THAT T-SHIRT!

AL West T-shirt

AL West T-shirt

There was quite a stink over the design of Major League Baseball’s commemorative T-shirt celebrating the Rangers AL West title. People were yelling at each other on talk radio, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all the other available social media channels, and it even made the local TV station newscasts. All of them.

I read or heard lots of discussion about this, ranging from “It’s an outrage, no one in my family will wear one!” (I might have said something like that, myself) to Dustin Dietz’ articulate summation: “It’s just a t-shirt.”

Well with all respect to my SDI colleague, no it’s not. Let me give you some perspective on why the choice of the Dallas skyline for that T-shirt was such a bad idea.

DFW Airport graphicFirst, it was short-sighted and tone deaf. Obviously, no one in the commissioner’s office cares that it’s not just Dallas and hasn’t been for decades. It’s been D-FW (or, as I prefer, FW-D) since the airport opened. We are one region, almost homogeneous, from Rockwall to Mineral Wells. But MLB’s choice of the Dallas skyline pointedly and deliberately excluded that portion of us who don’t identify with Dallas.

Why should you give a rip about that? Well, if it weren’t for the civic and business leaders of Tarrant County, we wouldn’t have had major-league baseball here in the first place, and probably would not have kept it here for very long.

The only reason owner Bob Short got permission to move his Washington Senators to Arlington in 1972 was the persistent, energetic, politically savvy, persuasive and downright stubborn Tom Vandergriff, then Arlington’s mayor. The “Boy Mayor” conducted what amounted to a one-person campaign with MLB owners, local citizens and members of Congress for more than two years.

After the move, the team went through a couple of owners pretty quickly, including oilfield millionaire Eddie Chiles. When Chiles’ company went bankrupt, he had to unload the team in a hurry and in 1988 signed an “agreement in principle” to sell the club to a New Jersey real estate man and a Florida car salesman. Rumors flew that they planned to move the team to Tampa.

Fort Worth billionaire Richard Rainwater got wind of this and assembled a local group – fronted by soon-to-be governor George W. Bush – to buy the Rangers and keep them here. That was the first truly stable ownership group the Rangers had ever had.

Then, thanks to Arlington voters who approved a tax increase, the team was able to fund and build The Temple. It was a huge step up from Arlington Stadium, and its increased comfort and capacity boosted revenue for a team that had struggled, on and off the field, since its arrival.

So that’s the history. Leaders from Tarrant County got the team here, and kept it here, and helped it grow financially strong.

Off in the background is an added piece – the persistently recurring rumor that the team will stay in the region but move to downtown Dallas. I hear lots of Dallas-Plano-McKinney-etc. folks complain about how far they have to drive, or ride, to get to a ball game. It reminds me of a friend who lived in Lakewood. I called one afternoon, inviting her and her husband to come to our house for dinner that weekend. Her response: “Oh, gosh, that’s so far! Why don’t y’all just come over here?”

The fact is that, unlike Arlington, Dallas elected officials don’t have a history of supporting public funds for sports stadiums. Since the late 1980s, at least three proposals have been floated for building a downtown Dallas baseball park, and none of them even got as much as a private hearing, much less public discussion. Two of the most powerful voices in opposition have been outspoken former mayor Laura Miller – christened “Madame No” by the Star-Telegram’s Randy Galloway – and long-serving county commissioner John Wiley Price.

To top it off, the current ownership group also owns the land around The Temple. They would be unlikely to surrender that investment unless Dallas put something of equal or greater value on the table and, as I said, that has not been part of their approach for decades.

One final idea I want to talk about is, “Well, if the Rangers would move to Dallas they’d get a lot more fans to their games, more than enough to make up for any Fort Worth fans they might lose.” For me, that’s a non-starter. If it were really true, I believe the Rangers themselves would already have moved.

So that’s my take on how stupid the T-shirt design was. We old-timers who live in Tarrant County and have a sense of history, kind of don’t like it when people who are not from here, pretend like the Rangers are Dallas’ team. They’re not, never have been. They’re FW-D’s team, a truly regional baseball franchise. We can all, FW-ers and D-ers alike, share equally in the enjoyment of this team and this miraculous season.

Joe Stroop
I was a sports reporter in DFW throughout the 70s and 80s. I'm a former member of BBWAA and shared the Arlington Stadium press box with all the big boys. I'm here to remind you of the past. I own a Nokona.

8 comments

  • I’m from the metroplex. Grew up there. And look, it’s just a t-shirt. Really, that’s all it is. The Rangers just accomplished something really really really really awesome. Why do we care so much about a dang t-shirt. At the end of May this was the furthest thing from our mind. When the all star break rolled around and we were below .500 no one was really interested in giving us a chance. At the trade deadline everyone said we should sell the farm and go into full rebuilding mode. A relatively petite conversation about what skyline they chose to use on an AL West skyline wouldn’t even really matter.

    Throwing shade at a sizable portion of OUR OWN fan base because their skyline was chosen over ours is so dumb. Really guys. It’s just silly. The most important thing to remember about the people from Dallas, McKinney, Allen, Plano, and so forth is that at the end of the day, they are still part of D/FW. And you know what? That’s a whole heck of a lot better than being from Houston. AMIRITE. COME ON GUYS. AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT. HOUSTON IS THE WORST.

    Anyway. I think the main reason the Dallas skyline was chosen was not simply because the Dallas skyline is iconic. Not because they associate the Rangers with Dallas as opposed to Arlington, but because when they tried to look up “Arlington skyline” all they got was this:

    • 404 Error: Page Not Found

    • How would you feel if you spent 43 years building a brand, and your boss decided to give associate someone else with the brand as opposed to you? Wouldn’t make you feel too good. Arlington and Tarrant Co have spent years building that brand. Why does Dallas get the credit for it.. in the Nations eyes? No one outside of DFW will know the stadium is in Arlington, or that it’s never once been in Dallas. Yes, the Rangers get attendance from all over the FW/D metroplex but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about Arlington and Tarrant Co being recognized for something they built and single-handedly brought to the metroplex.

      • I’m not sure what kind of “recognition” you think the city gets for being on the shirt. It’s literally just a background design on a shirt. The city benefits nothing. No one is applauding Dallas for bringing the Rangers to the area by putting the skyline on a shirt. It’s. Just. A. Shirt.

        But if you do go down that line of thinking, and congratulating Arlington for “single-handedly” bringing the Rangers to North Texas, ask yourself what North Texas would be without Dallas. Would there be a baseball team there in this day and age? No. There would not be.

        Sports are regional. DFW is a region that can support a baseball team, Arlington is not. You consistently refer to is as “Arlington/Tarrant Co.”. Are you concerned that if you just said “Arlington”, or put an ‘Arlington landmark’ on the shirt, that those in Euless would be offended? That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? Since we would just be using the biggest, best looking, most recognizable part of the area to represent the whole to outsiders?

  • MLB should have put as much thought to the idea as you did. Your recap of the history of the Rangers will educate those interested. “Landry” Stadium in Arlington will always be associated with Dallas. One day this big sprawling metroplex will be as big or bigger than NYC and may finally be recognized as Dallas- Ft. Worth.

  • This article is great, as is everything I’ve read from you. The only thing I would say in rebuttal is that you can’t expect MLB to cater to regional sensitivities like that, especially when they have clearly established a theme with their playoff shirts.

    I’m all for excluding Dallas from whatever we can, but it is the nationally recognized city our teams are associated with (even when Dallas has nothing to do with the team). I’d be surprised if whoever concocted the skyline themed shirts even knew the Rangers played in Arlington.

    • But look at both New York teams. Queens and Brooklyn. They don’t play in NYC but NYC is on their skyline. The Angels don’t play in LA. They’re in Anaheim. Sure, Brooklyn and Queens don’t have recognizable skylines but there are several teams who don’t play in the city with the skyline. Maybe keep it specific to the team and what people associate the team with.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Chris. It’s obvious from comments here and other places that there’s one point I failed to make crystal-clear in the original article: This isn’t about a shirt, or whether Dallas is more important, or any of that – it’s about including, as opposed to excluding. Because of its failure to check with the local team, MLB graphics designers stupidly chose to include only Dallas in the celebration. My point was, and is, that all Rangers fans should be included in the joy of this unbelievable season, no matter where we live.

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