They are The Franchise Formerly Known as the Second Version of the Washington Senators.
If there’s ever been a team that’s due for a championship — way overdue, to put it bluntly — it’s the Texas Rangers.
From their beginnings as a hastily assembled replacement team for the nation’s capital in 1961, through a whole lot of losing seasons and one excruciatingly close-but-no-cigar call, the Senators II-turned-Rangers have labored longer than any franchise in America’s four major sports leagues without a championship on their resume.
“Really?” Texas outfielder Travis Jankowski asked incredulously on the eve of the Rangers' third World Series appearance, set to begin Friday night with Game 1 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. “When were the Padres founded?”
While it's true that San Diego has never won a World Series, the Padres didn't join the big leagues until the four-team expansion of 1969. At that point, the Rangers — actually, they were still the Senators — were already 8 years old.
“Oh, what’s ’72?” Jankowski inquired.
Well, that's the year the Senators, having abandoned Washington for the second time, moved to Arlington, Texas — midway between Dallas and Fort Worth — and became the Rangers.
“I had no idea,” said Jankowski, who's hardly alone in being a bit vague on the Washington chapter of Rangers history.
“Some of it was pretty forgettable," quipped Dick Bosman, the starting pitcher for the franchise's final game as the Senators and first game as the Rangers.
There's another ignominious tidbit we need to cover a bit more thoroughly.
Major League Baseball, as well as the National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League, all have multiple franchises that have never won a championship.
None of them, however, has been around as long as the Senators-slash-Rangers.
Sure, the NFL’s Chargers, Bills and Oilers/Titans, who began play a year earlier in 1960, have never won a Super Bowl title. But all three claimed championships in their original home, the American Football League.
Hey, what about the NFL Vikings, another expansion child of 1961? They're 0-for-4 in the Super Bowl, it's true, but the Senators were already 45 1/2 games out of first — and winding down a 100-loss inaugural season — by the time Minnesota hit the gridiron for the first time.
Of the 30 MLB franchises, 23 have captured at least one championship since the ill-fated replacement Senators took the field a few months after the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. Most notably, we've seen the Red Sox and Cubs erase their curses, the White Sox overcome the legacy of the Black Sox.
Five of the title-less clubs were founded after the Rangers, leaving only the Cleveland Guardians. They haven't won the World Series since 1948, but at least they have a championship on their resume — two of them, in fact, also winning it all in 1920.
For much of their existence, no matter the name, the Senators-Rangers have been an overlooked backwater on the MLB landscape.
They started out as the expansion successor to the first team known as the Senators, who moved to Minnesota to become the Twins in '61. During their 11 years in Washington, the Junior Senators had only one winning season and never drew 1 million fans.
“It was my first major league club, so it was pretty special,” recalled Bosman, the winningest pitcher from the Senators years. “Unfortunately, the underlying attitude was always ‘We’re just not very good.' I hated that.”
Throughout that final season in Washington, rumors swirled about the future of the franchise. Finally, with about three weeks to go in the regular season, Bosman remembers getting the news on the 11 o'clock news after crawling into bed.
“There it was on the screen,” said Bosman, now 79 and retired in Florida. “I remember looking at Pam (his wife) and saying, ‘We're gone.’”
Maybe it wasn't all that surprising the final game ended in a riot, the Senators forfeiting a contest they were one out from winning when irate fans stormed the field at RFK Stadium to protest the impending move to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
“Well, it’s a strange way to lose a ball game,” Washington play-by-play announcer Ron Menchine moaned over the radio airwaves, according to a recounting of that infamous night by the Society of Baseball Research. "No one believed that there would not be major league baseball in the nation’s capital. But it’s sad to report there no longer is.”
Bosman started that night, but was pulled after giving up the five runs in five innings. He returned to the dugout to watch the closing innings, but the Senators never got a chance to record the 27th out.
“It was chaos,” Bosman said. “They dug up the bases, they dug up home plate, they dug up the pitcher's mound. They took the numbers out of the scoreboard. There wasn't much left but the grass — and they took some of that too.”
The newly launched Rangers picked up where their downtrodden predecessors left off. They lost 205 games during their first two years in Arlington, where they played in a roofless, toaster-oven of a stadium that looked very much like the Double-A park it once was. The blistering summer heat forced the team to petition the league to play most of its games at night, even on Sundays.
“The Texas fans were wonderful. They were happy to have a major league club,” Bosman said. “But we were bad. The only thing that was different was it said Rangers on front of the uniform instead of Senators.”
It wasn't until 1996 that Texas finally made the playoffs for the first time, and it wouldn't be until 2010 that they advanced all the way to the World Series.
After a 4-1 loss to the Giants, the Rangers made it back-to-back Series appearances in 2011. Of course, that was the year they somehow lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, who were twice down to their final strike before improbably pulling out a seven-game victory.
Now, a dozen years after that heartache, the Rangers have another shot at a long-overdue title.
“That would mean the world,” said Game 1 starter and Texas native Nathan Eovaldi. “To be able to say that you were part of the first one, you kind of set the foundation for the years to come and you don’t really know what will happen after that.”
It would undoubtedly be an improvement on what came before.
Paul Newberry is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com
AP Baseball Writers Stephen Hawkins and Ronald Blum in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.
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