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Father of Texas ballpark Schieffer set for Rangers HOF

Former managing partner, club president to be inducted into Hall of Fame on Saturday

Father of Texas ballpark Schieffer set for Rangers HOF play video for Father of Texas ballpark Schieffer set for Rangers HOF

ARLINGTON -- There was never any doubt that Tom Schieffer was Chief of the Mission. That's a title bestowed upon the head of one country's delegation to another nation, and Schieffer held it as the United States' Ambassador to Australia and Japan during George W. Bush's administration.

But before Schieffer immersed himself in international diplomacy at the behest of his former business partner, there was no doubt he was the Chief of the Mission at the corner of Randol Mill and Ballpark Way.

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Whether it was as a partner in charge of ballpark development, club president or managing general partner, there was never any doubt who was in charge of the Texas Rangers as long as Schieffer was there.

Certainly Bush brought great visibility to the Rangers and Rusty Rose brought substantial business acumen behind the scenes, but it was always clear that Schieffer was in charge from the moment he was introduced as the person who would "keep the beer cold, the nachos fresh and the bathrooms clean."

The Rangers will honor Schieffer by inducting him into their Hall Of Fame on Saturday before their game against the Royals. He was previously honored when the first-base entrance to the ballpark was renamed Schieffer Plaza in 2000.

But now and forever, the ultimate monument to Schieffer's time with the Rangers will be what opened in 1994 with a simple, elegant name: the Ballpark in Arlington. It seems appropriate that Schieffer is finally going into the Rangers Hall of Fame during the 20th anniversary of the park.

"I am really excited about it," Schieffer said. "I am amazed at the number of people who have commented on it. It is really heartwarming that people want to honor you."

There was more than just the ballpark on Schieffer's watch. In 1994, Schieffer dismissed general manager Tom Grieve and replaced him with Doug Melvin. A few days later, Melvin hired Johnny Oates as manager, and the triumvirate would take the Rangers to the first division title in club history.

There was also the 1995 All-Star Game, new television and radio contracts, a greater commitment to community involvement and new uniforms. In addition to the ballpark, Schieffer felt the club needed to move away from the old Dodgers imitations, and he introduced the iconic red uniforms that are still remembered fondly by diehard Rangers fans.

More than anything, though, Schieffer brought organization, stability and accountability. He was at the park every day, available to the media, always willing to answer questions and explain without any ambiguity the overall vision and plan for the club. Schieffer was out in front with a dedication, work ethic and passionate love for baseball that all could see every single day.

He was the Chief of the Mission.

"That's just management," Schieffer said. "People say baseball is different. Baseball is different in how you measure success, but it's not different as a business. You have to have a clear line of authority and a chain of command for things to work well.

"If you don't, things tend to go off in different directions, you end up with factions and people pulling against each other. Some tend to keep the baseball side and the business side separate, but you have to have one team. The success of the business side affects the baseball team, and the success of the baseball team affects the business side."

In the beginning, Schieffer was just another investor in the group that bought the team from Eddie Chiles in 1989. He didn't know Bush but was among those added to the group when Commissioner Peter Ueberroth insisted there be more local investors involved.

It wasn't long after the sale that Rose and Bush picked Schieffer to be in charge of the club's efforts to build a new park. Schieffer devoted five years of his life to the project, from securing financing and taxpayer approval to touring almost every other stadium in baseball. He oversaw every aspect of the design and construction, right up until the final dedication speech in which he said: "A ballpark is where sons remember their fathers, where mothers make their children's dreams come true."

Twenty years later, Schieffer didn't hesitate when asked about the highlight of his 10 years with the Rangers.

"It was building the ballpark," Schieffer said. "It was an unusual opportunity. I enjoyed it so much. Nothing gave me so much joy as that."

There have been 20 new ballparks built since 1991, and the Rangers' facility is one of only four that were not built by the Kansas City-based company formerly known as HOK.

David Schwartz was the official architect and Manhattan Construction was the lead contractor. But Schieffer was in charge beginning with the first meeting, when he told everybody he would not tolerate any unethical behavior.

"It was such a collaborative effort," Schieffer said. "It took a while to get a culture established, but once we did, things began to work well. People took pride in solving problems. Every Wednesday, we would meet -- architects, contractors, subcontractors, everybody -- and go over a list of problems or questions. Sometimes the list would be over 100 items.

"We never left until we solved every one of those problems. We would have food catered. We would stay until 10 or 11 at night. It was such a collaborative process and so creative. That's what made it so much fun. We used everybody's experience on previous jobs."

The project was completed on time, under budget and to rave reviews. The first Major League game was played on April 11 between the Rangers and the Brewers, and Schieffer brought a touch of majesty to the day when he arranged for renowned pianist Van Cliburn and the Fort Worth Symphony to perform the national anthem. It was a magical moment in Rangers history.

"When we moved to the ballpark, it changed the whole perception of the franchise," Schieffer said. "People realized we had a chance to go to the World Series. We had a better team and we started winning. It made everything different."

There have been changes since then: two different names, new scoreboards and sound systems, renovations in center field and behind home plate. But for the most part, it is still the Ballpark that Schieffer and Co. built 20 years ago.

"It's held up really well," Schieffer said. "It's still a beautiful ballpark with the ability to be there a long time."

Asked about the changes, Schieffer said, "I'm not the most objective. I thought the day it opened was the prettiest it has ever been. But things change. I understand that. But I loved the way we built it.

"My guess is if we could do it over, we would have made it a little smaller. The geometry of a baseball field is you are going to have 25,000 good seats and 15,000 pretty good seats. If you go above 40,000, people are going to see the game better on TV, unless you just want to experience being there. But if you don't want to experience it, you are better off at home.

"But it sure is nice to have that extra 10,000 for the World Series, All-Star Game or pennant race. It makes a big difference."

The Oakland Athletics wouldn't complain. They are in need of a new ballpark. Maybe they ought to steal Schieffer away from Texas and have him do it one more time.

"I would be glad to help out and give [the A's] some tips," Schieffer said. "But I'm a lot older than I was. But it was a lot of fun. I highly recommend it to anybody who has a chance to do it."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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