Not all heroes enter Hall of Fame

By Kevin Wilson

Sunday started out to be a pretty good day, by most standards. Errands were getting done left and right, and the NBA All-Star game was hours away.
That’s when I decided to check the sports news, and everything changed.
You might have missed the news because it was sandwiched in between stories of the off-again, never on National Hockey League season and Jose Canseco’s book on steroids.
Former Texas Rangers outfielder Rusty Greer officially announced his retirement, and I knew that being a baseball fan would be forever changed. I stared at the computer screen wearing my Rangers cap, and his mug (also adorned in a Rangers cap) seemed to stare back at me, as if to say, “Thanks for being a fan.”
It was never a problem being a fan of Thurman Clyde Greer III, who made his major league debut on May 16, 1994 — the day after my 16th birthday. For the next eight seasons, his play was like a gift for me and other Rangers fans.
Greer was a contact hitter (lifetime .305 average) but he did have some power every now and then. He hit 119 career home runs, and had three 100-RBI seasons coincide with American League West division titles for Texas.
Greer was on the Rangers’ roster for four division titles — the 1994 strike wiped out one playoff chance, and the New York Yankees wiped out chances in 1996, 1998 and 1999.
The Rangers had never won a division title until 1994, and they haven’t won one since 1999, the last time Greer played more than 105 games. Since 2000, it’s been a story of injuries and surgeries on the left rotator cuff, the right ankle, a pinched nerve in the neck and two vertebrae.
Since then, the Rangers have had a winning record once. Overpaying for Alex Rodriguez when you really need pitching is the No. 1 reason for that, but Greer’s absence is 1-A in my book.
A medical chart or the Rangers’ downward spiral isn’t what I’ll remember about Greer and his impact, though. What I’ll remember is July 28, 1994, with Rangers ace Kenny Rogers an inning away from the 14th perfect game in major league history — 27 batters up, 27 batters down.
Hitter No. 25 was California Angels second baseman Rex Hudler, who hit a looper into shallow center. The perfect game and no-hitter were thought dead, until some rookie from Fort Rucker, Ala., dove and made a catch that rookies just don’t make. Two outs later, Rogers had his perfect game and I had my favorite player.
That’s why Sunday was a little bit sadder at that point. Greer last played in 2002, so I knew this was coming some day. Still, I held out hope when the Rangers signed Greer to a minor-league deal and my friend was getting me a ticket for a Rangers exhibition game in Albuquerque in April.
The hope is gone, and so is Greer’s career. Three days later, I’ve abandoned my normal diatribe about my favorite movies and how females twist my words and use them against me, and instead say thanks to a hero who’s probably not bound for the Hall of Fame.
In any case, he’ll always have my vote.

Kevin Wilson is the managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail:
Kevin_Wilson@link.freedom.com