T.R.’s Memoirs: Rangers’ angst spilled out in Oakland in early ’90s
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. This is Part 2 of Sullivan’s memories of Oakland, a look back at two strange incidents involving Rangers managers.
Bobby Valentine and Tony LaRussa are of Italian descent. They were also major-league infielders who became managers after their careers were over.
From 1987-92, they were in opposing dugouts for 71 games, with LaRussa managing the Athletics and Valentine with the Rangers. Valentine held the edge in head-to-head matchups over those 71 games, with the Rangers winning 36 of them.
On the other hand, LaRussa led the Athletics to four division titles, three American League pennants and one World Series titles. Valentine was dismissed halfway through the 1992 season. LaRussa had the better talent, or at least his players had the better chemicals. Definitely better pitching.
On occasion they would meet on the field before the game during batting practice. Valentine would greet LaRussa not with a handshake but with a playful punch in the upper arm. LaRussa would respond in kind. The two would grit their teeth and smile like they were good buddies.
Once they would go their separate ways, the two would engage in a game of chicken. Normally, a manager makes out his lineup and sends it over to the opposing clubhouse, usually several hours before the game. Not Valentine and LaRussa. They would wait as long as possible, waiting until there was 30 minutes or less before first pitch.
This would infuriate the broadcasters, especially the late Mark Holtz, who was the lead Rangers radio broadcaster. Holtz was meticulous and fanatical about his preparation, and he would storm through the press box in a rage waiting for the lineups.
All fun and games when the Rangers visited the Oakland Coliseum.