ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) –There was a time when the residents of Dallas and Fort Worth couldn’t stand each other. Some would argue that a competition between the two cities still stands, but thanks to the arrival of the Texas Rangers in 1972, that rivalry started to ebb.
Our collective attention moved south somewhere over the years. As North Texas began to grow together, we also started to rival Houston in size and influence.
The rivalry has played out on the sports field time and again, especially in football. But with the state’s two big-league baseball teams, it’s been a gentleman’s rivalry, a pleasant Saturday match that met with friendly pats on the back and genial kidding.
Think back to the days of the Silver Boot at Arlington Stadium or in the Astrodome. Playing the Astros was an event so special it had to be called an exhibition. The first game ever played at the Ballpark, yet again an exhibition, was against the Astros on April 1, 1994. ‘Friendship’ is our state motto after all. We embraced that for our baseball teams.
The friendliness all but ended on Tuesday’s news the Houston Astros are officially moving to the American League in April 2013. The Astros sale to businessman Jim Crane (the same guy who tried to buy the Rangers in the summer of 2010) came with the stipulation from Major League Baseball that the team join the Rangers in the junior circuit.
Wednesday’s approval of the move by MLB and the Player’s Association means after 50 seasons of watching guys like Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott and Jose Lima try to bat, the Astros will quickly become very familiar with MLB rule 6.10.
News of the move was met with general approval from transplants both to and from Houston. Fort Worth resident Cratin Sheffield grew up watching the Astros, but switched allegiances to the Rangers after settling in North Texas after college. “Being outside of Houston for so long, my rooting for them waned,” he admits. But he adds having the Astros playing in Arlington more often is an incentive to go to the Ballpark. “It will be nice to see the team I grew up with more often.”
CBS 11 Chief Editor Ram Guzman adds his name to Astros faithful. The Corpus Christi native grew up with his family making yearly trips to the Astrodome. And while he too cheers for the Rangers, the Astros are still his first love. “Although the Rangers have a special place in my heart (since Nolan Ryan is now owner of the team), I’ll always be an Astros fan first. I’m looking forward to wearing my collection of Astros jerseys to the Ballpark.”
As baseball fans go, long-term Rangers fans have never been the really vindictive, hate your rivals type. It’s never really made much sense to talk ill of the Oakland A’s or curse name of the Seattle Mariners. Even when the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox were in the pre-1994 American League West, it didn’t feel like a real rival.
That’s been true with the Astros as well. Many North Texans have probably watched Astros games on TV on off nights for the Rangers. They quickly became an easy-access second team for hardcore baseball fans.
Melissa Compton considers herself the reverse of that, a Rangers fan in Astros territory. Living in the Houston area, she’s made a number of trips North to the Ballpark for games, but also makes it a point to travel to Minute Maid Park when the Rangers were playing an interleague game. “Before I cheered for the Rangers all season except when they played the Astros. Now it will be hard to cheer for both. The Astros have a lot to prove though.”
A sentiment echoed by Sheffield. “I think it will be a good thing for the Rangers to have an in-state rival,” says Sheffield. “But it will be a learning curve for the Astros, and they are having a hard enough time as it is,” he joked.
Rangers fans will now be able to sink their teeth into having a team mere hours away from them that could make or break their season. Maybe someday baseball historians will talk about the great Rangers/Astros rivalry like they do the Yankees/Red Sox or Dodgers/Giants.
Back to reality, where that day is light years away. The Astros were the worst team in baseball this season, with only 56 wins to show for their 162 game effort. The Rangers, meanwhile, were the darlings of the American League.
Nobody is quite sure what kind of owner Crane will be. But the fans are eager to see. “Hopefully he’ll bring in some fresh faces and get the Astros going in the right direction,” says Compton.
And when they do, the Rangers will be between them and the American League pennant, and it should be an interesting race.