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The Moon and Back


The comparison isn’t nearly as far-fetched as it may seem at first blush. In many ways, though, the Texas Rangers’ unlikely mastery of the 2023 baseball World Series resembles the Apollo 11 Space Mission.


We who are long of tooth, gray of hair or bald of head remember the late 1960s. Many Americans viewed our nation’s plan for astronauts to reach the moon and tromp around its scraggy landscape to be sheer balderdash. About the same time, residents of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex thought chances of ever securing a bona fide major league baseball team were roughly the same as reaching the moon.

Think about it. Arlington’s 26-year Mayor Tom Vandergriff spent many years trying to get a major league baseball team to the Metroplex. He was unrelenting. Some were critical with prolonged laughter; thankfully, a few believed.

After all, Houston Judge Roy Hofheinz, a political juggernaut himself, convinced Major League Baseball moguls that only one major league team was needed in the Southwest, specifically Houston. His stance was beyond cocky after his “Colt 45s” were invited in 1962.

Judge Hofheinz was doggedly determined to thwart Vandergriff--who also would later serve as county judge. But Vandergriff kept pushing, finally working his magic to move the Washington Senators to Arlington in 1972. Granted, it was a rag-tag outfit, barely meeting major league standards, but that’s another story.

Now, back to the space angle. In 1969, then President Lyndon B. Johnson championed our young space program that would send astronauts for a moon walk.

Many doubted that the mission would succeed. I don’t remember the odds projected for the program’s success, but it was rife with naysayers.

Odds for success surely were better than the Rangers’ probability of winning the 2023 World Series. Before the season’s first pitch, Las Vegas oddsmakers said odds were 50-1 against the Rangers.

Let us hearken back to a 1969 summer news conference, held in the Davis Mountains in far southwest Texas. The astronauts, seated around a big table, were completing final “mock-ups” for the big space shot.

All the “biggies” from TV networks, newspapers, radio stations and other media gathered to fire questions. One who wasn’t a “biggie” nationally was big in Brewster County.

Representing the weekly Alpine Avalanche was the irrepressible Hallie Stillwell, a legendary ranch woman who was boot-leather tough and tack-sharp. She also was a Justice of the Peace, and not to be trifled with. Readers looked forward to her weekly no-nonsense columns in the Avalanche.

After the national media reps had posed questions on the minds of millions of Americans, Hallie waved her hand, eager to be heard.

With her Big Chief tablet and a well-sharpened #2 pencil at the ready, she blurted something like this: “You fellers don’t really think you are going to walk on the moon, do you?”

Okay, maybe not her exact words, but mighty close. And she was serious.

I’m sure Vandergriff faced similar questions.

Thankfully, he never gave up. Fifty-two years after their arrival here, the old Senators--now the beloved Texas Rangers--didn’t know they couldn’t, so they did.

Surely Bruce Bochy, the renowned manager who now has won four World Series crowns, has the same vision and confidence as Vandergriff. Sure, team owners ponied up money to sign major talent, but make no mistake about it: Bochy was the difference.

It’s a magical time in the Metroplex. We are giddily connected in a fractured world. For moments that may be too brief and shining that will soon disappear, Metroplex togetherness abounds. When a parade commemorating the championship attracts more than a half-million folks, memories are nailed down.

Fans believe their Texas Rangers to be interplanetary and love them “to the moon and back.”

If heaven has a glass bottom, Tom Vandergriff can’t wipe the smile from his face. Even Hallie would agree that Texas’ “boys of summer” will stoke warm memories for the snows of many winters.

Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, writes weekly and speaks throughout Texas. Contact: 817-447-3872. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com.


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