08/01/2003 8:40 PM ET
Oates makes a return to Texas
Oates back in Texas
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By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Johnny Oates came home to Texas.
He says if it were not for his children and grandchildren back home in Virginia, the state would be his permanent home.
"I was asked a few days ago about the impact that I've had on this area and I said 'No, no, no'," Oates said. "These people in this community have had a big impact on me."
The former Rangers manager will be honored along with Nolan Ryan, Jim Sundberg, and Charlie Hough as the first class enshrined into the Texas Rangers Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. The former Texas stars will be inducted during an on-field ceremony prior to the Rangers game vs. the Indians on Saturday. Bronze plaques honoring the inductees will be on permanent display on the main concourse of The Ballpark in Arlington.
"I can't believe it," Oates said. "I'm so honored to go in with Nolan, Sunny and Charlie. I just feel so honored and so blessed.
Oates, who was the Rangers manager from 1995-2001 while guiding Texas to three AL West Division titles in a four-year span, is currently battling a brain tumor. He first noticed something was wrong in October 2001 when he had trouble finishing a radio interview. Tests soon after revealed he had an aggressive tumor called glioblastoma multiforme. Patients diagnosed with that condition usually have a life expectancy of one year.
"I just want people to know that it's very encouraging, the cards that I receive," he said. "Hardly a day goes by that there is not a card there well-wishing me and my family."
During the Rangers monthly luncheon attended by the Texas Rangers Hall of Famers on Friday, Oates was sharp and witty. He joked with radio announcer Eric Nadel on numerous occasions, including a humorous moment that followed Nadel's query about the 1996 American League Division Championship.
"Eric, I have trouble remembering what medicine I took this morning," Oates quipped. "A couple of days ago Gloria came to me and said, 'What are you doing here?' I was supposed to be somewhere Friday and it was only Thursday. I have a tough time remembering, but I do remember standing in the middle of that clubhouse and Pudge pouring that cold water on me. I enjoyed it, but the worst part is that I didn't enjoy it enough."
Oates, despite his terminal condition, is enjoying life and said if he didn't know better, he wouldn't think he was sick. He is candid about his emotional demeanor and says he likes to call his friends several times just to see how they are doing. He was also very grateful to be selected in the first class.
"Anytime you receive an honor like this, you have to give credit to guys with last names like (Mickey) Tettleton, (Will) Clark, and (Rusty) Greer," he said. "How do you thank somebody like Doug Melvin for giving me an opportunity? I was a rookie manager with a new team and he gave me the opportunity to manage how I chose.
"How do you thank a John Wetteland? I remember an experience with him when the team was struggling and we're struggling and he's willing to come in to my office in Boston and sit there and talk about the real things that are important in life.
"How do you thank my wife and my family? There just aren't words to express my feelings, but we want to thank this whole community for the way they've supported us and encouraged us."
The Rangers also officially named the manager's office after Oates with a blue plaque that read:
"This office Dedicated To Johnny OatesRangers Manager, 1995-2001
"For guiding the Rangers to their first post-season appearance and for setting a standard of excellence for all to follow.
Dedicated Aug. 1, 2003."
Several of his former players met with Oates before the game in a private ceremony. The former skipper sat in the middle of the clubhouse with a smile on his face greeting and shaking hands with close friends and strangers alike.
"Obviously, it's hard to see anyone in the state Johnny is in," Greer said. "It's really hard when it's somebody you have spent seven or eight years with. Talking with him, he's doing better than he has been portrayed. For that fact, I am happy. But to see him is very difficult."
Oates has a message for all of his friends, family and fans. It's a message of love that he is not shy about sharing.
"Just know that we have an awesome God and that he's in control," he said. "To be part of an honor like this is part of the joy that he allows us to have here on Earth. All these trophies and all these awards, for which I am very thankful for, won't help you one bit getting into heaven.
"There is no guarantee and please don't be fooled into thinking otherwise. I thought I was going to play Major League Baseball forever. I thought I was going to live forever and we know now that nobody is. So we just pray that we're ready when that day comes."
Rangers manager Buck Showalter played for Oates in the minor leagues. He knows first-hand the type of example Oates set as a man of integrity.
"I've been real careful through the years to say that I've been exposed to a lot of good baseball people, but he is the best. I can tell you right now that no one has impacted my life and my professional career more than John Oates," Showalter said. "He was and is the most ethical, moral man I ever was around. He was the best manager I ever played for. I'm looking forward to making sure he hears those things out of my mouth. He's a special man, I learned a lot from him."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.