A certain iPod afficiando will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch for the home debut of the first place Washington Nationals tomorrow night. As you might guess, there are some who don’t think that’s a cause for celebrations writes the Austin American-Statesman’s Ken Herman.
Much to the chagrin of D.C.-area baseball fans, the Washington Senators fled to Texas after the 1971 season in search of the almighty dollar. The franchise, rechristened as the Texas Rangers, found dollars by the bucketful in their new home.
About 15 million of them wound up in the pocket of a politician’s kid who, three team sales after the move, became managing general partner of a group that bought the team for $89 million in 1989 — then sold it for $250 million in 1998.
The politician’s kid, by then the governor of Texas with an eye on the White House, did OK, turning a personal investment of $606,000 into what he called “more money than I ever dreamed possible.”
“It seemed time to move on, and the offer was too good to refuse,” then-Gov. George W. Bush wrote in his 1999 book “A Charge to Keep.”
The ownership shuffle that led to Bush making money off the old Senators began in 1974, when Short sold the Rangers to a group headed by plastic-pipe magnate Brad Corbett for $9.5 million. The Corbett years led to the sale to Fort Worth oilman Eddie Chiles in 1980 for $4 million and an assumption of debts.
In 1989, Bush and a long list of business and political friends of the family bought the team for $89 million.
The team’s value skyrocketed after Bush and others convinced Arlington residents to approve a sales tax hike to help pay for the $189 million Ballpark in Arlington that opened in 1994 as Bush ran for governor.
“We had significantly increased the value of the Texas Rangers,” Bush wrote in his book, noting that he was comfortable with the use of public money because the “taxpayers of Arlington knew all the facts and were allowed to vote on the proposition.”
Among the facts was the threat that the Rangers would leave town if they didn’t get a new stadium.
It’s the Arlington stadium that has ex-Senators fans such as Tom Goldstein upset about the choice of Bush to throw the first pitch. Now 47 and living in St. Paul, Minn., Goldstein grew up in Chevy Chase, Md., as a Senators fan.
Goldstein, editor of Elysian Fields Quarterly — which bills itself as a “quirky and opinionated literary baseball journal” — blamed Short for the move and holds no grudge against Bush for making money off it. He is very happy that Washington has a new team, but very unhappy about Bush’s ceremonial role on Thursday.
“He didn’t steal the team, so I don’t have a grudge against the president for that,” said Goldstein, no political fan of Bush. “But I just think he is a perfect example of everything baseball has done to kill the relationship the fans have with a team.”
Goldstein sides with those who believe Bush unfairly got Arlington residents to approve the sales tax hike that financed the stadium construction that upped the team’s bottom line.
“To me, I don’t think he should have a thing to do with the Washington franchise. Frank Howard (above) should be throwing out the first pitch,” Goldstein said, referring to a former Senators slugger.