A Short Story About the Rangers’ Last No-Hitter

It's not really about the no-hitter.

Yesterday, as Jason mentioned in Leading Off, Colby Lewis took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the A’s, ultimately settling for a two-hit complete game. Which is still pretty good. Did Tim jinx Lewis? Probably, verging on definitely. But, hey, guys — guys! — don’t get too mad at him. He gets excited, and we generally like to encourage that.

Anyway, I managed to catch the last inning or so. Not literally. Bobby Wilson was behind the plate all game. I mean, can you imagine? My knees are garbage and there is almost no chance I could get off the throw to second. Plus, I’m left-handed, and, as everyone knows, there hasn’t been a left-handed catcher since [surreptitiously googles] Benny Distefano for the Pirates in 1989 and that was just three games.

ANYWAY, when I was watching the last inning and change, they mentioned that Rangers pitchers had thrown five no-hitters in franchise history, and the last one was Kenny Rogers’ perfect game on July 28, 1994. I remember this very clearly, because I drove up from West to go to that game.

But I didn’t get to see it.

I was working in Hillsboro at the time, at the Nike Factory Store. My best friend was one of my fellow Nike employees named Jeff. Jeff was like if Heath Ledger’s Joker was less into watching the world burn and more into Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime. He had tons of ideas, many of them good, some of them great, but he was a disaster with logistics.

July 28, 1994 was a Thursday, and Jeff and I had the day off from selling factory-second shoes and snap-kicking boxes in the storeroom. He suggested we take his girlfriend (whose name escapes me at the moment) and her cousin, Breeze (and now I’m remembering that Jeff’s girlfriend had a dippy name like that, too), and go see the Rangers and the months-old Ballpark in Arlington. Great. What time is the game? Whatever, we’ll just drive up and find out. OK. I shouldn’t really crack on Jeff’s lack of planning skills too much, because my decision-making process largely consisted of a series of shrugs.

The game, it turned out, was at 7:30. We found this out when we arrived at the Ballpark at about 4. Jeff quickly came up with a contingency plan: we’ll go across I-30 to Wet ‘n Wild, play games or whatever, ride go-karts, kill some time, then come back and go to the game. Another shrug. Sure, yeah, why not. But maybe we should get tickets first? Nah.

I don’t recall much about the few hours we spent at Wet n’ Wild, except I remember it being hot and dumb, so I guess I maybe remember it perfectly. We ended up wasting too much time, somehow, and so when we re-arrived at the Ballpark, it was a little after 7. The parking lot attendant asked if we had tickets for the game before he took our cash, which I don’t think I’d been asked before or since. Pertinent question, though, since it had sold out while we were on the wrong side of I-30.

And, of course it was sold out. Not just my dumb luck: the Ballpark had only opened in April, so people were still willing to sit in the stands on a hot night in July while Starkiller Base turned them into soup dumplings. But also exactly my dumb luck: the last game I had been to with Jeff, he’d gotten drunk on cheap screw-top wine on the drive, made us miss the first inning, then made us leave — sprint, actually — in the third inning after throwing a full order of nachos at the back of the guy in front of us. In his (slight) defense, it was in celebration of a home run, not anger. That game, which featured something like seven home runs, was later voted one of the five best in the history of old Rangers Stadium, so of course this game was sold out. Hanging out with Jeff sometimes was like running under ladders while dodging black cats and smashing mirrors.

We drove off in silence, headed back to Hillsboro. After a bit of driving, Jeff had come up with another backup plan and told me to get off the highway. And that’s how I ended up watching Forest Gump (a movie I had already seen and hated) in a crowded Mid-Cities movie theater instead of seeing Kenny Rogers throw the only perfect game in Rangers’ history.

 

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