ARLINGTON -- Tom Schieffer, who was the driving force behind the design and construction of the Ballpark in Arlington, has been selected for induction into the Rangers Hall of Fame.
Schieffer, who will be the 17th member of the Hall of Fame, will be inducted on Aug. 23 before the Rangers' game with the Royals. He joins former manager Johnny Oates, former Arlington mayor Tom Vandergriff and broadcasters Mark Holtz, Tom Grieve and Eric Nadel as members of the Hall of Fame in a "non-playing" capacity.
"It's a great honor," Schieffer said. "To be honored by the Rangers and be a part of the legacy of the franchise is a tremendous thrill for me."
Schieffer was a former member of the Texas Legislature and an attorney in the oil and gas business when he joined the ownership group headed by George W. Bush and Rusty Rose that bought the team in April 1989.
On July 26, 1990, Schieffer was named by Bush and Rose to lead the Rangers' effort to secure a new ballpark to replace Arlington Stadium. Three months later, the Rangers and the city of Arlington announced plans for construction of the new facility that eventually opened in 1994 as the Ballpark in Arlington.
It has undergone multiple renovations and name changes since, but the current Globe Life Park retains the same basic design envisioned by Schieffer and architect David Schwartz.
"I define a good job as being one where you get paid to watch baseball," Schieffer said. "I had a good job. Building this ballpark was the joy of my life … the thing that gave me the most pleasure in my life. I think it has held up pretty well. It has aged well. I always thought it would even be better after some use, and it has. I still enjoy coming to the ballpark early and watch people come into the ballpark and enjoy it."
Schieffer devoted three years to designing and building the ballpark. One goal was to make it a neutral ballpark for hitters and pitchers. That changed in 2000 when the private club was installed behind home plate, blocking the flow of south wind coming in from right field. Instead of the wind blowing through the park, the construction created a jet stream that pushed the wind back out to right field and turned it into a hitter's park.
That changed again last season, when the Rangers created a wider entrance to the ballpark behind home plate, again allowing the wind to blow through.
"I think you're seeing the ballpark come back to what it was designed for, not favorable to pitchers or hitters," Schieffer said. "It's neutral."
In 1991, Schieffer replaced Mike Stone as club president and oversaw all of the franchise's operations while Rose remained in the background and Bush focused on his political career. Schieffer hired Doug Melvin as general manager in 1994, which along with the subsequent hiring of Oates as manager led to a successful stretch in club history. The Rangers won division titles in 1996 and 1998-99, though they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in each of those three years by Yankees teams that ended up winning the World Series.
A memorable moment for Schieffer came on July 31, 1997. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez was eligible to be a free agent after the season, and the Rangers had fallen out of the race. Melvin was close to a trade that would have sent Rodriguez to the Yankees for a package that included catcher Jorge Posada and pitcher Eric Milton. But right before Melvin was supposed to call the Yankees and complete the trade that afternoon, Rodriguez showed up in Schieffer's office and negotiated a long-term contract extension.
"I think it took all of about five minutes," Schieffer said. "I think Pudge's mother called him the night before and told him, 'If you want to be a Ranger, you better get up there and tell them you want to be a Ranger.'"
The Bush-Rose group sold out to Tom Hicks in June 1998, and Schieffer stepped down the following season. The first-base entrance to the Ballpark was dedicated as Schieffer Plaza in 2000.
After Bush was elected U.S. president in 2000, Schieffer served as ambassador to Australia during the first term and then to Japan during the second term. He now works as a consultant to Major League Baseball on international affairs, and he still has season tickets. Although two new rows have been added in front of him, Schieffer and his wife, Suzanne, still have the same two seats as when the Ballpark opened in 1994.