Seasons in Hell: With Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and “The Worst Baseball Team in History”-The 1973-1975 Texas Rangers is one of the best baseball books I have read in a long time. Former Rangers beat writer Mike Shropshire looks back on the trials and tribulations of what it was like covering the team during their early years in Arlington.
He covers the colorful owner who brought the Rangers to Texas, Bob Short, and the rise and fall of a Texas high school baseball legend in David Clyde. It’s a thrilling ride that will leave you laughing and wondering how some of the people in the story even survived their time with the Rangers.
Shropshire picks up coverage as the beat writer in 1973 after Ted Williams left as manager. The great Whitey Herzog took over for the 1973 season and looked to rebuild the team that had lost 100 games in ’72. Sadly, that wasn’t going to happen.
Instead the Rangers seem more like a traveling circus as times as David Clyde arrives. Herzog wouldn’t make it through the season as owner Bob Short looked to make a splash with a flashier manager simply because he was looking to sell the team. His goal in moving the team to Texas was to sell the team to make a profit, which he eventually wound up doing. In the meantime, he hired Billy Martin and things really got interesting.
Whitey Herzog summed up the team with a great quote. In a game against Baltimore, Jim Palmer was in the 8th inning against Texas with a perfect game going. After the game, Herzog was told by Shropshire that Ranger outfielder Rico Carty said he intentionally fouled off a pitch he thought was ball four because he didn’t want to see a perfect game spoiled by a base on balls. Whitey responded with, “Oh. What a bunch of crap. Besides. If anybody throws a perfect game against this lineup, they oughtta slap an asterisk on it.”
The 1974 season saw some drastic changes as the Rangers battled the Oakland A’s for the American League pennant. Billy Martin led the team to a strong finish behind eventual MVP Jeff Burroughs and AL ROY Mike Hargrove.
The Billy Martin tales are quite entertaining from the altercations to the drinking. I get the feeling that there could be another complete book on his time in Arlington.
In the beginning, the Rangers were a second class team and organization, at least that is how it seemed. They played in an old minor league stadium not really up to MLB standards even for the times. But perhaps the best part of where they played are the descriptions and stories of spring training from Pompano Beach, Florida.
Interestingly enough, the players weren’t the only colorful characters in the story. The writers have their fair share as well.
Overall, the story was a pleasure to read. It brought back a lot of old memories from players of the past as well as the stadium for me having grown up watching games there. This book is a must read for any baseball fan as Shropshire does a great job detailing life on the road as he covers the team. However, for those Rangers fans out there it’s a must own. This is one book I easily see myself picking up again in a year or two to hear the funny stories from the past once again.
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Eric Bynum is Managing Editor here at BaseballdeWorld. He spent three years as an ESL teacher in South Korea, and is now working on his master's degree in history with a focus on baseball and WWII. He has played and/or written about baseball for the past 30 years and is an avid Atlanta Braves fan.