Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category
Twenty five years ago this summer I had the easiest job of my life. I was an usher for the Texas Rangers Baseball Club.
I patrolled the center field bleachers in old Arlington Stadium – a minor league park expanded to be home to the Rangers. I stood in the Texas sun on metal bleachers in polyester pants (and a really nice belt).
The ’84 Rangers were an unremarkable team. Some might even call them bad. They posted a 69-92 record for the season. I worked 32 games in June and July at $18 per game. The Rangers were victorious a mere eleven times.
I spent the rest of my time that summer attending summer school at Texas Christian (TCU), babysitting for a family friend of my brother’s girlfriend, and hanging out at the apartment swimming pool. My parents were convinced I was just wasting my time.
I went to Fort Worth that summer to live with my brother who had just earned his undergraduate degree in radio and TV from TCU. He had a summer job with one of the Dallas-Fort Worth television stations. He might have been working for Highlands Electronics, too, but I really don’t remember.
I loved going to the ballpark the nights the Rangers were in town. I was a huge baseball fan in the late 70s and early 80s. The chance to see nine American League teams play ball was like a dream come true. The fact that the Rangers were bad actually made the job better – fewer fans.
Ushers had to be at the park 30 minutes before the first pitch. I seldom had much work to do. A typical night was six fans in my section. My supervisor checked in with the outfield ushers in the first or second inning. After that, we could relax and enjoy the game.
I bought a mini-helmet filled with soft serve ice cream (always chocolate and vanilla twist) between the second and third innings. Then, I’d settle in on the back row of my section and enjoy the rest of the game. My only responsibilities were to walk to the bottom of the aisle between half-innings and retrieve home run balls that fell between the outfield fence and the stands. This was pre-steroids era so I didn’t have to retrieve many balls.
I made an extra ten dollars one game. Two fans who’d had too much to drink were trying to settle a bet: In the song American Pie, who was Dan McLean referring to when he sang, “The day the music died.” Buddy Holly, of course. The winner of the bet tipped me ten dollars.
There were only two nights the entire summer that I wasn’t able to sit down and relax – July 4 and July 5. The Yankees were in town on the 4th. The Detroit Tigers played Texas on the 5th. There were fireworks after the game both nights.
The ’84 Tigers eventually went on to become World Champions. Texas, at that time, was home to many recent, former Michiganders due to the recession of the early ‘80s. The ballpark, and my section, was filled with Tigers fans that night. Tigers fans helped to popularize the wave in Detroit that same summer. They brought the wave to Texas that night to the point I felt dizzy watching it go ‘round.
A handful of well known players were on the ’84 Texas roster but they were mostly in the early or late years of their career. Buddy Bell played third base. Charlie Hough, Dave Stewart and Frank Tanana were part of the pitching rotation. Those were names that meant something to baseball fans in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The player I remember best, Mickey Rivers, seldom if ever played. He hung out in center field shagging flies before the games. Sometimes he’d lean against the fence and occasionally toss me a ball to give to a fan.
Ushers were free to leave the moment the final out was made. Center field was close to the parking lots and I was the first one through the exit – except for the fans who left early, which was many.
I learned no life lessons working for the Rangers (except that polyester pants are hot in the Texas sun). It was just a lot of fun. Getting paid to eat ice cream and watch major league baseball… it doesn’t get much sweeter than that.