Yesterday afternoon the phone rang at the office and the Caller ID window said "Mississippi Ba." It's not that unusual in litigation to get calls from out of state, but I couldn't think of who from Mississippi might be calling. Still, unless I'm away or otherwise tied up, I answer my own phone at work. I picked it up.
"Mr. Newberg, this is Wayne Pinkerton."
Wayne Pinkerton . . . Wayne Pinkerton . . . I know that name . . . expert witness, maybe? . . . what case is he involved in?
"I played baseball for the Texas Rangers a long time ago, and I found an article you wrote in 2006 where you mentioned my name. I was so thrilled to see it that I had to call you. It made my day."
I talked for 20 minutes with the man, now 57 years old and a minister in Mississippi, and told him he'd gotten it backwards. He'd made my day. Pinkerton never got to the big leagues, but he spent five years in AAA with the Rangers, and for some reason his was a name that stuck with me when I was an eight-year-old starting to care about baseball and the Texas Rangers a lot. The time I'd written about him was in an article for MLB.com that introduced my first year of weekly columns on TexasRangers.com, five years ago.
I've been blessed by baseball with a thousand moments I won't forget. For many years, I probably would have traded all of them just to have gotten as far as Wayne got as a player. That didn't happen, but the Great Game keeps delivering, and that phone conversation, taking me back of one of my earliest baseball memories, fits in among the small moments I'll remember for a long time.
Derek Holland and the offense delivered last night, too, and while there were no real spectacular individual efforts in the game (aside from Mitch Moreland's missile halfway up the upper deck), it was a rare victory that Texas was basically able to coast in.
With 16 of these 19 (starting with last night) leading up to the All-Star Break at home - the three road games in that stretch coming in Houston - this feels like a run over which the Rangers have a real chance to get well on the field and in the AL West. You can look at these last couple weeks as a disappointing failure to pull away from what's been a bad division, or you can look at this first half as one in which so many things have gone wrong and yet Texas has held onto first place for most of it. Either way, the pitching staff is about to get healthier, more teams around the league are going to join the ranks of "sellers" pretty soon,* and the way the schedule lays out right now for the Rangers, they have a real chance to start making things a lot tougher on the rest of the division.
(* Although, on the trade front, it's worth noting that once Texas acquired Cliff Lee last summer, the team was only four games over .500 the rest of the way in the regular season. The Rangers did most of their 2010 damage before the roster upgrades, which had a much greater impact in October than during the first 162.)
Texas has now won a modest three of four, with C.J. Wilson the mound tonight to keep things rolling. At age 30, Wilson is the most experienced of the club's starters, but he wasn't born until months after Wayne Pinkerton's final professional game (with AAA Charleston in the Rangers system), a fact that makes me feel annoyingly old, given that Pinkerton was a role player in the early stages of my baseball timeline - and now the latest stages of it, as well.