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Dan Shaughnessy

Rangers got socked in Series

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / November 2, 2011

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Dear Texas Rangers fans:

We feel your pain. We know what it’s like. For almost a week, the baseball world has been celebrating the St. Louis Cardinals and their dramatic crawl from the crypt. We’ve seen footage of the Cardinals parading alongside the Arch, and wreaths have been thrown at the feet of Tony La Russa, Albert Pujols, David Freese, and Chris Carpenter.

But we know it’s different back in your town. In Dallas-Fort Worth, the World Series will not be remembered for the Cardinals winning. It’ll be remembered as the one that got away - one of the great choke jobs of all-time.

If you’re like us, you’ll never really recover. You’ll be reciting the play-by-play of the epic failure for decades to come. We’re still debating whether Johnny Pesky held the ball too long on a relay throw in 1946. The autopsy on Red Sox-Mets Game 6, ’86, is never complete. There is always new information and new evidence to accompany the old pain.

And now you know. You know what it was like for us for all those years.

“We have become Boston here,’’ says Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist and ESPN-Dallas talk show host Randy Galloway. “I’m very proud. It’s easy to celebrate winning a World Series, but the despair and disgust that comes with this . . . it means now we’re a real baseball town.’’

Amen to that. Welcome to the world we knew for so many decades, the world we’ve come to know again over the last few months.

Galloway has been covering the Rangers since they moved from Washington to Texas in 1972. He was the original Rangers beat reporter and proudly says, “I’m the only living human being who has been to every Ranger spring training.’’

I was surprised but heartened to hear that the Rangers and their fans are taking this so badly. I figured football-crazed Texans would have moved on to the Cowboys and that beatdown in Philadelphia Sunday night.

But no.

“I’ve never seen the city this despondent about anything,’’ says Galloway. “I got an e-mail from a guy who has a medical supply company with 100 employees and he said that outside of 9/11, last Friday was the worst production day in 30 years. People are shocked.

“This is a knockdown hangover. When I flew back from St. Louis after Game 7, the plane was full of Ranger fans and it was like they were coming from a funeral.’’

In case you missed it, the Rangers last week joined the 1986 Sox as the only teams to lose a World Series after coming within one out (one strike away in both cases) of winning the championship. The Sox were working on a 68-year drought when it happened at Shea Stadium in 1986. The Rangers, born as the Washington Senators in 1961, never have won the Fall Classic.

The Sox, as you may remember, led the ’86 Series, three games to two, and led the Mets, 5-3, with two outs and nobody aboard in the bottom of the 10th of Game 6. The champagne was in the locker room, and the lockers were covered with plastic. Bruce Hurst was set to be named Series MVP, and the Shea scoreboard flashed congratulations to “the world champs’’ from Boston. Then came three consecutive singles, a wild pitch, and the ground ball that slithered between the legs of Bill Buckner . . . and into history.

A lot of folks have come to believe that the Buckner Game was Game 7. It was not. It merely tied the series, 3-3. And the Sox took a 3-0 lead in Game 7 two days later. Boston lost, 8-5, and the lives and legacies of those involved changed forever.

Now it has happened to the Texas Rangers, a team managed by Ted Williams when it first moved from Washington to Dallas-Fort Worth.

Like the Red Sox, the Rangers led, three games to two, and blew it in Game 6. Texas doesn’t have Boston’s baseball history, but the Rangers’ choke job might have been worse. Texas blew five leads in Game 6. The Rangers had a three-run lead in the eighth, a two-run lead in the ninth, and another two-run lead in the 10th. All blown.

Rangers closer Neftali Feliz has become Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley. Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz has become Buckner.

Feliz had not blown a two-run lead since June 22. He had converted 17 consecutive save opportunities. But he got very tight against the Cardinals.

Cruz was minding his own business in right field, then failed to catch Freese’s two-out, two-strike, game-tying triple.

“Many comparisons have come up,’’ says Galloway. “People have said, ‘Cruz Bucknered the ball,’ but hey, that wasn’t a little roller to first base.’’

I believe J.D. Drew easily would have pocketed Freese’s fly ball. (Of course, he would have injured his shoulder on the play and missed six weeks.) But it was no can of corn for Cruz.

“What are you going to do to make it better?’’ asked Ranger Michael Young. “Make Nelly 2 feet taller to catch that ball?’’

Doesn’t matter. It’s part of dark history now. And like the ’86 BoSox, the Rangers took an early lead in Game 7, then folded.

“A Red Sox fan contacted me,’’ says Galloway. “He said, ‘Here’s the worst part: You’ll be reliving it forever. It will always come up and be shown on TV. There’ll be no way to forget it.

“It’s the worst sports moment in the history of our town. We had the Cowboys’ Super Bowl loss to the Colts in 1971, and Jackie Smith dropping that pass against the Steelers in the Super Bowl in Miami in ’79. We had the Mavericks losing Game 5 to the Heat in ’06. But this is the gold medal of despair.

“I guess it means the Rangers have arrived.’’

Welcome to our world.

Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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