Growing up, baseball was everything to me. I started t-ball at the age of five and continued the baseball journey through high school. I played the sport in organized venues, and I played pick-up games with groups of kids from around the neighborhood. I played catch with my brother and father and went to see the Texas Rangers play at the (then called) Ballpark in Arlington. I remember my dad letting my brother and I skip school on opening day. We would put on our Rangers gear, load up in the pickup truck, and head to the stadium. [embedit snippet=”1″]
Walking around the ballpark, smelling the hotdogs cooking, and hearing popping corn kernels was the greatest. And like any child who goes anywhere fun, I always wanted a souvenir from each visit. Baseball cards, miniature helmets, novelty bats, t-shirts. Whatever I could get was the best. One of my favorite childhood souvenirs from the Ballpark in Arlington was a plaque, with a framed Rusty Greer baseball card on it. Man oh man. Rusty Greer was the best.
Whether it was from the stands or from my couch at home, watching #29 put the biggest smile on my face. At such a young age, I had put no real thought into my choice of favorite player. To this day, I have no clue what made Greer so important to me. All I know is that I loved watching him play, more so than any other player on the team at that time. He was my hero. Looking back, now that I’m older and able to understand what makes a player good, I realize I made a great choice.
Thurman Clyde “Rusty” Greer III was the tenth-round pick (279th overall) in the 1990 amateur draft. Selected by the Texas Rangers, Greer would stay with the club until he left the game in July of 2002. 12 years, start to end, with one single club was an amazing feat in itself. To this day, it’s a rarity to see such a thing. He spent 1990 playing rookie-level minor ball, in Montana. There, he hit .385 with a 1.032 OPS. One single season at the rookie-level club was enough to convince the club to promote Greer.
He made his way to Double-A ball, with the Tulsa Drillers, in the Texas League. He spent ’92 and almost all of ’93 in Double-A, before getting the call to Triple-A, one step short of living the dream. At Triple-A Oklahoma City, in 1994, Greer went for an impressive .315 average in just 31 games. It was enough to get the nod for a call-up.
Now a full-blown Texas Ranger, Greer was finally in the show. And he played it well
In his first season, he hit .314 with 10 homers, in 80 appearances. His first long ball come on just his second at-bat. Greer wasn’t known just for his skills with a bat. His glove work was impressive as well. He was instrumental in making baseball history, as his catching ability saved Kenny Rogers’ perfect game in July of 1994. Playing the Anaheim Angels, Rex Hudler sent a deep fly ball Greer’s way. In an all-out sprint, Greer dove to secure the out.
Most fielders wouldn’t have been able to make it happen. But #29 wasn’t like most outfielders. And Kenny Rogers can be thankful for that. Greer made several diving, running, extending catches in his career. All of which made it more and more exciting to watch him play. The fans loved his athleticism, and a much younger me was just as enthralled.
1995 saw Greer even out, batting just .271 that season. But he picked it right back up again in the following year. ’96 was one of the best seasons of his entire career. With the fifth-best average in the entire American League (.332), he achieved his first 100-RBI season. Two more of those would come for him, before his retirement. 1998 was another phenomenal year for #29, getting a career high 108 RBIs, accompanied by a .306 average. Greer’s hard work paid off, literally.
In 1999, the Rangers bumped up his pay to $3.3M, a significant boost from his previous $1.025M salary. He earned every penny that season, hitting an even .300 and slamming 20 homers, with 101 RBIs. At the turn of the century, Greer battled injury, playing only 105 games in 2000. He posted just eight home runs, and a .297 average that year.
The injuries were a reoccurring problem for Greer. In 2001, he played just 62 games. In the season after that, his play time fell to just 51 games. Fusing the vertebrae on his neck was tough to recover from. In addition to the neck surgery, he had to repair a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder. If the already numerous injuries weren’t enough to end someone’s career, even more, came. Tommy John surgery, ulnar nerve transposition, and removing scar tissue on his elbow were all surgeries that Greer endured.
His physical, tough playstyle finally caught up with him as ge gave 100% effort 100% of the time led to the end of his career. Rusty Greer never played another game after July of 2002. A momentous career of power hitting and hard running, over a fifteen-year career, proved to pay off in the long run. In 2007, the Rangers inducted Thurman Clyde “Rusty” Greer III in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.
Seeing my childhood hero, my own personal All-Star, make it into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame was the most satisfying feeling. The man spent fifteen years of his life dedicated to this club. Fifteen years of hard work and complete loyalty. This man, this legend, sacrificed his body for the team and the fans. He made plays that won games and won the hearts of the people.
To this day, if you were to ask me who my favorite Texas Ranger is or was, I’ll give the same answer as I would have when I was a child.