Going back to the future with a trip to Arlington

It was Aug. 18, 1972 — yes, I still remember the date — and I was making the long walk with my brother and father through the parking lot at Arlington Stadium. We were going to watch the Texas Rangers take on the New York Yankees.

Worlds collided for my brother, who was a Boston Red Sox fan, and myself, a Yankees lover, in the Summer of ’72. The Red Sox and Yankees played the Rangers on back-to-back nights. Since they were American League teams, until then, we had no shot at seeing either team in person, but because the Rangers had moved from Washington that year, watching our favorite teams was now a short drive away.

If you ever went to a game at Arlington Stadium, you’ll remember they had that giant outline of the state of Texas on the left field scoreboard. Inside the panhandle, they would post the numbers of the starters. As we got closer to the stadium, the Yankee starting lineup came into view (of course I knew all the player numbers).

#1 (Bobby Murcer, my boy) was hitting third … #6 (Roy White) was hitting cleanup … and #23 was the starting catcher? Whaaaat? You mean we came all this way and Thurman Munson (#15) wasn’t catching?

Then the day got worse, when I leaned over the top of the dugout – kids, don’t try doing that these days – and caught Murcer smoking a cigarette in the tunnel from the clubhouse.

The Yankees were crushed that night 11-2 (it was 11-0 after the fourth) but not as crushed as I was.

Five days ago, I once again went to Arlington to watch my favorite team play. Only this time, it’s the Atlanta Braves (if you are wondering why I switched allegiances, it starts with “Stein” and ends with “Brenner.”) Only this time, I didn’t have to make a long walk across the parking lot. In fact, I hardly had to walk at all. Second row, spot #48.

The only thing I had to worry about leaning over was the railing, because I was fortunate enough to experience the Club Suite life. Chicken wings and hot dogs as far as the eye could see. Brownies. With ice cream.

You can feel sorry for me later, but as I sat in the second row of the suite box seats, it was both awesome and nostalgic at the same time as I watched the Rangers take on the Braves. For one, the Rangers busted out the powder blues unis, so that’s about a 40-year rewind right there.

Keep in mind, I’m not a guy who needs to be entertained every second at a ball game. And the Rangers do a really good job of avoiding sensory overload. Maybe they could tone down the “GET LOUD!!” graphics whenever there’s two strikes on the opposing batter, but the game experience is very much in keeping with the natural pace of baseball.

We live in an information world and the giant scoreboard in right field has all you need to know. But you don’t feel obligated to watch it the whole time (like you do next door at AT&T Stadium for football). Sadly, however, there is no giant State of Texas in which to post lineup numbers.

I couldn’t help but think about games at the old stadium that I had watched and how time had left those days behind. Some of those were in combination with a trip to Six Flags, which is still very much in operation across the parking lot.

Yep, it’s different, all right. But this isn’t 1972 or 1982 or 1992 anymore, so it should be different.

I was one of 16,200 people at that 1972 game that lasted 2:38. Sunday at the new Globe Life Field, there was a record-breaking crowd that included me, one former U.S. President (George W.) and 38,314 other people. Lasted 3:00.

I also couldn’t help but notice that this game, just like in 1972, was over by the fourth inning when the Rangers led 6-2. I didn’t catch Ronald Acuna smoking in the dugout, but I did see him strike out three times.

So maybe it’s not all that different.

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