tight end who said he played under Woody Hayes in the early sixties and called himself the ‘Rudy of Ohio State.’ Gary worked his tail off and finally earned a scholarship before his junior year, but he didn’t play much and only caught a few passes. All of this is up for debate, of course, because Gary told me the team went to the Rose Bowl after the 1963 season, which I sadly found didn’t quite ring true after maybe 15 seconds of Wikipedia research. The Buckeyes had played in Pasadena in 1958 and then not again until 1969, completely missing Gary’s matriculation there. I’m gonna go ahead and give him some benefit of the doubt here, though, since he didn’t kick me out of the car after threatening to do so when I told him I was from Michigan (I was able to quickly convince him that we had a common enemy. Also it sounds like Gary tells every Big Ten alum he’s kicking them out of the car, since he mentioned he used the same line last week on a guy who had graduated from Indiana and had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. The IU guy, I mean. Not Gary. Well, probably Gary too).
I was seriously intrigued by the Rose Bowl story, though. More intrigued than Gary himself, apparently. “Who’d you guys play?” I asked just before getting out of the passenger seat in the Dickie’s parking lot. “Oh hell, Stanford, I think? No, it must have been UCLA.” “Did you win?” “Oh, hell, I don’t remember. You know what the worst part about it was? I was good enough to get in one play, maybe two plays a game. That was it.”
So did he make the whole thing up? It felt like there were enough seemingly-real nuances mixed into his tale of gridiron semi-glory that it sure seemed plausible. I’m guessing he was just sort of confused on the details. I mean, you don’t make yourself a walk-on tight end working three jobs to stay in school if you’re inventing yourself a past, right?
Anyway, Dickie’s was a solid choice. I have no idea if it’s one of those bbq-shrine-type-places that people in Texas say you HAVE TO GO TO. But it was darn good.
After another Lyft ride back over to the ballpark with a guy who smelled like he had been out in the sun for way too long, I had some time to explore. Texas was the first place that I had no ticket and nobody to actually meet, basically no agenda other than the game itself, so I figured I’d find some stories just by wandering the concourses before the game. It’s a nice park, but one that the Rangers are going to vacate for a newer retractable-roof stadium in a couple of years. It sounds like they’re tearing it down like it’s some sort of ancient relic, even though it was built in the mid 90s. And most people I talked to were at least annoyed, and in some cases outright sad about the whole situation. The biggest reason for the move, I’m told, is the heat, which is insufferable enough that literally NO ONE sits in the left field stands until the sun goes down. Most residents blame Jerry Jones for this heat and the move and the concession prices and everything else that’s dumb.
There are lots of interesting Texas-themed food choices in Globe Life Park but far fewer interesting beer choices, especially compared to the beer-mecca I left in San Diego. Cheetos Popcorn is strangely popular, I guess, as well as any food products that reference Texas itself. There’s a vegan stand, which was a cool option and seemed popular.
I also talked to a guy who sold game-used and authenticated baseballs from a bin. Now that every single tiny aspect of our existence is digitized, thankfully, you can look up any ball online now and determine what happened to it, because they all come emblazoned with a little hologram. A single poked to left field against the Rangers by Tiger Nick Castellanos, for instance, will set you back 50 bucks. He also hit a double; that one is only $75 and clearly a way better deal, since Nick ran twice as far but you are only charged an additional $25.
There’s also a cool mix of hanging banners representing both current players and members of the Rangers’ Hall of Fame, which I hadn’t realized until now is also called the “Guys Who Also Played for the Tigers” Hall of Fame. Remember how amazing Pudge Rodriguez and Kenny Rogers were? And how unbelievably terrible Juan Gonzalez was? When does Prince Fielder get a banner, anyway?
The game itself was a good one, except for the A’s, with the home team scoring runs in bunches in the latter stages to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 7-4 victory. The Rangers finished with five home runs, including the go-ahead bomb by Adrian Beltre, his first since coming off the DL. I also was witness to perhaps one of the best catches of the season (and maybe the most incredible one I’ve ever seen live), a wall-crashing grab by Rangers CF Delino DeShields. A’s starter Sean Manaea, he of recent no-hitter fame, was spotted a 2-0 lead before throwing his first pitch, looked shaky in the bottom of the first after walking the first two batters, then settled in to hold the Rangers mostly in check into the sixth inning. Once they pulled him, though, the game collapsed on the A’s. Speaking of Manaea, one of the best and most unique aspects of Globe Life Park is that the bullpens are super accessible for the fans; seats are essentially directly above the visitor’s pen, so I could watch Manaea warm up and hear bullpen chatter just before game time.
There were two odd aspects to the Rangers’ promotional ambience and two super-cool ones:
The first strange one occurred late in the game when they blasted out a horrible-but-somehow-still-catchy song called “It’s Pizza Time!” accompanied by silly-sounding Italian guitar music and happy people on the jumbotron dancing around, ostensibly to earn free pizza for their row or section. There was even a part of the song where that famous scene from the Peanuts Christmas special played on the big screen, only instead of Peanuts characters they were all dancing slices of pepperoni pizza. And then…somehow…inexplicably…no pizza appeared anywhere. None. No advertisement for a local pizza parlor came on the screen. No pizzas were given away, to rows or sections or otherwise. The song ended and we all just went back to watching the game and nobody said another word about it. I looked around but everyone was pretending like this was totally normal.
The second weird event was the ‘Dot Race,’ in which people dressed up as red, green and blue dots raced from the left field foul poll around home plate to a finish tape (Blue Dot won, which was a bit of a surprise considering Red Dot had won twice as many previous races than either of the other Dots). This race, sponsored by a local chicken joint, was somehow even dumber than the toothpaste race in Colorado and the hydroplane race in Seattle, and that one didn’t even have real characters but only played out on the jumbotron.
In the interest of fairness, here’s a Dallas sports blog site defending the Dot Race against someone who had justifiably made fun of it.
The cool parts, though, were very cool. And they are as follows:
- Each player strides to the plate with a theme song (not original, I know) AND the artist and song title appear on the scoreboard as part of ‘Rangers JukeBox.’ Neat.
- After Ranger home runs the fireworks show is accompanied by the theme from ‘The Natural.” This audio is from immediately after Roy Hobbs’, I mean Beltre’s go-ahead bomb.
Overall, this was the best seat I’ve had at a game yet, and I bought it for $18 on Stub Hub about two hours before game time. I was just to the first-base-side of home plate, about 20 rows up. It’s foul-ball paradise, with at least 20 of them raining down nearby throughout the game, but none close enough for me to attempt to grab one. You’ve gotta pay attention to the game though, so that’s a plus, unless you hate baseball.
Again, everyone was super nice, but my absolute favorite person encountered on a full circuit around the ballpark was Jane, who works as an usher near the Nolan Ryan statue in center field. A former special education teacher, Jane loves the Rangers and hates the fact that they’re moving. She came to teaching late in life, starting after her kids graduated and telling them that she was going to get a degree just like them. She taught for 20 years and enjoyed it but wished the entire time that more counseling services were available to students. “All these shootings,” she said, shaking her head. “We’ve got to do something.” Jane wasn’t afraid to admit that working in public schools started to scare her toward the end of her teaching career, and scares her even more now. “I know bad stuff can happen anywhere. I mean, there was just that kid with the gun at McKinney North, for goodness’ sake. It makes me sad.”
Jane has worked the last dozen years at Globe Life Park and isn’t a big fan of Jerry Jones, which seems like a general sentiment (Todd, an amazing marine vet who sat in front of me, shared the same view, although his was more colorful and also alluded to Jerry’s penchant for drink.). She and I chatted for about ten minutes while watching that night’s starters warm up in the bullpen and we probably would have talked for more but the loudspeaker was perched directly above our heads and the loudspeaker guy would not stop talking. It was rather ear-splitting. She politely informed a couple of guys eating nachos at the bar-overlook that they needed tickets for those seats before coming back to pose for a photo with me. It’s my favorite selfie from the trip thus far:
After the excitement of a late-inning come-from-behind victory, Rangers fans were in good spirits; home teams are now 4-1 in the five games of #TenStadiumsTenDays thus far. I headed back to my motel room via Lyft, in which I should buy stock, and settled in for a rare good night’s sleep.
And then the weather turned.
About two in the morning I was awakened by the two loudest peals of thunder I have ever heard. I’m fairly confident they struck the parking lot. Car alarms were immediately blaring and a transformer fire was blazing on a nearby wire. I jumped out of bed, looked around like the lightning might actually be inside my room, and then settled back under the paper-thin sheet. About 30 seconds later I heard another noise, only this one I couldn’t place. I was sure that it was someone pounding maniacally on my door, either to alert me of the storm or to murder me. After a puzzled few seconds I realized that it was the most incredible hail storm I’ve ever seen/heard, punishing the Rodeway Inn for who knows what sins. Audio here: https://soundcloud.com/bwilson3560/hail-falls-on-arlington-texas
But I woke up in the morning and it was back to blue skies and 90 degrees. Phew!
[note: I’m realizing these posts are getting longer each time. Sorry about that. See you in Houston!]
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NEXT GAME: @Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners
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