Thursday, May 30

With Rangers Win, an Overlooked Texas City Grabs the Spotlight

During baseball season, the public buses in Houston flash a message as they rumble through the city: “Go Astros!!”

A similar sort of communal baseball spirit has not typically surrounded the Texas Rangers, a team whose claim to the hearts of all Texans had, until their World Series victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, been stymied by having never won a championship in their 51 years since relocating to the North Texas city of Arlington.

Wedged between Dallas and Fort Worth, the city forms an almost seamless part of a sprawling urban agglomeration, a fast-growing and sports-crazed area of a fast-growing and sports-crazed state, where winners are prized and football — in particular, the Dallas Cowboys — has been dominant.

But as the Rangers kept winning and winning, fans emerged. Excitement in October became palpable across the connected cities.

By Halloween night, people in the Dallas suburbs were holding viewing parties in driveways, plugging in outdoor televisions or projecting a pivotal Game 4 onto garage doors. Children carrying buckets full of candy passed each other on the sidewalk with brief updates: “The Rangers are up!”

When the team’s second baseman, Marcus Semien, hit a three-run home run in the third inning to give the Rangers a 10-0 lead, cheers echoed across neighborhoods.

The feeling had been a long time coming.

Tim Cowlishaw recalled going to the first game held in Arlington in 1972 when he was 17. The Washington Senators had been lured to the city and named after the Texas Rangers, an elite law enforcement division of the state police with a complicated history of heroism and cruelty.

“It was a very, very minor league park, and they just threw in some bleachers,” said Mr. Cowlishaw, a veteran sports columnist for the Dallas Morning News. “We were thrilled just to see the other teams that came and visited.”

The Astros, by contrast, already had the Astrodome, a colossal indoor stadium with the league’s first turf field.

The Rangers were cherished by Arlington residents and civic leaders, who built them newer stadiums over the years. But they frustrated fans across the Dallas area, who watched as other sports franchises came in and won it all: the Stars (Stanley Cup champions in 1999), the Mavericks (N.B.A. champions in 2011).

“The Rangers are for everyone,” said Jim Ross, the mayor of Arlington, in an interview before Game 5 on Wednesday. “We’ve struggled. But it’s our baby.”

For years, the Rangers were overlooked, even in Texas, much like the city where they’re from, lost amid much larger neighbors. “Arlington is a population of 400,000 people,” Mayor Ross said. “That’s bigger than Pittsburgh, and Cleveland and St. Louis.”

Now, like those cities, Arlington will finally get to host a World Series victory parade for the first time on Friday.

Tommy Bird, 54, who works at an O’Reilly Auto Parts, watched the final game of the Series on Wednesday night at Bobby V’s Sports Gallery Cafe, an Arlington restaurant founded by the former Rangers Manager Bobby Valentine. It was the same place Mr. Bird came the last time his team made it to the World Series in 2011 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other fans, he recalled the feeling of anticipation that year — with victory just an out a way — followed by crushing disappointment after a missed fly ball opened the door to their ultimate defeat in seven games.

“All we had to do was catch that ball,” Mr. Bird said. “This place went to a complete dead silence. It was eerie. Everybody was shocked.”

In the years since, the Houston Astros have loomed large, winning two World Series titles and becoming a regular postseason presence. Their success, and the failures of the Rangers, have been a point of pride for some Houstonians, who often see themselves in a competition with Dallas.

“It’s really a one-way rivalry,” said Bud Kennedy, a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, describing the competition between the state’s largest urban areas. “Houston fantasizes about Dallas all the time. Dallas doesn’t even think about Houston. You talk about Houston to people here and they say, ‘oh yeah, Houston.’”

The Rangers’ road to a World Series championship ran right through Houston and the defending champion Astros. In a bitterly fought series last month, the Rangers won in seven games.

Even after that, some buses in Houston were still rooting for the Astros, as were most baseball fans in the city. Most Halloween trick-or-treating in Houston did not feature World Series watch parties or game updates. While North Texas newspapers offered commemorative Rangers editions on Thursday, the Houston Chronicle barely noted the news on its front page.

On Wednesday night at Bobby V’s, Angela Rivera watched the first few innings quietly in a booth. Ms. Rivera, 60, said she had been a Rangers fan since moving to Arlington a year before the team got there, and went to the original stadium with her father as a child.

She sat with a white spirit towel from the 2011 World Series neatly folded in front of her. Occasionally, she’d whisper, “Come on, boys.”

Fans have been gathering at Bobby V’s since the 1980s, when Mr. Valentine opened the restaurant. Back then, he could be found walking around and chatting with customers, recalled Mr. Bird, who said he had been coming to the restaurant since its early days. Memorabilia from the Rangers and other Dallas-area teams lines the walls, including the Cowboys, who moved from the nearby city of Irving to Arlington in 2009.

That year, the city of Arlington, home of the original Six Flags Over Texas amusement park, tried a kind of rebranding, adopting the slogan: “And the Crowd Goes Wild.” It did not last.

Still, Arlington kept the faith in its baseball team, funding a new retractable dome stadium — the team’s third in the city — to keep the Rangers.

“These are the people who have put their money and their passion forth to support Rangers baseball,” said Mr. Kennedy. “They feel like Dallas is at the back of the bandwagon being pulled along.”

As Wednesday’s game was grinding along without a run, Chad Bowlin pulled out his phone at Bobby V’s to show friends how expensive tickets were for a possible Game 6 to be played in Arlington on Friday, in the event of a Rangers loss.

He scrolled the listings, chatting as he did so. Then he looked down and saw an unexpected and unwelcome message: “Order placed.” When he called to try to cancel the tickets purchase, he was told all sales were final.

“I paid $960,” he said, dumbfounded.

Soon the Rangers scored the first run, and the restaurant livened up. When the Rangers went ahead 5-0 in the ninth inning, everyone stood. Ms. Rivera waved her spirit towel and started Rangers chants.

And as the Rangers secured the win with a strikeout, the crowd erupted. A man wiped tears from his eyes. Mr. Bird embraced his son.

Mr. Bowlin raised his hands in the air, joyful for two reasons: After 40 years of being a fan, his team finally won a World Series for his hometown. And the tickets he bought were now void. He was ensured a refund.

“I’m not going to the World Series!” he yelled.