12/25/12 12:14 PM ET
Former Rangers owner Corbett dies at 75
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
"Mr. Corbett was the Principal Owner of the Texas Rangers from May 29, 1974, to April 29, 1980. His tenure as owner was marked by a passion and drive to bring a winning team to the fans of North Texas. During his ownership, the Rangers produced their first four winning seasons and finished second three times. Texas' 94 victories in 1977 remained the most in team history until 1999.
"The spirit in which Mr. Corbett served as Owner of the Rangers will be remembered always. The organization extends its deepest sympathies to his family and friends on his passing."
Corbett, who turned a $300,000 loan from the Small Business Administration into a multi-million dollar company that sold plastic pipe for industrial use, bought the Rangers from Bob Short in their third season after being relocated from Washington D.C. He ended up selling the club to Fort Worth oil man Eddie Chiles in 1980.Corbett was directly involved in the Rangers' baseball operations, often making unilateral decisions as far as managerial changes or player transactions. The Rangers had six managers during Corbett's time as owner, including four during the 1977 season. During Corbett's tenure, the Rangers had three pitchers -- Ferguson Jenkins, Gaylord Perry and Bert Blyleven -- who would all end up elected to the Hall of Fame. But all three were traded by the Rangers while Corbett was owner. So were longtime fan favorites Mike Hargrove, Jeff Burroughs and Toby Harrah. Corbett's investment group bought the team from Short on April 2, 1974, for $9.5 million. The group included Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher Amon Carter Jr., Dallas-based developer Raymond Nasher and Dr. Bobby Brown, the former Yankees third baseman who would go on to be American League president. Corbett also inherited Billy Martin as manager, and the Rangers went from 57-105 in 1973 to 84-76 in '74, finishing second behind the World Series champion Athletics in the AL West. But the Rangers stumbled the following season and Martin was dismissed. He was replaced by Frank Lucchesi. The Rangers struggled through losing seasons in 1975 and '76 before winning a club-record 94 games in '77. They still finished in second place behind the Royals. Lucchesi started the season as manager but was fired on June 21 after a 31-31 start. He was replaced by Eddie Stanky, the former Cardinals and White Sox manager who had been coaching at the University of South Alabama. But Stanky managed just one game before quitting, saying he was homesick. After Connie Ryan served as interim manager and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew was interviewed, the Rangers hired Billy Hunter. He led them to a dramatic turnaround in the second half before they finished second behind the Royals.
Corbett, with free agency just starting to take off, spent lavishly in the offseason, signing outfielder Richie Zisk, infielder Bert Campaneris and pitcher George "Doc" Medich. But the Rangers still couldn't beat out the Royals, and Hunter was fired at the end of the season.By the start of the 1980 season, the Rangers were struggling financially and Corbett's other business ventures weren't doing well either. At that point he sold the franchise to Chiles.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.