Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Intradivision Major League Baseball in Texas

By Keith Antigiovanni

Two years ago baseball commissioner Bud Selig eliminated any chance of an all-Texas World Series when the he coerced the Astros into the American League. Sorry to my fellow Texans but there wont be a Lone Star version of the "Subway Series" or the "Freeway Series" or even the "Battle of I-70".

Because for the first time in major league baseball's long and storied history two clubs from the state of Texas will face each other as division rivals in the American League West when the Texas Rangers faces its neighbors to the southeast, the Houston Astros in Houston on Easter night to beging first a three game series.

On paper this looks like a mismatch as the Rangers come off a third straight postseason appearance and fourth straight winning season including two straight World Series in 2010-2011 while the Astros are currently in the franchises worst stretches since the expansion years of the 1960's and early 1970's even though Houston has also been to a World Series this past decade.

Although the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston will be division rivals for the first time this year the history of professional baseball in Texas tells us otherwise. For the record, before MLB expanded to a national game, the cities of Dallas,Fort Worth and Houston housed "minor league" clubs from the dawn of the 20th Century up until the early 1960's.

Dallas,Fort Worth, Houston, all members of the AA Texas League dominated on the field and established fierce rivalries with each other. Dallas and Fort Worth were both charters members of the second Texas League which began in 1902 while Houston was a charter member of the South Texas League. In 1907, the two leagues came together like peanut butter and chocolate to form, what else? The Texas League.

Dallas and Houston established itself early on as dominant clubs until 1919 when Fort Worth aka "Atz Cats" after their manager Jake Atz won 7 straight regular season pennants through 1925 and won five of six Dixie Series against the champion from the Southern Association.

Houston would become a powerhouse in the Post War years winning four pennants, five playoff titles and three Dixie Series until its move up to AAA in 1959 when it joined the American Association along with Dallas and Fort Worth.

The three clubs move to the American Association was in response to being named charter franchises in the proposed third major league, the Continental League, however it new league never got off the ground but Houston was awarded an expansion franchise in the National League (1962) along while Dallas and Fort Worth had to wait 10 more years until it the former expansion Washington Senators moved to North Texas after the 1971 season.

From 1972 through 2001 the two clubs rarely met and only co-existed in the nation's second biggest state until interleague play arrived in the late 1990's but didnt meet until 2001. Since then the Rangers lead the "Lone Star Series" 43-30.

Football is still king in Texas with the Cowboys neverending popularity and the Texans rise to relevance but these teams only meet every four years and now with Texas A&M in the SEC the state's greatest football rivalry is gone. Hopefully America's Pastime can fill the void as the Rangers seek to continue as one of baseball's elite while the Astros try to adjust to the AL.