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07/23/10 11:41 AM ET
Grieve cherishes his long Rangers career
Texas fixture to enter Rangers Hall of Fame on Saturday
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Tom Grieve was never selected as an All-Star and never played in a single playoff game during his eight years in the Major Leagues. During his 10 years as general manager, he made his franchise much better but never got to experience the thrill of having champagne poured over his head and accepting a big trophy from the Commissioner. As a broadcaster, he's never really cracked the big time on the Game of the Week or on a national cable outlet. What he does have is 43 years of great friendships and wonderful memories from time spent working for the same franchise, and that is far more satisfying and rewarding. When you are still close friends with your first roommates, when your 10-year-old sons get to run around Arlington Stadium having the time of their lives as bat boys, and when you get to run a franchise side-by-side with your best friend in the game, well, you don't sit around and worry or regret over what might have been somewhere else. Grieve has been associated with the Rangers going back to when they were the Washington Senators, and he will be inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame before Saturday's game with the Angels. The honor is not for one specific thing, but for a body of work stretching back 43 years in a career that has been marked by his honesty, loyalty, unswerving integrity, profound knowledge and grasp of the game, and dedicated service to the Rangers.
Others may be enshrined in Cooperstown, but Grieve sees this as the highest honor he could possibly receive to celebrate his career. "My whole adult life is invested in this franchise, from the time I was 18 years and signed as a first-round Draft pick," Grieve said. "Except for one year with the Mets and the Cardinals, 43 out of 44 years have been with this franchise. To have the Rangers recognize my body of work as being worthy of the Hall of Fame is obviously very meaningful to me. To be recognized like this is very gratifying. I don't take it for granted for one moment." Grieve will be inducted in ceremonies that will begin at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday. The start of the game will be delayed 30 minutes for the ceremonies, and he will be the 13th player inducted, joining the likes of Nolan Ryan, Jim Sundberg and others. "I'm not saying I deserve it more than anybody, but I don't think anybody appreciates it more than me," Grieve said. "When those other guys were done playing, it was pretty obvious they were deserving of going into the Hall of Fame. That was never a foregone conclusion for me." He had great moments as a player, as an executive and as a broadcaster. But that's not what is most memorable for Grieve. "The things that stand out are the relationships -- the people I've met and the friends I still have," Grieve said. "My first roommates were Jackie Brown and Rich Billings, and we've stayed close friends from the time I was 20 or 21. Toby Harrah and I went to Instructional League together, played winter ball together and went to Spring Training together. Bill Zeigler, our trainer, and I are still good friends. The managers I played for -- Ted Williams, Whitey Herzog, Billy Martin, Frank Lucchesi ... "Obviously the biggest thing was moving my family to Texas and raising my kids in Texas. I don't have one memory of a World Series game or an All-Star Game. But I have great memories, relationships and friendships that are more important to me than that." It all began 44 years ago. The Senators made him the sixth overall pick in the 1966 Draft. His first Major League game was 40 years ago on July 5, 1970, and he came to Texas with the team in 1972. He was productive as a platoon outfielder/DH for them from 1972-77, and his best season was in 1976 when he hit .255 with 20 home runs and 81 RBIs and was the Rangers' Player of the Year. "What stands out to me as a player is I never became as good of a player as I felt I would become or should become, based on my talent," Grieve said. "I was proud to be a big league player but I don't think I reached the level I should have. I can't tell you why, that's just a feeling I had." Grieve was traded to the Mets after the 1977 season and had a brief stay with the Cardinals in 1978. He rejoined the Rangers and played in Triple-A in '79, and almost went to Japan. Instead, he took a front office job in group sales, given to him by owner Brad Corbett. From there, Grieve worked his way into baseball operations and player development and was running the farm system when club president Mike Stone saw something in him. On Sept. 1, 1984, Stone fired general manager Joe Klein and replaced him with Grieve. It was one of the most significant moves in the history of the franchise. The Rangers had flirted with success in the 1970's and almost made the playoffs in the strike-split season of 1981. But by '84, an endlessly bizarre and fruitless run of player transactions -- remember Ron Darling and Walt Terrell for Lee Mazzilli? -- had pretty much run the franchise into the ground. The Rangers were a last-place team at the Major League level and barren in the farm system. Grieve started almost from rock-bottom. These were turbulent years for the Rangers. Owner Eddie Chiles' oil business was in trouble and the franchise was financially unstable. Arlington Stadium was a quaint Minor League facility masquerading as Major League. At one point the team was almost sold and moved to St. Petersburg. But Grieve hired close friend Bobby Valentine to be the manager and Sandy Johnson to oversee scouting and player development. Wayne Krivsky served as Grieve's assistant and Marty Scott was farm director. They did not take the Rangers to the playoffs or go to the World Series. But they lifted the franchise, infused it with some of the best young talent in the game and turned the Rangers into a respectable, contending, competitive ball club. The list of talent is impressive: Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Ruben Sierra, Sammy Sosa, Dean Palmer, Kevin Brown, Jose Guzman, Rafael Palmeiro, Rusty Greer, Robb Nen and many others. The Rangers were named Baseball America's Organization of the Year in 1989. It is possible that when the Rangers went to Spring Training in '89, there was more physical talent in the organization at that time than there ever has been in the franchise's history. "From where we started to where we ended, I think you have to say it was a success," Grieve said. "If you measure success by winning it all, then no, we weren't successful. But if you measure success by the core of young players that went on to be a good, winning team, then it was a success. Sandy and the scouts found the talent and Bobby did a good job managing it." Grieve was dismissed after the 1994 season. Two years later, the Rangers won their first division title with many key players brought into the organization during Grieve's time as GM. At that point, the Rangers were also enjoying the benefits of stable ownership and a brand-new ballpark. Those two assets were missing during much of Grieve's tenure. "We might have had a better chance if we had better financing in those early years, but there wasn't a whole lot we could do about it," Grieve said. "At the same time, we were still building a good young team. There were times there was absolutely no way we could go out and find a way to help the team because there was no money. But I'm not going to use that as an excuse. We had our chances." Club president Tom Schieffer, who had dismissed Grieve after a 10-year run, hired him as a television analyst. The two remain close friends to this day. There were no hard feelings from the dismissal. Grieve accepted his new role with enthusiasm and moved on. He has excelled in it. For Grieve, above all else, it has always been about loyalty, friendship and service to the Rangers. Nobody has done that longer than he has, and the Rangers will honor that on Saturday.
Rangers Hall of Fame
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T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.