Today in Baseball History: George W. Bush ‘buys’ the Texas Rangers

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There’s a reason for the quotes in “buys” in that headline: the future President of the United States hardly put up any money for the team at all. The purchase was overwhelmingly financed by others. George W. Bush’s involvement was, primarily, motivated by his desire to build up his resume for his political career. And, obviously, it worked.

So let’s talk about how it all came together, shall we?

Eddie Chiles was an oilman who started his drilling supply business in 1939 and parlayed that into a massive fortune. He used part of that fortune to purchase the Texas Rangers in 1980. He wasn’t the worst owner around. For one thing, he hated Bowie Kuhn. Indeed, unlike most owners, Chiles criticized Kuhn publicly, often, and helped end Kuhn’s tenure as commissioner by voting against his contract being renewed in the early 80s. Chiles also turned the Rangers around financially. They lost money in the 70s but were profitable under Chiles. They also mostly stunk and had low payrolls, though, so let’s not canonize the guy. There were better baseball owners than Chiles, but there were worse ones too.

By the late 80s, however, oil was a tough business to be in. The price of oil dropped — I remember my dad gassing up the van for 79 cents a gallon in the fall of 1987 — and Chiles’ business took some big hits. In the fall of 1988 he decided to unload his baseball team to help balance his books.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush, the son of Vice President George H.W. Bush who was about to become President George H.W. Bush following the 1988 election, was sort of flailing. He had owned and run a string of mostly unsuccessful oil companies and mounted a failed bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978. His political ambitions still persisted, however, and he had his eye on the Texas Governor’s mansion. He knew, however, that he didn’t have the credentials for it yet. As he told Time Magazine in 1989, “My biggest liability in Texas is the question ‘What’s the boy ever done? He could be riding on Daddy’s name.'”

Bush knew he needed a shiny line on his resume that was more than “he’s the president’s kid.” He decided that resume piece would be “Owner of the Texas Rangers.”

Not that Bush, in practice, was too concerned about using his daddy’s connections to make that happen. Indeed, they were essential to his bid for the team.

The idea to buy as baseball team was in large part that of Karl Rove’s, who Bush first met when Rove was one of his father’s assistants from back in the early 70s. Rove told Bush that getting into baseball “give him . . . exposure and give him something that will be easily recalled by people.” Cincinnati businessman and future St. Louis Cardinals owner William O. DeWitt Jr., who had been Bush’s partner in one of his oil businesses, is who told Bush that Chiles was selling. Chiles, meanwhile, who went way back with George H.W. Bush, was eager to sell to a Bush-led group.

Bush went about finding investors. When Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who did not want the Rangers moved out of the Dallas area, told Bush that he would not approve the deal without more money from local investors, Bush, at the prodding of Ueberroth, brought on Richard E. Rainwater. Rainwater was a billionaire financier and a large contributor to George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign. Rainwater’s condition was that his business parter, Edward “Rusty” Rose, would be installed as Bush’s business partner in the day-to-day running of the team.

In all, the group put up $83 million to take controlling interest from Chiles. George W. Bush put up $500,000 — or 0.6%. — of the purchase price. Bush borrowed the $500,000 from a bank for which he was on the board of directors. It was enough, however, to get Bush named General Managing Partner of the Rangers. The deal closed on April 21, 1989.

Critics have long said that Bush would never have been able to buy the Rangers, let alone take active control of the team, if it wasn’t for who he was and, more importantly, who his father was. To his credit, Bush didn’t deny it, at least to a point. Here he was talking about it in the late 90s, again in Time Magazine:

“Look, I don’t deny it. How could I? Being George Bush’s son has its pluses and negatives. Eddie [Chiles] felt comfortable with me because he felt comfortable with my family. But I was also the person that aggressively sought the deal. I was a pit bull on the pant leg of opportunity. I wouldn’t let go.”

People in Bush’s position often undersell how important the “opportunity” is and how, given the same “opportunity,” a great many people might’ve been able to do the same job. Moreover, most people in and around baseball at the time give far more credit for the deal coming together to Ueberroth, who had insisted on Rainwater’s involvement.

That said, I won’t beat Bush-the-baseball-man up too much here for a couple of reasons.

The first reason: this was Major League Baseball, and if there is a business that rewards nepotism, baseball is it. He was not the first guy to get into baseball’s inner sanctum in large part because of who his daddy and who his friends were, and he certainly won’t be the last. His story is not unique at all in this regard. Ask Bill DeWitt, who hipped him to the deal, and whose father was a baseball owner as well. Ask every “Jr.” who ever held an executive or ownership rank in baseball for that matter.

The second reason: Bush was a pretty hands-on owner who, actually, seemed to like baseball a great deal and seemed to do a pretty good job running the team.

Along with Rose, Bush led the drive to get The Ballpark in Arlington built. Yeah, it was publicly-funded, but again, that is not at all unique. He regularly attended games, often sitting in the stands with fans and signing autographs for anyone who approached him. He was a generally well-liked figure among Rangers fans, in no small part because the team got better in the six seasons in which Bush served as an active owner, finishing above .500 in four of those seasons. More importantly, the team developed or acquired some of the biggest stars in the franchise’s history during that time, and that basic core of players would lead the Rangers into the playoffs in 1996, 1998, and 1999.

Throughout this time, baseball’s headquarters had fallen into turmoil. Commissioner Fay Vincent was taken out by an ownership coup, and Bud Selig was installed as interim commissioner. As labor strife loomed, many around baseball talked about Bush, perhaps, one day, becoming Commissioner himself. Bush, however, never forgot the reason he got into baseball in the first place: to burnish his resume for political office.

Bush declared himself a candidate for Texas governor in September of 1993, a few months before the opening of The Ballpark in Arlington. While his earlier political efforts were felled by his perceived petulance and temper, and the perception that he was a daddy’s boy, his time as a baseball owner had helped him refine his campaign style. While his father’s 1992 reelection campaign was a failure, W’s efforts on his behalf as a Texas campaign surrogate increased his profile, thanks mostly to what he called his “Baseball, Apple Pie and First Family” stump speech, in which he’d reference the Rangers and the lessons he had learned in baseball pretty constantly. He kept that same folksy, baseball-heavy approach in his gubernatorial bid, using it — and a massive national Republican wave — to unseat the popular incumbent Ann Richards in November 1994.

Bush would resign his role as Rangers CEO in December of that year but would retain his ownership stake. In 1998, the Bush group sold the team to Tom Hicks for $250 million, which was one of the largest prices ever paid for a baseball team to date. Due to that price, and to various escalator clauses in Bush’s contract, his initial $500,000 borrowed investment paid him almost $15 million.

A couple of years later he’d run for president. But we’ll leave that for another time.


Also today in baseball history:

1904: Ty Cobb makes his professional debut for Augusta of the South Atlantic League, hitting a double and home run in an 8-7 loss.

1910: League Park opens in Cleveland. The Naps lose to Detroit 5-0. They would call League Park home before moving to Municipal Stadium on a permanent basis in the early 1930s.

1925: No games are played in the National League due to the funeral for Dodger owner Charles Ebbets, who died three days earlier. Edward McKeever, who became president of the Dodgers upon the death of Ebbets, contracts pneumonia at the funeral and will die eight days later:

1961: The Twins, who had been the Washington Senators until this year, play their first home game, losing to the new expansion Washington Senators franchise at Metropolitan Stadium. The new Senators will become the Texas Rangers 11 years later.

1967:  The Dodgers are rained out at home for the first time since moving to Los Angeles. They had played 737 consecutive home games before having one banged for weather.

1972: The Texas Rangers play their first game in Texas, beating California, 7-3.

2012: Phillip Humber of the White Sox pitches baseball’s 21st perfect game, blanking the Mariners 4-0. It’s his first ever major league complete game. Humber will post a 6.44 ERA this season and 7.90 ERA in 2013 and will be out of baseball for good after that.

Olson blasts two HRs, Acuña has 4 hits as Strider, Braves overpower Phillies 11-4

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ATLANTA – Given a seven-run lead in the first inning, Atlanta right-hander Spencer Strider could relax and keep adding to his majors-leading strikeout total.

“That game felt like it was over pretty quick,” Strider said.

Ronald Acuña Jr. drove in three runs with four hits, including a two-run single in Atlanta’s seven-run first inning, and the Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 11-4 on Sunday night to split the four-game series.

“Getting a lead first is big, especially when you get that big of a lead,” Strider said. “… When we’re putting up runs, my job isn’t to be perfect. My job is to get outs.”

Following the game, Braves manager Brian Snitker announced right-hander Michael Soroka will be recalled to make his first start since the 2020 season on Monday night at Oakland.

Matt Olson hit a pair of two-run homers for Atlanta, and Strider became the fastest pitcher in modern history to reach 100 strikeouts in a season.

“It’s incredible,” said Acuña through a translator of Strider. “Every time he goes out to pitch it seems like he’s going to strike everybody out.”

Acuña hit a run-scoring triple in the fifth before Olson’s second homer to center. Acuña had two singles in the first when the Braves sent 11 batters to the plate, collected seven hits and opened a 7-0 lead. Led by Acuña and Olson, who had three hits, the Braves set a season high with 20 hits.

Strider (5-2) struck out nine while pitching six innings of two-run ball. The right-hander fired a called third strike past Nick Castellanos for the first out of the fourth, giving him 100 strikeouts in 61 innings and topping Jacob deGrom‘s 61 2/3 innings in 2021 as the fastest to 100 in the modern era.

“It’s cool,” Strider said, adding “hopefully it’ll keep going.”

Olson followed Acuña’s leadoff single with a 464-foot homer to right-center. Austin Riley added another homer before Ozzie Albies and Acuña had two-run singles in the long first inning.

Phillies shortstop Trea Turner and left fielder Kyle Schwarber each committed an error on a grounder by Orlando Arcia, setting up two unearned runs in the inning.

Strider walked Kody Clemens to open the third. Brandon Marsh followed with a two-run homer for the Phillies’ first hit. Schwarber hit a two-run homer off Collin McHugh in the seventh.


Michael Harris II celebrated the one-year anniversary of his major league debut by robbing Schwarber of a homer with a leaping catch at the center-field wall in the second. As Harris shook his head to say “No!” after coming down with the ball on the warning track, Strider pumped his fist in approval on the mound – after realizing Harris had the ball.

“He put me through an emotional roller coaster for a moment,” Strider said.


Soroka was scratched from his scheduled start at Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday, setting the stage for his final step in his comeback from two torn Achilles tendons.

“To get back is really a feather in that kid’s cap,” Snitker said.

Soroka will be making his first start in the majors since Aug. 3, 2020, against the New York Mets when he suffered a torn right Achilles tendon. Following a setback which required a follow-up surgery, he suffered another tear of the same Achilles tendon midway through the 2021 season.

Soroka suffered another complication in his comeback when a hamstring injury slowed his progress this spring.

Acuña said he was “super happy, super excited for him, super proud of him” and added “I’m just hoping for continued good health.”

Soroka looked like an emerging ace when he finished 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 2019 and placed second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and sixth in the NL Cy Young voting.

The Braves are 0-3 in bullpen committee games as they attempt to overcome losing two key starters, Max Fried (strained left forearm) and Kyle Wright (right shoulder inflammation) to the injured list in early May. Each is expected to miss at least two months.

RHP Dereck Rodriguez, who gave up one hit in two scoreless innings, was optioned to Gwinnett after the game to clear a roster spot for Soroka.


Phillies right-hander Dylan Covey (0-1), claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 20, didn’t make it through the first inning. Covey allowed seven runs, five earned, and six hits, including the homers by Olson and Riley.


Phillies: 3B Alex Bohm was held out with hamstring tightness. … LHP José Alvarado (left elbow inflammation) threw the bullpen session originally scheduled for Saturday. Manager Rob Thomson said there was no report that Alvarado, who was placed on the injured list on May 10, had any difficulty.


Phillies: Following an off day, LHP Ranger Suárez (0-1, 9.82 ERA) is scheduled to face Mets RHP Kodai Senga (4-3, 3.94 ERA) in Tuesday night’s opener of a three-game series in New York.

Braves: Soroka was 1-2 with a 4.33 ERA in eight games with Triple-A Gwinnett. He allowed a combined four hits and two runs over 10 2/3 innings in his last two starts. RHP Paul Blackburn (7-6, 4.28 ERA in 2022) is scheduled to make his 2023 debut for Oakland as he returns from a finger injury.