T.R.’s Memoirs: Johnny Oates, the man behind the first great Texas Rangers teams (Part I)
Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan retired after covering the Rangers for 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.com. He is sharing his memories and history of the Rangers for this website. This week: A three-part look at Johnny Oates era of the Rangers.
Juan Gonzalez was hurt and not able to be in the Rangers’ lineup. His left quadriceps muscle was bothering him and all he could do was pinch-hit. The Rangers were in first place on July 21, 1996, and Gonzalez was having an MVP-type season, but now there was a possibility he could end up on the disabled list.
Johnny Oates, in his second season as Rangers manager, tried to patiently explain Gonzalez’s situation to the media assembled in his office at the Ballpark in Arlington. Among those in attendance was George Riba, the outstanding reporter from Channel 8 who was as professional as they come in his approach to the job.
Riba was sitting in a chair across the desk from Oates when he asked the question that, to be fair, was probably on a few people’s minds.
“Is the injury legitimate?” Riba asked.
Oates, a devout Christian who didn’t smoke, drink or – almost never – use foul language, exploded.
“Excuse me?” Oates said. “I’m [bleeping] offended by [bleeping] questions like that. Of course, he’s [bleeping] hurt. I’m really offended. I don’t answer [bleeping] questions like that. I don’t have to explain … to you. Not when you ask a [bleeping] question like that.”
In my 32 years of covering baseball, it was the single most impressive tirade ever delivered by a Rangers manager against a member of the media. The rapid volume of on-the-record f-bombs has never been equaled, not by Bobby Valentine, Kevin Kennedy or Ron Washington.
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