The game proves to be a closely contested, nip-and-tuck affair, with the outcome on the line in the bottom of the ninth and assorted Rangers on the basepaths. The Twins’ reliever managed to find the third out, though, securing the visitors a 4-3 victory. Highlights were monstrous home runs by Twins’ batsmen Jonathan Schoop and Max Kepler, the former of which deposited into section H of the bleachers, where it bounced around silently, and the latter still in orbit, sweeping equal areas around the stadium with every unit of time.
Before all that, the public address announcer proclaims that it’s Woodstock Night, and then introduces Our National Anthem. The musician is a long-haired guitarist, and he strums out a passable tribute to the famous instrumental version performed fifty years ago by the late Jimi Hendrix. We are at Globe Life Park, originally known as The Ballpark at Arlington, and the home of the Texas Rangers baseball club. The park is located off a freeway that connects Dallas and Forth Worth, and is adjacent to an amusement park with a roller coaster and other attractions. The crowd here feels a tad different than my image of the assembly at Max Yasgur’s farm. We are suburban dads and moms, their kids in Little League outfits, and plenty of drinkin’ buddies and buddettes, and we are very comfortable in our plastic chairs with the round cup holders built into the arm rests.
The crowd cheers for the Hendrix anthem. Later, they will thoroughly enjoy the very different de-facto anthem for the region, the twangy Deep in the Heart of Texas. The lyrics are about the beauty and splendor of the open prairie, and the melody is simple and catchy. Also, like in kinny-garden, you get to clap along with the chorus.
Sitting next to me, intermittently, because seating plans are temporary and casual, are two Latina women, pudgy and middle-aged, both with hair in pig tails underneath pink baseball caps featuring the trademark capital T. One of the pair sports hints of glitter over her neck and chest, and it’s the glitter I associate with girl scout art projects. Both are imbibing in the stadium’s signature beverage, which is a multi-colored slushy version of a margarita, served in a tall fluted glass with a plastic half-baseball as pedestal. Another neighbor, here with her husband and daughter, is keeping close watch on the activities on the field, and is recording every play on the scorecard that came with the program. This woman seems to take her business very seriously and is not wearing glitter anywhere, but I did catch her smiling a few times for whatever reason.
Further away from me are a smattering of fans in Twins gear, which I also am wearing. I try making happy eye contact or exchange atta-boy/look-at-us commentary with my fellow Twins rooters, but few if any of them, it would seem, want camaraderie beyond their immediate parties. I assume that most of them are transplants who have retained allegiance to their native team. Many of the men look like Ron Gardenhire, a former Twins manager. Big fellas, broad in the neck and upper arms, with goatees over untucked jerseys, and they walk with a kind of locker-room swagger. In contrast, their women could have stepped out of the Rosedale shopping mall, or the bike path around Lake Nokomis.
Globe Life Park, which is the official name for the place, is a beautiful steel and brick edifice with excellent sight lines and all the modern amenities and a history that comes partly by merit, as the Rangers have played here for 25 years, including two World Series in 2010 and 2011; and partly by appropriation, as its bricky/old-timey appearance, which includes superfluous support pillars in the bleachers and a pair of superfluous towers up front, are meant to harken to the classic ballyards of the northeast and industrial Midwest.
Twenty-five years is apparently the magic number, because this season is the last for Globe Life Park. Across the street is being constructed the creatively-named Globe Life Field, which will open spring of next year. Why the move? Why abandon a lovely facility that cost a mere $323 million (per Wikipedia, adjusted for inflation) with a replacement that tabs up to $1.1 billion? My Uber driver back to the hotel supplied the answer, which is that the old park isn’t air conditioned, and never could be. The new one will have a retractable roof.
The sun will scorch your hide,
So we stay cool inside,
<clap, clap, clap, clap>
Deep in the heart of Texas!
My original idea for this game was to wear a T-shirt that reads “Another Texas Democrat for Elizabeth Warren.” The U.S. Postal Service foiled this plan because they couldn’t deliver the Warren shirt on time. Which might have been for the best, because I would have been the only fan doing any politicking at all. Everyone else was in pure sports-fan mode, which in Texas might be the normal state of being for much of the populace.
Nevertheless, be forewarned, you Texas yahoos and ignoramuses, that we’re rising up against the oppression and intolerance that you’ve endorsed. We, meaning the Reformed Jews and the Unitarians and the Muslims and the atheists; we, the speakers of Spanish, Hindi, Farsi, Chinese, and English in the Secaucus or Brooklyn dialect; we, the people who sometimes prefer zucchini or cucumber salad instead of French fries to accompany our meat sandwiches, even when those sandwiches are beef brisket slathered in barbecue sauce, which many of us agree is danged tasty. We are already here, as you oughta know, because you can see us standing and cheering in the seats around you, while we wear your colors and wave your flags, and sing the same songs. And you have appropriated some of our culture, too, as evidenced by the cheering for the Jimi Hendrix guitar solo. Although, very curiously, that was the only manifestation of Woodstock Night at the Ballpark that I could discern.
The next morning, on the shuttle to DFW International, the lone other passenger was a young Asian woman, who volunteers, in excellent English, that she is flying back home to her native China. We get to talking. She’s spent the past several years in Florida, and now Texas, earning a PhD in nutrition. Now she feels homesick for her family, and so it is time to go back. She seems ambivalent about America. I tell her we are very diverse and complex, and you cannot judge us on the surface. Look at me, wearing a thrift-store shirt and a baseball cap, you wouldn’t guess who I am, would you? My antics amuse her; she laughs a little.
My terminal is the first stop, and when I leave, I give her a hug good-bye. This is my first physical contact with another person since my arrival the day before.
Back at the ballpark, the between-inning antics are very typical of baseball games everywhere. Quizzes, audience participation, dancing in the seats. Here in Rangers land, I like how they let kids put on costumes and compete in a real foot race for prizes. I also remember a few of the announcements that flash briefly, and then go away. Welcomes to various organizations, including many church groups. One marriage proposal. And a few happy birthdays. Lots of people have their birthdays today.