A first title for the Rangers and an emotion for the former first fan | ET REALITY


It doesn’t come with a ring, but this week was special for former First Fan George W. Bush. Nearly three decades after selling the Texas Rangers, the team that propelled him into politics finally took home its first World Series title.

Bush started the series last week throwing the first pitch and cheered from his home in Dallas on Wednesday when his former team won game 5 in Phoenix. For the former Rangers managing partner, it was an unnerving end to a championship that was slipping away when he signed the checks.

“I think he loves it,” said Tom Bernstein, an old friend and fellow Rangers owner at the time. Bush, he said, has always been captivated by baseball. “It just speaks to him. It sounds cheesy but the pace of the whole thing. He is a student of the game. He is immersed in it. He always was. Why baseball? It’s a crazy game. But that resonates with him. “It’s part of who he is.”

The former president, who these days generally stays away from issuing statements, made an exception and declared himself “excited” by the victory. “I congratulate the owners, the managers and the coaching staff, the board and the entire organization,” he said. “And, of course, I congratulate the players on this incredible team for winning the first World Series in our club’s history. “This was baseball at its finest and Laura and I are proud of this team.”

Baseball has long been the sport of presidents, since the days when Andrew Johnson brought the first players of an organized team to the White House and William Howard Taft became the first commander in chief to throw out the first pitch. the opening day. But perhaps none had more direct ties to America’s pastime than Bush and his father, President George HW Bush, a star first baseman at Andover and Yale.

Young George dreamed of becoming another Willie Mays while playing ball in the backyard of Midland, Texas, with his father, who coached his little league team. However, as he followed his father to Andover and Yale, he could not match Poppy’s glory on the diamond. Instead, he entertained and formed a stickball league, serving as commissioner called “Tweeds Bush,” a play on Boss Tweed, the old political kingpin.

Baseball “acted as a bonding agent” between the two Bushes, according to Mark K. Updegrove, author of “The Last Republicans,” a book about the presidential couple. Although football dominated sports culture in Texas, “it was baseball that captured 43’s imagination, just as it had 41,” Updegrove added, using his nicknames based on the presidential order.

For years, George W. Bush had little success in business or politics, but any unspoken competition that existed between the two Bushes peaked in 1989 when the son recruited investors to buy the Rangers, eventually allowing him to begin step out of his father’s considerable shadow.

“It may have meant a little more to 43 that when he finally did something in business after struggling in the oil industry in which his father had been successful, it was in Major League Baseball, given the family’s reverence for the sport. ”. said Mr. Updegrove.

It was also a good deal. Bush contributed only $606,000 as part of the $86 million purchase, but as managing partner he was the team’s accessible public face. Most nights he sat not in the owner’s box but in Section 109, Row 1, Seat 8, behind the dugout, signing autographs. He printed baseball cards with his face on it and traveled around the state giving speeches at Rotary and Kiwanis Club luncheons.

Bush orchestrated a referendum for a temporary tax increase to build a new stadium, and while He traded Sammy Sosa to his eternal regretthe Rangers went from losers to winners in seven of the next 10 seasons, while nearly doubling attendance and increasing revenue.

For a political scion with ambitions of his own, the move also set the stage for a gubernatorial campaign in 1994. The property’s success “solved my biggest political problem in Texas,” he once observed. “My problem was: ‘What has the boy done?’” He soon moved his collection of autographed baseball cards to the governor’s office and, in 1998, sold his stake in the Rangers for $14.9 million, a considerable return.

However, Bush’s most famous baseball moment came after the 9/11 attacks, when he threw out the first pitch in Game 3 of the World Series in New York to demonstrate the country’s determination. Wearing a Kevlar vest, he looked nervous before taking the field.

Derek Jeter, the Yankees shortstop, urged him to pitch from the mound: “This is New York. If you pitch from the bottom of the mound they’re going to boo you.” Bush’s strike through the middle was roundly applauded.

Bush met with Jeter on Friday at the Rangers’ home stadium, Globe Life Field in Arlington, before throwing out the first pitch of the team’s first game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I’m excited,” Bush told the camera before predicting the Rangers would “prevail in six games.”

He recalled Mr. Jeter’s taunt 22 years later: “All I thought about on the mound was you!” – But he said that this time he would pitch from the bottom of the mound. “A totally different atmosphere,” said Bush, now 77.

“Well, this is Texas, so if you turn it down, you won’t get booed,” Jeter responded.

Mr. Bush agreed. The pressure was gone. “It does not matter now”.

Wearing a Rangers jacket, Bush did indeed throw down just one rebound. But the crowd applauded and Bush left with a huge smile on his face.

His daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, later noted that he was still recovering from back surgery, a detail confirmed by his chief of staff, Freddy Ford. “President Bush is not one to make excuses, but that’s true: He had fusion surgery on his lower back earlier this year,” Mr. Ford said. “He continues to recover well and, in fact, hopes to ride mountain bikes with the wounded warriors at his ranch over Veterans Day weekend.”

It’s been an exciting few weeks. Bush maintains ties to the team through Kenneth A. Hersh, president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, who is also a minority owner. Roland W. Betts, an old-time Rangers associate, said he and Bush “emailed throughout the postseason” and that the former president was still “a devout Rangers fan.”

It was all reminiscent of the night Bush first stepped onto the pitcher’s mound as a young owner three and a half decades ago. “How cool is this?” he asked that night. Still pretty cool.

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