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T.R.’s Memoirs: Meet the most maddening group in Rangers history — their closers (Part I)

(AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine)

Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers over 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.com and is sharing his “memoirs” with this newsletter.

In this three-part installment, Sullivan reviews the Rangers’ 50-year history of trying to find a closer, the ninth-inning reliever entrusted with getting the final three outs of a game. It has been a wild wild ride.

“All Texas is lacking is relief pitching. They lose their games in the late innings.”

— Sparky Lyle, The Bronx Zoo

One was convicted of attempted murder and spent seven years in jail. One wrote a best-selling book. Another ate the final pages out of a book so a sports writer couldn’t find out how it ended.

More than one of them have had a mugshot taken, was put in handcuffs and brought into a criminal courthouse. At least two ended up working as police officers, but another couldn’t stay away from cocaine. Several are in the Rangers Hall of Fame. One has a statue outside Globe Life Field, and one once threw a chair into the stands in anger.

Several were among the most upstanding, professional and respectful players to ever wear a Rangers uniform. But there were others that filled the high-pressure role of Rangers closer who were absolutely nuts or worse. Much worse.

Let’s be clear, though. I am not making fun of these guys. Far from it. The reliever known as the “closer” may have the most high-pressure job in sports. The only equivalent may be the field-goal kicker, but even then, their job is spread out over four quarters.

For a closer, locked into the ninth inning, the job was no laughing matter and I never did. No way.

In 32 years of covering the Rangers, no other player ever caused me more stress and anxiety than the designated “closer.” It didn’t matter who they were and how well they were performing in the role.

Forget all the rest. Jose Canseco, Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, Nolan Ryan, all the nationally known, headline-making superstars you’d figure were high-maintenance for a beat writer.

Nope. They were easy compared to the closer, and it didn’t matter who that guy was. Nothing could drive me crazy or to the nearest watering hole quicker after a game than the lucky pitcher designated by the manager to get the final three outs of the game.

Seriously. The Rangers’ closer — no matter who it was — was easily the toughest guy I ever covered in my time on the beat.

Possibly their managers felt the same way or even worse. Probably much worse.

Just writing about it now in retirement stresses me out.

But when you sit down and really think about all the pitchers who have been a closer for the Rangers, when you run through that entire roster of characters – what they have gone through, what they have put the Rangers through, the emotions they have stirred in the fans …

It’s mind-boggling when you consider all the pitchers the Rangers thrust into that role.

This is one rocky journey through Rangers history that almost defies description. It involves some of the best and worst decisions, biggest free-agent signings, and best and worst trades in club history. Plus (shudder) the cast of characters involved.

Buckle your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

T.R. Sullivan

T.R. is a Military Brat and graduate of the University of San Francisco who retired in 2020 after a 40-year career with the Denison Herald, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.Com. He covered the Texas Rangers for 32 years.

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