The Rangers and Giants Starting Interleague Play in 1997

As a way to celebrate the Rangers and Giants playing in the World Series, I thought I’d present some of the story of them playing the first game of interleague baseball on June 12, 1997, at The Ballpark at Arlington. First, the result, as the Sacramento Bee reported:

There were no long, drawn-out American League-style innings, no parade of ineffective pitchers and no four-hour donnybrook that finished near midnight.

Mark Gardner took care of that with eight strong innings and Rod Beck registered his 20th save Thursday night in the Giants’ 4-3 victory at The Ballpark at Arlington.

A capacity crowd of 46,507 watched the Rangers squander a 3-1 lead when the Giants scored three times in a decisive seventh for their 19th come-from-behind victory of the season.

But there was an A.L. wrinkle that was a definite factor for both clubs. Billy Ripken, batting ninth instead of the pitcher, had two run-scoring singles for Texas.

Stan Javier, playing right field because Glenallen Hill was the designated hitter, powered the Giants with a homer, a double and a single. Hill added a sacrifice fly. And the DH allowed Baker to stay longer with Gardner, who threw 92 strikes among his season-high 137 pitches. Gardner improved to 7-2 with a 3.19 earned-run average.

After the Rangers took a 3-1 lead in the sixth, the Giants got to Rio Linda left-hander Darren Oliver in the seventh, sending nine batters to the plate for three runs.

Jose Vizcaino and Jeff Kent opened with line singles to center and Barry Bonds was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Mark Lewis’ blooper to right made it 3-2.
Hill followed with a game-tying sacrifice fly to left and Javier lined a run-scoring double into the right-field corner, continuing to thrive at the Rangers ‘ state-of-the-art ballpark.

Even the Rangers seemed to embrace the N.L. style. Known more for power than speed, the perfect hosts ran into a second-inning run for a 1-0 lead.

Mark McLemore was safe on second baseman Jeff Kent’s error with one out and was forced by Damon Buford. His steal prefaced Ripken’s run-scoring single.

The Arlington Morning News reported it this way:

During his days with the San Francisco Giants, Hall of Fame slugger Willie Mays never pondered what it would be like to play an American League team during the regular season.

“I never really thought about it,” said Mr. Mays, before he and all-time strikeout king Nolan Ryan threw the ceremonial first pitches in Thursday night’s first-ever interleague game at The Ballpark in Arlington.

“I was too busy thinking about the National League,” he said. . . .

In an effort to draw more fans to the game, Major League officials plan to schedule interleague games for two years and evaluate whether the experiment should continue.

Mr. Ryan said he thought interleague games go against the traditions of baseball. Nonetheless, he said they could be good for fans.

“There’s a lot of interest and hopefully it will spur more interest in the game,” he said.

Fans at the ballpark seemed to be enjoying the historic occasion.

Rangers season-ticket holder Jim Schuler usually cheers for the home team.
But Thursday night was the exception. A die-hard Giants fan for the better part of 10 years, Mr. Schuler found himself rooting for the visiting team.

“The fact that it’s the Giants and that this is a historic event are equally important to me,” said Mr. Schuler of Richardson. “I took off work today so I could get here early. I don’t want to miss a thing.”

Giants manager Dusty Baker said: “Is it a fallacy that the A.L. is different? A game like this is in the hands of the managers, and you try not to change.

“This game was fairly quick (2:23) because the umpires kept it rolling and the pitchers were throwing strikes. Plus, this park probably is conducive to the N.L. style because it plays big.”

Mark Gardner: “We stayed out of the big inning. We spotted the ball well and got ahead of the hitters. But I like to look forward to the pitcher coming up ninth.

“The game went quickly because the starting pitchers did their job. They were throwing strikes and putting the ball in play on the first couple of pitches.”

Of course, Will Clark was the only guy who really tied the Giants and Rangers together (and probably still is), and he wasn’t a fan of interleague play. Clark: “I wish they would pick a schedule and stick with it. In my years in the big leagues, I’ve seen 18 games within the division to 12 games within the division to interleague play. I think our illustrious commissioner Bud Selig should pick a schedule and stick with it.”

And: ”That’s the thing about San Francisco now. After four years, the only people still there are Rod Beck, Barry Bonds and Dusty Baker. From that standpoint, there’s a lot of different faces over there. Hell, even the ballpark has changed names.

“It’s a completely different team. There are some people over in the other clubhouse I’d like to see. One is manager Dusty Baker, he and I had a special relationship. Other than that, once I walk on the field, it’s just another game.”

Clark also called the Giants “a pretty good ballclub. They win with pitching and defense. That’s why they’re in first place.”

Published in: on October 28, 2010 at 5:01 am  Leave a Comment  

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