Known as the Washington Senators, 1961-71
THE RANGERS BY THE DECADE
The franchise began as baseball’s second iteration of the Washington Senators, immediately replacing the original team that left for Minnesota after 1960. The new Senators provided D.C. fans with the same old results—losing at least 100 games in each of their first four years, not finishing above .500 until their ninth year when first-year manager Ted Williams gave the Senators brief life. Behemoth slugger Frank Howard emerged into a home run machine and provided the Senators with the decade’s precious few positive highlights.
Owner Bob Short, furious over poor attendance in D.C.—though lousy play through a series of rotten player signings on his part played a big role—moved the team to the Dallas-Ft. Worth suburb of Arlington, where continued losing, now spiced with hot and humid weather, attracted few fans at first. When Short sold, things improved quickly as the Rangers finished second in the AL West three times, but volatility became a troubling issue with star players and managers coming and going; when they won 94 games in 1977, they needed four managers to get the job done.
For much of the decade, the Rangers trudged as anonymous participants, rarely contending despite the consistent knuckleballing exploits of pitcher Charlie Hough and the emergence of star hitter Ruben Sierra. But the team received support from a gradually growing fan base and helped Texas cross two million in attendance for the first time in 1989—the same year the Rangers brought in aging (but ageless) ace Nolan Ryan, solid hitters Julio Franco and Rafael Palmeiro, and a new managing general partner in future President George W. Bush.
Ryan threw two no-hitters to enhance his legend and popularity in Arlington, the Rangers smacked the ball around with the addition of dangerous slugger Juan Gonzalez, and archaic Arlington Stadium was at long last replaced by a glitzy new ballpark next door—yet the Rangers continued to meddle around the .500 mark for much of the decade. That changed in 1996 when the team, in its 36th year of existence, finally made the postseason, adding additional AL West titles in 1998 and 1999; alas, the Rangers lost all three times in the first round to a resurgent New York Yankee team.
The Rangers shot the moon in 2001 by signing superstar Alex Rodriguez to a gargantuan 10-year, $252 million contract—but as good as A-Rod was, the rest of the team suffered as owner Tom Hicks didn’t have the money left to build a contender around him. Rodriguez was dealt to the Yankees in 2004, and the Rangers struggled to regain form as great hitting was offset by horrid pitching in a live home ballpark. Ryan returned in a front office capacity and successfully rectified the porous pitching while lucking into the resurrection of slugger Josh Hamilton, a recovered substance abuse addict.
The decade began in seismic fashion as Hicks declared bankruptcy all while the franchise won back-to-back AL pennants—its first two ever—but bowed both times at the World Series, most heartbreakingly in 2011 with a seven-game defeat to St. Louis. The Rangers set themselves up nicely with a rich local TV deal, and initially it seemed to pay off with consecutive divisional titles in 2015-16—but the years to follow showed less successful and cohesive results.
After 26 years at Globe Life Park, the Rangers jumped across the street into retractable-roofed Globe Life Field—and nobody came, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut fans out of MLB ballparks. When the gates finally opened for limited seating, the Rangers were not involved as the new ballpark became a neutral-site host in 2020 for several postseason series, including the World Series. On the field, ownership opened up the checkbook and made several big-name signings (Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jacob deGrom), seeing the ultimate return on its investment in 2023 when the Rangers, just two years after losing 100 games, grabbed their first world title in 63 years of existence.
Highlights of the Rangers’ History on This Great Game:
2010: Joy and Torture The Rangers emerge from bankruptcy and secure their first-ever pennant, before running into staunch pitching at the World Series against San Francisco.
2011: What Wild Wednesday Wrought Surging September comebacks by St. Louis and Tampa Bay enliven a riveting final day of the regular season, ultimately setting the stage for one of the most memorable—and for the Rangers, one of the most heartbreaking—World Series ever played.