Wearily, Nolan Ryan plopped down in the Rangers Ballpark press box dining area, covered his face with both hands and rubbed. It didn't help.
On this Thursday, July 8 evening, he scarcely touched his tuna salad and cantaloupe. Glumly, he described his day in bankruptcy proceedings and the previous day's hospital visit to a fan who had tumbled from the stands.
The rock-like Rangers president and Hall of Fame pitcher who KO'd a record 5,714 batters and pummeled Robin Ventura's face seemed – gasp – defeated.
"This just isn't a whole lot of fun right now," Ryan said.
Thus began the most pivotal 24 hours in Rangers history. There was no hint that half-century-old dark clouds were about to disperse, that this luckless and literally broke franchise would unearth a diamond rabbit's foot:
With Texas now in the World Series, its heist of star pitcher Lee from the New York Yankees' greedy clutches is the Cliff-hanger moment of a Hollywood-esque story.
Without Lee, there would be no feel-good plot about the manager who tested positive for cocaine use but, given a second chance, guided Texas to its first American League pennant – 78 days after the franchise was auctioned in federal bankruptcy court.
It was Lee who twice beat Tampa Bay in the American League Divisional Series, including in the decisive Game 5. It was Lee who earned Texas' first playoff victory in Yankee Stadium – fittingly, against the team that nearly acquired him from Seattle in July.
And it will be Lee who starts Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night.
There's also the renaissance of Josh Hamilton, who beat his addiction demons to come all the way back to MVP for the ALCS, and the team celebrated (again) by showering him with ginger ale and not champagne. However I still feel like a National League guy, despite the storyline and the bandwagon effect, and not just because Vlad Guerrero has to play in the field.
I feel kinda bad for Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, who once again will be watching it on teevee like the rest of us.
I'll say it will be a classic seven-game series with the Giants prevailing. But I won't be unhappy -- or jealous -- at all if the Rangers get it done.
Update: On the other hand, this could give Texas a significant advantage.