STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A perfect game, Major League Baseball’s first regular-season interleague game and consecutive World Series for the Texas Rangers.
Those are some of the highlights over the past two decades at the Texas ballpark that has also been home to four AL MVPs, used to have a Hall of Fame pitcher sitting in the front row and been the site of the franchise’s best seasons.
The 20th anniversary of the first regular-season game played there is Friday, when the Rangers host Houston in the opener of a 10-game homestand.
When Texas played its 1994 home opener against Milwaukee, the Brewers were still in the American League and there weren’t even teams yet in Arizona or Tampa Bay. George W. Bush was part of the Rangers’ ownership group before his two terms as Texas governor and then two terms as president of the United States.
Here are some things that stand out over 1,619 regular-season and postseason home games in the stadium that opened as The Ballpark in Arlington, after 22 seasons across the parking lot at old Arlington Stadium:
RANGERS WIN PENNANT: Under Friday night lights at home on Oct. 22, 2010, Texas clinched its first AL championship. Neftali Feliz got former Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez on a called third strike to end Game 6 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees, the team that had ended the Rangers’ only three previous playoff appearances.
Texas lost the World Series in five games against San Francisco. The Rangers made it two AL titles in a row in 2011 when they beat Detroit in six games, also clinching at home, before losing the World Series in seven games to St. Louis.
HOME OF MVPs: Juan Gonzalez was a two-time AL MVP (1996 and 1998), before catcher Ivan Rodriguez (1999), Alex Rodriguez (2003) and Josh Hamilton (2010) won the award while playing in Texas.
A-Rod’s MVP season capped a three-year stint with the Rangers when he had 156 homers and 395 RBIs before the rest of his $252 million, 10-year contract was dealt to the New York Yankees. When A-Rod got to Texas as a free agent in December 2000, his deal was worth about $2 million more than what Tom Hicks had paid to buy the team just less than three years before that.
PERFECTION: On July 28, 1994, 3½ months after losing the home opener, lefthanded pitcher Kenny Rogers threw the Rangers’ only perfect game, and their last no-hitter. Rookie center fielder Rusty Greer made a spectacular diving catch in the ninth before catching a routine flyball to end the perfect game against the Anaheim Angels.
RYAN’S ROLE: Nolan Ryan’s final season as a pitcher was in old Arlington Stadium, but he remained a big presence after that. He sat in the front row near the Rangers dugout from 2008-13, when he was CEO, president and part-owner for the team’s only two World Series teams.
There is a life-size bronze statue of Ryan in the center field plaza recognizing the last five of his record 27 MLB seasons, when with the Rangers he recorded his 5,000th strikeout and last two of his record seven no-hitters of his career. He is the only Texas player whose number has been retired, and went into the Hall of Fame as a Ranger.
TRAGIC NIGHT: Shannon Stone was attending a game with his 6-year-old son on July 7, 2011, when the Brownwood, Texas, firefighter reached out for a foul ball tossed into the stands by Hamilton, his son’s favorite player. Stone fell headfirst about 20 feet onto concrete behind the outfield wall and was pronounced dead within an hour.
By the following season, new higher railings had been installed throughout the ballpark. The team also dedicated a statue at the home plate gate that depicts Stone and his son, Cooper, and is inscribed “In memory of Shannon Stone and dedicated to all fans who love the game.”
THE OTHER LEAGUE: Other than the World Series or exhibitions, there had never been an MLB interleague game until Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants visited Texas on June 12, 1997. Darren Oliver was the starting pitcher for the Rangers in their 4-3 loss.
SHINING STAR: The 1995 MLB All-Star game was played in Arlington.
WINNING MANAGERS: Johnny Oates was the manager that led Texas to its first three AL West titles from 1996-99. His No. 26 jersey was retired by the team months after he died from a brain tumor on Christmas Eve 2004. Ron Washington, the manager for both World Series teams and now in his eighth season, is the franchise’s winningest skipper with 615 wins.