Keeping the faith: Texas Rangers win the World Series
ARLINGTON, Texas — I lived to see it. The Texas…
October baseball did not disappoint, especially for diehard Texas Rangers fans.
The action was great. So were the back stories.
A Cuban asylum seeker. A high school valedictorian who had committed to Duke as a pre-dental major. A baby-faced closer whose mom fought her fear of flying to come from the Dominican Republic and watch him pitch. A first baseman whose mom is fighting cancer. A struggling leadoff hitter whose wife scheduled the induction of their fourth child between the Wildcard Series and American League Championship Series so he could be there. He hit a two-run homer to seal the final win.
I love stories that transform a multimillion-dollar athlete into someone I can relate to. After all, they’re baseball people, just like me. I’m surrounded by baseball people.
I try to keep some perspective about sports. I don’t pray for wins — well, I might have on occasion prayed my son’s team would win. But I know better.
And I know that it’s just a game — with all the foibles and flaws of any multibillion-dollar business. But Amazon doesn’t deliver joy. And ExxonMobil can’t empower hope. Baseball at its best does both.
I learned to love baseball 40 years ago by watching Little League. My boss’ kid and his friends were cheap entertainment on late spring evenings. The rhythm of the pitch and catch, the excitement of a red-dust slide at home plate. And snow cones. Over time, I just fell in love with it, and a journey began.
People who loved baseball with me have been part of that journey, and this week we celebrated as our beloved and too-often befuddling Rangers finally … FINALLY . . . won a World Series. Sadly, ticket prices were higher than a pop fly on a hot Texas night. But we were still together, in distant living rooms across Texas, and even in Oklahoma of all places, phones in hand, texting back and forth, commenting on the pitching, the plays, the perilous ninth innings.
Seconds after the Rangers clinched the Series, a FaceTime call popped up from my son. He coaches basketball, but no one is a bigger Rangers fan. I’d like to think that began when I nursed him beneath a blanket in seats along the third-base line at the old Arlington Stadium. We’ve been to dozens of games since, including World Series games in 2010 and 2011. We traveled to Boston for games at Fenway Park when he was in college. My most requested Mother’s Day gift for the last 20 years has been an early May Rangers game with him and his sister.
“You’re the first person I called,” he said after the final out. Now that’s joy to warm a mother’s heart.
About 15 years ago, I began group-texting during games with four other women who are Rangers fans. Two are sisters, both 20-plus years my junior. A third is married to a baseball coach and lives in Oklahoma. The fourth is about my age and a retired photographer. We named our Group Me chat HWC after the iconic “Hello, win column” call of the late Mark Holtz, perhaps the greatest Rangers announcer ever.
Before HWC, we weren’t hanging out or going to lunch or even attending the same congregation. What we all had in common was baseball, specifically, the Rangers.
One of the beauties of baseball is time to talk — and text — between innings, during lulls in the action or through rain delays. So we chatted about much more than baseball as our children grew up, married and had children of their own. I buried my parents. The ficus tree they sent me after my dad died has more than doubled in size. Debbie buried her husband, who died of Covid-19, long before vaccinations were even an option. We listened online to his outdoor funeral.
As the Rangers wins, losses, trades and turmoil persisted, we texted through hundreds of games. We bemoaned missed opportunities and unplanned job changes. We prayed over weddings, funerals, joyous celebrations and quiet disappointments. We held each other up. Jesus bound us together. The Rangers kept us in touch.
Baseball people tend to connect all the major events of life to some season, some game, some shared moment.
A former student with whom I’ve sparred on many subjects commented on my post-World Series Facebook post, reminding me that 20 years ago I had taken her and a group of student journalists to her first Rangers game. And now when she thinks of the Rangers she thinks of me.
“That warms my heart,” I told her, “and will perhaps earn me some forgiveness for my too-moderate-for-you views. Baseball does bring people together.”
“It does,” she replied. “And I’ll always call you my friend.”
That warmed my heart, too.
I know the World Series wasn’t the most important thing. But for a few days it delivered joy and empowered hope. I counted that as a blessing.
A lot of bad stuff has happened since the Rangers began their playoff run — not errors or blown saves, but global bad stuff. War and tragedy and the escapades of elected officials who’d be ejected and fined if they were playing baseball instead of politics.
I know that’s all of greater significance. I know the World Series wasn’t the most important thing. But for a few days it delivered joy and empowered hope. I counted that as a blessing.
CHERYL MANN BACON is a Christian Chronicle contributing editor who served for 20 years as chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at Abilene Christian University. Contact [email protected].
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