Vandergriff’s 50-Year Vision Comes True.

This morning, at the conclusion of a truly entertaining ALCS between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros, I am thinking of the visionary leadership of Tom Vandergriff.

Vandergriff was a visionary not only because of his work to get the Texas Rangers to DFW, but because of his even greater vision for the entire State of Texas: A TRUE BASEBALL RIVALRY.

Whatever else you saw happen these past few days, this is the important “take away.”

And whether your team won or lost, it was an incredible ALCS. FINALLY…at long last….so begins a true rivalry that befits our state.
Congrats HOUSTON ASTROS (we go back to referring to them by their actual name now…) on a great season.

I hope you trust that I would have gladly cheered for you in the World Series. I apologize for any hurt feelings that might have come from my trash talk (See: yesterday’s post…) I would cheer for you in any World Series…unless you ever play the Reds.

And given my trash talk this week, it feels important to say those last few sentences clearly.

Sure the winning and losing is important. But perhaps AS important are these baseball rivalries that give the game a depth for seven months, every year…for more than 100 years.
Yankees/Red Sox

Am I comparing us to those storied franchises?
No I am not. I’m not an idiot. But I am saying: we, Astros and Rangers, can totally become that, perhaps in our grandchildren’s generation.

But before praising Tom Vandergriff for his vision, let us consider the sad truth of just WHY it took us so damn long to get here. Kevin Sherrington wrote this up in the DMN very recently…but it’s behind their paywall and sadly that mean many non-DFW folks still don’t know this story.

Whether you like it or not this story gets us back to the story of Judge Roy Hofheinz, and how he *blocked* DFW from getting a major league franchise for more than a decade. All through the 1960s, boosters in Houston –chief among them, Judge Hofheinz– led this successful campaign.

So well known was Judge Hofheinz power and monopolitics control, that this Houston Chronicle editorial fairly well brags about his inpenetrable power:

“The last time anybody looked, he(Hofheinz) considered all of Texas, part of Oklahoma and most of Louisiana his personal fief. If fans in that vast area want baseball, either live on television, it’s going to be Houston Astro baseball.”

Check out thise political cartoon from that time. These weren’t secrets. These were things openly talked about in the Dallas and Houston newspapers. So open that they made numerous (more than these) political cartoons about it.

Now, here’s a column from the actual Houston Chronicle in that day. See how the condescesion drips from every word of this columnist?
This is the same newspaper whose columnists IN OUR DAY recently called our team “The Arlington Rangers.”
You want my respect, Houston? You want me to stop dismissively calling ya’ll “The Hofheinz Astros?”

You go first…

Even when we got a franchise, Houston and the Rangers still remained in different leagues until quite recently. Only in just the past few years have both teams finally seen the wisdom of this rivalry.

But now…decades after the fact…here we finally are.
Texans: We have ourselves an honest-to-god baseball rivalry.
And we should all love it and hope for more of what we got this week.

Which gets me to Tom Vandergriff.
Here’s the op-ed response from Tom Vandergriff a few days later to that Chronicle columnist. Read it carefully. THIS was the vision we needed in our state, friends. It’s what we still need.

However you feel about this just concluded series, I would urge every Texan to carefully consider Vandergriff’s prescient, now fifty-year-old ideas. (This ran in an Arlington paper…back in the day, this was like a Twitter war…oppositive views, in different papers…)

Tom Vandergriff understood just how powerful —emotionally and economically— a true rivalry between Houston and DFW could be.

Vandergriff concludes his op-ed with this:
“…we (DFW) can also make a great contribution to the League and, in the process, the two teams would prove to be the greatest box office asset for each other.”

As this season has shown, he was 100% correct about this. Almost every game between the two clubs have been sellout. Its only taken the rest of us 50 years to catch up to his brilliance.

Now, some might say fans in the State of Texas still favor Houston.

OK. Sure. Even though the rest of the entire nation cheered for our Rangers, apparently the majority of Texans still favored the Astros.

Knowing the backstory told in these pictures and newspapers columns helps you understand the dynamic in the state:
1. For many of these early years, the Houston metro area was a larger media market.
2. Judge Hofheinz really did block the DFW area from getting that franchise, giving Houston a decade advantage.
3. The Astros’ therefore had decade-long unfair and monopolistic statewide radio network that self obviously created a generation of Astros fans by default…many of whom have never realized they always should have had a choice.
(Again: see the history in these columns for the factual basis of this statement)

Vandergriff by comparison, shows us a classic example of what ethicists call enlightened self interest.”

Was he mostly interested in a franchise for DFW?
Of course he was!

But he understood the power of the potential rivalry, and he never feared it.

That’s vision.
That’s “enlightened self interest.”

So, as for me…do I hope the Astros stay a strong team for decades?
Of course, I do! I want, and expect, that they’ll beat our asses again soon.
And I expect we’ll do the same for them. And I hope to God both teams stay healthy and strong…forever.

Because Tom Vandergriff is my “leader.”

But, also…do I expect that eventually there will be more Rangers fans in our state than Astros fans?

Given that we are now the 5th media market, and Houston is now the 6th…yes I do. (But, we shall see…) Over the next decade, I anticipate a fascinating reshuffling of future state baseball fans, those who are children now, and those yet to be born. But honestly, if both teams stay healthy and strong, it won’t matter…we might even end up a 50/50 state…and that would be great too.

Buckle up, friends.
I hope we Texans are in for a long and fun ride of trash talk and amazing Fall baseball games.

At long last, we all deserve this.

(BTW: I wrote 95% of this before yesterday’s game…all but the parts that indicate that the Ranger won. This was going to be my post today, win or lose….EF)

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