Review: The Essential Games Of The Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers are still looking for their first World Series Championship, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been highlights over their 40 years of existence (51 if you include the Washington Senators years). If you had to choose, what four games would you consider the most essential for any Rangers fan to have in their collection?

The folks at A&E TV and Major League Baseball have made their decision and have released the official MLB DVD “The Essential Games of the Texas Rangers”. This 4-DVD set contains the complete game broadcast of four games considered the top games in Rangers history. In chronological order, they are: Nolan Ryan‘s 7th no-hitter on May 1, 1991; The Rangers first post-season game and first post-season win, October 1, 1996 against the New York Yankees; Game 6 of the ALCS against the Yankees October 22, 2010; and Game 6 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers October 15, 2011.

I’ve browsed through the set and it certainly brings back fond memories of all those games. The last two games are freshest in my mind. Of all the games, probably the best for me was the 2010 ALCS Game 6 against the Yankees, the game that sent the Rangers to the World Series for the first time. I guarantee I will wear out that DVD just playing Neftali Feliz‘ slider that caught A-Rod looking for the final out and seeing the ensuing celebration. Brandon Inge’s pop-out to first to end Game 6 in 2011 just doesn’t compare.

The fun ones to view are the older games. If I have one quibble, it is this: Nolan Ryan’s 7th career no-hitter features the Toronto Blue Jays TV crew and not the Rangers crew. I honestly don’t remember if the Rangers were on TV that night. Back in ’91, they didn’t necessarily broadcast every single game like they do today, so if that’s why they used the Blue Jays crew, I’m OK with it. Still, it is a bit weird to see this highlight in Rangers history being presented from the viewpoint of the opposing team. The Blue Jays broadcast crew consisted of Don Chevrier, Tommy Hutton and Fergie Olver. Some of the interesting stuff about this game was one of the Blue Jays’ sponsors: Game Genie, the video game enhancement system. Does anybody remember Game Genie? You attached it to your video game before you plugged it into your system and it cracked cheat codes for you. The graphics they used on the TV broadcasts then were pretty funny. They were all VERY large. Tidbit I didn’t know before: In the early part of the broadcast, Tommy Hutton said the reason the Rangers sent Pete Incaviglia to the Detroit Tigers was because manager Bobby Valentine couldn’t stand him. All these years as a Rangers fan and that was the first time I’d heard that.

The DVD I like the best from a broadcasting standpoint was the 1996 ALDS opener against the New York Yankees. Not only was it the Rangers first-ever post-season game, the broadcast team put together by NBC was great: Bob Costas on play-by-play, with color commentary from Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker. It was kind of funny hearing Costas talking about the Yankees bullpen with “their great SET-UP MAN, Mariano Rivera.” The game was played shortly after the infamous Roberto Alomar spitting incident. Apparently there had been some kind of meeting by the MLB brass that day and Costas tossed it to sideline reporter Jim Gray to talk to MLB’s chief labor negotiator at the time, Randy Levine. Gray was younger but just as combative as he is today. In interviewing Levine, Gray said “MLB fumbles on itself time and time again”. Later he told Levine, “It seems as though MLB cowers to the Players Association every time.” I’ve just never been a fan of Gray’s style of questioning. It always seems more editorializing than questioning. Still, it was interesting to revisit the issue all these years later.

The 2010 ALCS game was called by TBS’ crew of Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling and John Smoltz. Johnson does not have much baseball play-by-play experience so it’s difficult to hear. Not as hard as the 2011 ALCS game, which was called on Fox by Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. I don’t mind Buck so much, but listening to McCarver these days is like fingernails on a chalkboard. Yes, he’s knowledgeable. He’s also older now and comes across more Tommy Lee Jones curmudgeon than insightful analyst. Ah, well. I still love watching the game, a 15-05 pasting of the Tigers to send the Rangers back to the World Series.

If I had any other negative, it would just be that I wish we could get a box set that has more than four games on it. I would’ve loved to have seen them include Kenny Rogers’ perfect game. Another one I’d pick, even though they haven’t won the World Series, would be Derek Holland’s two-hit gem against the Cardinals in Game 4 of the 2011 World Series.

All in all, “The Essential Games of the Texas Rangers” is an essential get for any diehard Rangers fan. You can order your set here:  http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=13156454&cp=2366583.2498452

I have more news about this box set to share with you. It will be announced in my next post.

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