The baseball franchise now known as the Texas Rangers made its first and only 2002 appearance at Camden Yards last week. The games were meaningless from a competitive standpoint, but the matchup provided a fine time to review the connections between the former Senators and the state of our union.
The Texas battery for Thursday’s game, the last of the three-night stand, was Kenny Rogers and Ivan Rodriguez. They’re the only two Rangers left over from the days when George W. Bush was an owner.
Bush was the biggest name in the group that bought the Rangers a couple of months after his father’s first and only presidential inauguration. The team didn’t do much, performance-wise, in Bush’s six seasons of ownership. The only year the Rangers won anything with him in the fold was the strike-shortened 1994 season, when they took the Central Division title despite posting a losing record (52-62) and the worst winning percentage (.452) of any division winner in major-league history. The political equivalent of baseball owner George W. Bush, therefore, would be President George W. Bush, who took the highest office in the land despite losing the popular vote by about 600,000, the largest margin of defeat of any U.S. president.
But although the squad underperformed on the field, Bush was able to lobby state authorities for $135 million in public money to build the Rangers a new stadium. The Ballpark at Arlington boosted Bush’s profile enough to get him elected governor of the biggest state in the Lower 48. When the team was sold for $250 million—the Bush group had paid just $86 million for it—the governor’s partners, for reasons that only they know, gave him an extra 10 percent of the profits from the sale as a parting gift, boosting his take in the deal from just over $2 million to nearly $15 million.
The cash from baseball kept on coming once he made a play for the presidency. Major League Baseball gave $100,000 to Bush after Election Day 2000 to help stop the vote-counting in Florida. The stop-the-count effort also registered contributions from Robert D. McClane of Temple, Texas. He’s better known as Drayton McClane, owner of the Houston Astros, the team that used to play its home games at Enron Field, named after the company then run by Bush’s close friend Kenny Boy Lay. Fred Malek, who heads up the group hoping to buy D.C. a baseball team to replace the one Texas took, was another stop-the-count contributor. (Redskins owner Dan Snyder threw $100,000 at the Bush inaugural committee.)
Coincidentally or not, Bush’s Rangers cronies have thrived under his presidency. His foreign-service hires are ridiculously stocked with baseball brethren.
Take Robert W. Jordan. Jordan was the Dallas lawyer who represented Bush during the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation of the sale of the Harken stock that paid for his Rangers grubstake. When asked in August why the law wasn’t followed in the sale of the Harken stock, Bush, who has a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard, responded, “I still haven’t figured it out completely.” The SEC probe, which neither exonerated Bush nor uncovered any indictable offenses, was conducted while James R. Doty served as the SEC’s general counsel under George H.W. Bush. Doty, a Texas-based attorney before taking that position, had represented the younger Bush during his purchase of the Rangers. Jordan was recently named ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, and, as Bush notes constantly, is a great ally and friend of the United States.
Cincinnati oilman and resort developer Mercer Reynolds III was one of the leading recruiters of Bush into the group trying to buy the Rangers, knowing that his daddy’s job could help in that effort. Reynolds had previously rescued Bush Oil, one of Bush’s many failed pre-baseball ventures. He is now the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Dallas attorney John Thomas Schieffer also lobbied Bush to join the Rangers group and was a partner in the team. He took over as Rangers general partner when Bush left baseball for politics. Schieffer is now the ambassador to Australia.
Real estate mogul Craig Roberts Stapleton was another brother of Bush’s in the billionaire boys’ club that acquired the Rangers. He is now the ambassador to the Czech Republic.
Bush also named George Argyros, who owned the Mariners while Bush was in baseball, as ambassador to Spain. And Stephen Brauer, a minority owner of
the St. Louis Cardinals, was named ambassador to Belgium.
There was nothing in the Bush et al.’s Rangers’ run to suggest the mettle generally required of high-level diplomats. There was some experience in what could be called foreign trade, however: In 1989 Bush traded Sammy Sosa and Wilson Alvarez to the White Sox for Harold Baines. Baines was sent to Oakland a year later for pitchers Joe Bitker and Scott Chiamparino. Chiamparino went 2-6 in three years with the Rangers. Bitker never won a game with Texas. Both were out of baseball by 1992. Alvarez, meanwhile, threw a no-hitter against the Orioles in his first post-Texas start. Sosa and Baines have combined for 675 home runs since leaving Texas. —Dave McKenna