08/02/2003 10:01 PM ET
Four elected into Rangers' HOF
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
56k | 300k
ARLINGTON --- Their nicknames alone -- The Express, Sunny, Charlie, and Johnny -- have long been the stuff of Lone Star legends and Texas baseball lore.
That's not going to change.
On Saturday, in a touching ceremony before the game, the names of Nolan Ryan, Jim Sundberg, Charles Hough and John Oates were officially cemented in Rangers' history -- and in bronze -- as they were inducted as the first class in the Texas Rangers Baseball Hall of Fame at The Ballpark in Arlington.
"If you think about it, we have a guy that played in the early 1970s and 1980s with Sundberg, we got Charlie who was here in the 1980s, Nolan Ryan who was here in 1989 to 1993, and Johnny Oates, who came in 1995 and took us into the 21st century," Rangers club president Michael Cramer said. "We covered almost every single year of Rangers' history and just by chance, which is cool."
The Hall of Fame was created to honor players, managers, coaches, executives and broadcasters for outstanding performance and service with the organization. The players were selected by fan voting. More than 75,000 votes were cast overall, with Ryan topping the voting.
A committee of local media members selected the names of the players for the fan ballot. Fans were asked to vote for up to three players for election. The other players on the fan ballot were (alphabetically): Buddy Bell, Jeff Burroughs, Will Clark, Mike Hargrove, Toby Harrah, Ferguson Jenkins, Al Oliver, Larry Parrish, Gaylord Perry, and John Wetteland. To be eligible for election to the Texas Rangers Baseball Hall of Fame, an individual must be retired as an active Major League player for a minimum of two seasons.
"I appreciate the Rangers for allowing me to finish my career here," Ryan said. "These were five of the best years of my career. I came here with the intent to play one year and we, as a family, liked it so much, we stayed for five. I appreciate the Rangers for giving me that opportunity."
Ryan ranks third on the Rangers' all-time list with 939 strikeouts, has the fourth lowest ERA with 3.43 and fourth highest winning percentage at .567. He pitched the final two of his seven no-hitters while with the Rangers and also recorded his 5,000th strikeout.
Sundberg was a Gold Glove winner from 1976-1981. He was selected Rangers Player of the Year in 1977.
"My family and I appreciate your support," Sundberg said. "I was not born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could."
The ceremony began with an introduction of former Rangers' players and a motorcade of four classic cars carrying the Rangers' legends entered from a gate in left field. Rangers radio announcer Eric Nadel served as the master of ceremonies and each of the men were given a bronze Texas Rangers Hall of Fame plaque. A larger version of the plaque hangs in the third base concourse.
"I was somewhat surprised by the larger number of former players and coaches that were here. That's really neat," said Hough, the club's all-time leader in both innings and wins. "It was pretty emotional. I'm the one who is going to fall apart, but it was emotional."
Oates, who was the Rangers manager from 1995-2001 while guiding Texas to three AL West Division titles in a four-year span, was the final member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame to be introduced. He walked with a cane to the podium and thanked former Rangers general manager Doug Melvin, Rangers owner Tom Hicks and Rangers VP of communications John Blake for all of their help. He specifically thanked the fans.
"Thank you, thank you," said Oates, who is currently battling a brain tumor. "It's a great honor to be here especially with this group of inductees. One big difference between them and myself is that they are here for what they did and I'm here because of what others did for me.
"For a fringe player to ride in here and get the reception I was given is quite an honor. We love you, we thank you and may God bless each and every one of you."
After the ceremony, the foursome were given their final standing ovation as the motorcade circled the warning track around the field. Every Rangers player either hugged or shook Oates' hand as he passed the dugout.
The former Rangers manager said he was overwhelmed by the event and joked that the walk from the classic car to the designated area on the field for the ceremony was a bit deceiving -- Hicks was helping Oates on his left side because he has the most trouble with his left leg and left arm.
"It looked terrible going up to the podium, but his foot was in the way," Oates said then laughed. "It was. He was right there under my foot with every step."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for
MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its