T.R.’s Memoirs: The Bobby Valentine Era. Part I: Bobby V helps alter course of Texas Rangers
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan covered the Rangers for 32 years and is sharing his memoirs exclusively with readers of Rangers Today. This week: a two-part history that examines manager Bobby Valentine’s impact in reversing the franchise’s fortunes.
Bobby Valentine should be in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.
The hiring of Valentine as manager in 1985 was a pivotal moment in Rangers history, creating a momentum that sustained the franchise through 15 years and three division titles.
Valentine was no longer manager when the Rangers won their first division title in 1996. But, while it is accurate to say the 1988 free-agent signing of Nolan Ryan was a huge boost in giving the Rangers national credibility, it is also true that the hiring of Valentine brought a badly needed injection of energy, enthusiasm and vitality to a franchise that was either being laughed at, not taken seriously or ignored altogether.
The Cowboys were the Cowboys, the expansion Mavericks were new and exciting, even SMU’s Pony Express and TCU under head coach Jim Wacker were of much greater interest than the Rangers. Nobody really cared what was going on in Arlington.
Third baseman Buddy Bell summed it up after the Rangers’ 92-loss season in 1984 when he said, “I’m sick and tired of hearing how we don’t do this and we don’t do that. We’re short. We need to have a better team. We don’t have a good enough team. That’s all. If they want to put a good team out there, let ‘em pay some money and make the right moves.”
Owner Eddie Chiles made the first big move at the end of the 1984 season when he fired general manager Joe Klein and hired Tom Grieve. Grieve, in turn, lured Sandy Johnson away from the Padres to be his scouting director, a move that would lead to the Rangers constructing one of the best farm systems in baseball.
But it was Valentine who really transformed the image of the Rangers in the eyes of their fans. Not only did he have a brilliant baseball mind, but he also had the looks, charisma and energetic personality to captivate and enthrall an entire region and beyond. Cowboys coach Tom Landry was among those who professed to being a “big Bobby Valentine fan.”
Suddenly the Rangers mattered again.