All the News that’s Fit to Print
The year I met my wife, she knew enough about my love of baseball to get me one of the coolest gifts ever: The entire history of the Texas Rangers from the pages of the New York Times, from their incarnation as the new Senators to that heartbreaking brilliance of 2011. It was embossed with a quote from her and one from Nolan Ryan. Hers was better, but I assume it’s because she speaks something around five languages, each of which is more poetic than pure Texan.
This begged the question: have the Texas Rangers ever made the front page of the New York Times. The answer comes with an asterisk. The Washington Senators reincarnation first made the Times cover on April 11, 1961, where a below-the-fold article talked about the first-pitch hurler for that Senators opening day. That left-leaning righty? One John Fitzgerald Kennedy. There were three Texas ties to JFK’s first pitch. One was his VP, Lyndon Johnson, who was caught on camera laughing hysterically. We can only assume this was either 1) at a JFK wild pitch or 2) at the Senators defense, which flubbed their way to a 4-3 loss to the White Sox that day. The bigger Texas tie-in was 17-year-old Richard Lopez of El Paso, who was The Boys Club of America Boy of the Year for 1961 and attended the game as a guest of President Kennedy.
In the massive irony department was the last Texas tie-in, the boy only attended the game because the President cancelled a scheduled luncheon with the Secretary of the Navy, thinking the opener may be more fun. The Secretary of the Navy was our last Texas tie. Future governor and victim of the president’s assassin: John Connally.
Other notes from that 1961 Senators opener: among the lineup and pitchers that day were three Hall of Famers, all for the White Sox (no surprise, given that the senators finished 61-100 that year) – Luis Aparicio at short, Nellie Fox at second, and Early Wynn chasing what was a no decision in his quest for number 284 of 300 career wins. Dick Donovan, who finished 2nd in the 1957 Cy Young award race and an amazing 5th in the 1962 MVP race with Cleveland after his only season in Washington, took the loss.
Other than presidential first pitches, again in 1962 and The Rangers then endured a LONG Times front-page drought. Even the move to Texas couldn’t do more than crack the front page of the Sports section for all the news that’s fit to print.
The next time was almost exactly 30 years hence, when a certain 44-year-old made news by throwing his 7th no-hitter. That’s right: Nolan Ryan’s 5000th strikeout and 6th no-hitter couldn’t crack the NY Times front page. But No-No No. 7 was so incredible, so iconic, and so improbable, that even America’s newspaper of record had to carry it on Page 1.
They made it again in 1996 when Juan Gonzalez and Dean Palmer beat up David Cone for what would be the only Rangers win of a short LDS. The Yankees eventual victory didn’t score the same front-page call out, nor did the Ryan-George Brett–Robin Yount Hall of Fame trifecta in 1999. Alex Rodriguez $252-million contract led the sports page but couldn’t crack business or front-page headlines.
And no, SHOCKINGLY, the Ranger knockoff of the Yankees in the 2010 LCS didn’t warrant front-page headers, but got plenty of sports copy.
The last article, sadly, was for the 2011 World Series: “One Swing, One Throw, One Win Away.” Oh, cruel dagger, do your worst, but do it quick.