On this date in Texas Rangers history, the Rangers traded hands for the second time in team history.
On April 29, 1980, Brad Corbett, the first Texas-based owner of the Rangers, sold his controlling interest in the team to a local oil man, H.E. ‘Eddie’ Chiles.
Corbett, who also made his fortune in the oil business, bought the team from Robert Short on May 29, 1974. Short was the owner of the Washington Senators and moved the franchise to Texas after the 1971 season.
Corbett’s stake in the team was a cool $9.5 million. He brought a Steinbrenner-esque vibe to the franchise, spending lots of money in free agency and burning through six managers (including a wild eight-day period in 1977 in which the Rangers had four different skippers). The Rangers managed to win a team-high 94 games in that 1977 season, despite the turnover. But the Rangers never saw the postseason.
While Corbett was flash and free spending, Chiles brought stability and more impact to the franchise. Before purchasing the team, Chiles was known for radio commercials in which he spoke out against government overreach and said, “I’m Eddie Chiles, and I’m mad.” In the 1970s, it spawned ‘I’m Mad Too, Eddie!’ bumper stickers.
Chiles didn’t need radio commercials to make an impact with the Rangers and in baseball. In his New York Times obituary, the writer referenced Chiles’ criticism of then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and his handling of the 1981 MLB players’ strike, and Chiles was instrumental in making sure Kuhn didn’t continue as commissioner.
He owned the Rangers for nine years, made the franchise profitable and bought into investing in the club’s farm system. He promoted Tom Grieve to general manager and allowed the Rangers to start fully investing resources into scouting talent in the Caribbean, which led to signing future Rangers like Ruben Sierra, Juan González, and Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez. These players became cornerstones for the franchise during the 1980s and early 1990s.
Chiles sold the team in 1989 to a group led by future Texas governor and United States president George W. Bush. But that ownership group may not have been interested in the team had Chiles not taken such good care of it throughout the 1980s.
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