World Series: An Oklahoma Fall Classic
Jim Stafford and Ed Godfrey live close to each other. Used to work together at The Oklahoman. Jim was our business editor; Ed remains our outdoors writer. They still have dinner together on occasion.
But not for the next couple of weeks. They’d better stay apart the rest of October. The Oklahoma World Series is about to ensue.
Rangers vs. Cardinals. Texas vs. St. Louis. The franchise with the easiest access to Oklahomans against the franchise that staked its claim here 80 years ago. The franchise of our sons vs. the franchise of our fathers.
The fathers win the passion. Baseball devotion isn’t what it used to be. But there remains pockets of fandom in Oklahoma, and the numbers migrate to the Rangers and Cardinals. Some character-flawed fans clamor about the Yankees and Red Sox. But Arlington and St. Louis are where Oklahomans go to games. Arlington and St. Louis have the radio voices the hard-core listen to. Arlington and St. Louis are our baseball meccas.
And while I’m a lifelong Cardinal man (though the flame went out years ago), I have to admit. I admire the Ranger fans more. They have walked through the desert on a horse with no name. But now they’ve got their second straight World Series.
“I didn’t foresee a World Series,” said Stafford, a Ranger fan since 1976, “pretty much all their history.”
His first game in Arlington was July 4, 1976. He was driving back to college, from Fort Smith, Ark., to Abilene Christian. Stopped off at old Arlington Stadium, bought a single in the outfield bleachers, watched Gaylord Perry pitch for Texas, sat next to a father and son listening to a transistor radio with Mickey Mouse ears, so he got to listen, too.
“You get so used to losing, every year,” Stafford said. “They might be really great on offense, but they were awful on the mound. ‘Man,’ a fan would think, ‘this year they’re going after some pitching.’ Then they’d sign a new third baseman. It never made any sense. Pitching’s just been terrible.”
But Stafford stayed strong. Named his son Ryan, after you know who.
When the Rangers moved their Triple-A farm club to Oklahoma City in the early ‘80s, it started a small ember. The Texas fan base slowly grew in OKC.
“I remember back then, nobody cared about the Rangers,” Stafford said. “People would laugh. There might be four of us in the crowd that were Ranger fans at the ballpark. But it kind of grew. I could tell over the years. You see that affiliation, it really does help.”
But the Rangers moved to the Austin suburbs last year, and now the Astros are in Oklahoma City.
I last saw Stafford in August, at a RedHawk game. I was there on business. He was there because he loves baseball. I told him I couldn’t get excited about the OKC-Omaha game. Nine guys that couldn’t make the Astros against nine guys that couldn’t make the Royals.
He laughed. He’s a good man with little bitterness.
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