ARLINGTON, Texas -- Back in the day, long before Major League Baseball included the Home Run Derby as part of its All-Star week festivities, it wasn’t unusual to stage a home run competition a half-hour or so before a big league game.
One such contest at the old Rangers Stadium back in the 1970s featured Jeff Burroughs and Toby Harrah of the Rangers against Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando of the A’s.
Tom Grieve, a Rangers left fielder then and television analyst now, witnessed it from the Texas dugout that night.
“I remember it being very close between Reggie and Burroughs and they might have had to go to extra pitches," Grieve said. “It was very compelling."
Such contests weren’t that rare, Grieve said. He recalled hitting seven homers in another home run derby against Hank Aaron and the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Personally, I love those kinds of things," Grieve said. “I loved Farm and Ranch Night. Players would fight to get into the egg toss or the cow milking."
Jackie Brown had a starring role in those days as the Rangers’ designated cow milker. In the home run competitions, the versatile Oklahoma curveballer Brown was first choice to serve up pitches to his teammates.
“Today, I think they worry about injuries and maybe they think it isn’t major league enough," said Grieve. “We didn’t get an extra dime. But the guys loved it."
“They say Trout is the fastest in the game, but is he?"
Grieve suggests the interest that would come from each team sending its fastest player to a MLB-wide competition.
Another contest, Grieve said, could involve arm strength. Can anybody throw the ball from home plate over the fence? Or which position player can be clocked the highest on a radar gun?
“I think today’s players would enjoy those things as much as we did," Grieve said. “They are kids at heart."
Streak buster: Yu Darvish is entrusted with ending the Rangers’ three-game slide. Texas faces Houston in the final game of a three-game series at 7:05 tonight at Globe Life Park.
Darvish, an All-Star selection for the third time, was struck on the crown of his head by a batted ball in batting practice Tuesday. After an examination by the team doctor, Darvish (8-4, 2.63 ERA) was given the go-ahead for his regular turn on four days rest.
In four career starts against Houston, Darvish is 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA. In his only appearance against the Astros this year, Darvish pitched eight innings of one-hit, shutout baseball, but received no-decision in the Rangers' 1-0 victory in 12 innings.
Low tide: The lower five spots in tonight’s Rangers batting order are occupied by players who were not on the team’s Opening Day roster: Jake Smolinski, Chris Gimenez, Rougned Odor, Adam Rosales and Daniel Robertson.