Fight to the Finish

After a three-year battle, cancer claims the Rangers' most successful manager
January 10, 2005

There were times when Johnny Oates could be tense and tightly wound, no different from any other antacid-gobbling skipper; this was a man, after all, who once lost 16 pounds when his Orioles went on a four-game losing streak. But the 750 people who gathered in Colonial Heights, Va., last week at a memorial for Oates, who died at 58 on Dec. 24 after a three-year battle with a brain tumor, remembered a man of intense faith and preternatural inner peace. "He was more like a father figure than a manager," said former Rangers pitcher Jeff Zimmerman. "There was more than just baseball to him."

Oates played 11 seasons as a light-hitting catcher for five teams, then managed Baltimore (1991--94) and Texas (1995--2001). He went 797--746 and led the Rangers to their only three postseason appearances but resigned early in a difficult 2001 season. Later that year he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Given less than a year to live, Oates survived to see his daughter Jenny get married in 2002 and to see himself inducted into the Rangers' Hall of Fame in '03. "My days are filled with faith, hope, spirit and the small pleasures that many people take for granted," he wrote in The Sporting News in April 2002. "Whatever time I have left, I want it to mean something."

COLOR PHOTODARREN CARROLL (OATES) FATHER FIGURE Oates led the Rangers to their only division titles.