On this date in Texas Rangers history, Jose Canseco joined the Texas Rangers.
On August 31, 1992, the Rangers sent a bushel of talent to the Oakland Athletics for the one-time American League Most Valuable Player. The Rangers sent outfielder Ruben Sierra, pitchers Jeff Russell and Bobby Witt, and cash for Canseco.
From 1986-92, Canseco led all Major League players with 230 home runs, while he was third in that span with 721 RBI. Canseco was the unanimous American League Most Valuable Player in 1988, helped the A’s to the 1989 World Series championship and became the first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in 1988.
Canseco was in the on-deck circle when the trade went down, and the Athletics had to pull him off the field.
While Canseco came to Texas with much fanfare, he also came with quite a bit of baggage, and it only got heavier during his short stint with Texas.
On May 26, 1993, Canseco made it onto every baseball blooper reel from that day forward after a Carlos Martinez fly ball hit Canseco on the head and hopped over the fence for a home run. As a joke, a minor league soccer team offered him a contract.
Three days later in Boston, it got worse. Canseco talked his manager, Kevin Kennedy, into letting him pitch in a blowout loss to the Red Sox. Canseco got to be a Major League pitcher, complete with the torn ligament and the Tommy John surgery that ruled him out for the rest of 1993.
Canseco bounced back in 1994, hitting 31 home runs and driving in 90 runs in 111 games, earning American League Comeback Player of the Year honors.
A free agent after the season, Canseco signed with Boston.
The odd part of the trade? At various points after the trade, Russell, Sierra and Witt all migrated back to the Rangers.
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But Canseco wasn’t the first position player to pitch for the Rangers. That was Jeff Kunkel, and oddly enough that happened on this day in 1988. Kunkel threw one inning in the Rangers’ 10-1 loss to Minnesota. Kunkel fared much better than Canseco, pitching one inning of scoreless relief while striking out one.
Kunkel was also the second Rangers position player to pitch in a game, which came on May 20, 1989. That game was also a loss to Minnesota, 19-3. Kunkel went 1 2/3 innings in that game, giving up four runs and four hits.
Kunkel, an infielder by trade, played nearly his entire eight-year career with the Rangers, mostly as a utility player. His best season was in 1989, when he hit .270.
Also on this date …
August 31, 1974: Ferguson Jenkins won his 20th game of the season, throwing a complete game shutout against Cleveland. Jenkins became the first 20-game winner in Rangers history, and went on to finish 25-12 that season.
August 31, 1984: Buddy Bell hit the first walk-off grand slam home run in Rangers history, connecting off Pete Ladd of the Milwaukee Brewers in the ninth inning.
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