ARLINGTON (AP) – The first recipient of an American League championship ring from the Texas Rangers will be the family of the late Tom Vandergriff, the former Arlington mayor who lured the team from Washington nearly four decades ago.
Vandergriff’s family will be given a 2010 championship ring during the team’s welcome home luncheon March 31. That is the day before the Rangers player their season opener at home against Boston, and two days before Texas players, coaches and staff will receive their rings in a pregame ceremony.
“It is only fitting that the first recipient of a 2010 AL Championship ring is the Vandergriff family,” Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan said. “The passion and determined efforts of Tom Vandergriff made the Texas Rangers a reality nearly 40 years ago. Because of his work, we are able to celebrate an AL Championship.”
The Rangers also plan a moment of silence in Vandergriff’s memory before the season opener.
Vandergriff led the cause of bringing Major League Baseball to North Texas, which was accomplished in the fall of 1971 when the Washington Senators moved to Arlington.
Vandergriff died at age 84 of natural causes Dec. 30, two months after he attended the Rangers’ AL pennant-clinching victory over the New York Yankees that earned the team’s first World Series berth in its 50-season history.
The day after Game 6 of the AL championship series, Vandergriff fell and broke his hip. That prevented him from attending any game in the World Series, which the Rangers lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants.
In 1965, Vandergriff brought Dallas and Fort Worth officials together to help build a minor league baseball stadium that was later expanded to accommodate the Senators when they relocated. It was renamed Arlington Stadium after Vandergriff declined an effort to name it after him.
There is a statue of Vandergriff in the center field plaza that bears his name at Rangers Ballpark, which replaced the old stadium in 1994.
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