Deep in the heart of Texas

10/31/2010 - Texas Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The World Series is refreshingly different in Texas as compared with, say, New York.

For one thing, you do not take a subway to the Rangers' ballpark. You drive your car or truck or SUV up the Tom Landry Highway to the Nolan Ryan Expressway -- which, alas, has a speed limit of 30-45 mph rather than 100 mph -- and turn onto Randol Mill Road. If Randol Mill is named after a former player, I do not remember him playing for either the Cowboys or the Rangers.

There is no tailgating at Yankee Stadium, either -- after all, New York City frowns upon fans lighting up a charcoal grill on the No. 4 train. But there were plenty of tailgaters in Arlington on Saturday, grilling meat, sipping beer and tossing baseballs and footballs around on a delightful October afternoon. That's another big difference. The weather here was in the high 70s and the sun still was shining for the first pitch. Fans didn't wear long johns and overcoats; they wore T-shirts, mostly with that bizarre image of a claw on the front and those antlers on the back.

And the thing is, these fans weren't here for a football game. It was the last weekend in October, and fans came here by the tens of thousands for a baseball game. And it wasn't even Dollar Hot Dog Night or Friday Fireworks Night. It was far more special. It was the first home World Series game in Texas Rangers history.

"The fans have really shown up en masse," Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson said after his team's 4-2 Game 3 victory. "That's the biggest thing. We set an all-time attendance record tonight. The fans are that much more enthusiastic about baseball than people ever thought they would be. Everyone says this is a football town, but when you pack 50,000 fans into a stadium late at night and they're raging the whole time like it was Mardi Gras, it's pretty awesome."

Well, they have reason to be excited. Although the Giants have never won a World Series in San Francisco, at least they played in three before this fall. In nearly four decades here, the Rangers never had even won a postseason series or even played a Game 5, for that matter. And when they finally did reach the World Series, they lost the first two games in San Francisco while allowing 20 runs.

But the big and bright stars at night aligned deep in the heart of Texas on Saturday, beginning when Nolan Ryan, 63, fired the ceremonial first pitch to Ivan Rodriguez harder than Jamie Moyer can throw. It wasn't as impressive as Ryan's first pitch in Game 1 of the ALCS, but it still brought the fans to full Texas roar, which matches up with anything New York can muster.

"The first pitch in the ALCS was definitely better," Ian Kinsler said. "He bounced one tonight, and Pudge picked him up huge. I think it was the suit; it was a little tight for him. He tried to fire one in there, and he missed low."

Former Hiroshima Carp Colby Lewis didn't miss by low or any other direction much, holding the Giants scoreless for the first six of his 7 2/3 innings. Mitch Moreland hit a three-run homer. Josh Hamilton hit a solo homer. And the fans shouted and cheered and laughed and sang "Deep in the Heart of Texas" and about a half-dozen other songs about the state throughout the game.

"Texas is definitely proud, no doubt about it," Kinsler said. "I'm from Arizona originally, and when I first moved here, I saw the Texas flags flying everywhere. Gas stations have the Texas flag flying. I've never seen an Arizona state flag flying anywhere."

The media powers back east tell us that New York and the northeast are the home of the World Series, that it belongs in Yankee Stadium. But that's East Coast bias nonsense. It's the World Series, not the Northeast Media Market Series -- and on a loud, beautiful night, it most certainly belonged in Texas. This might usually be football country, but right now it's also baseball country, and that's a wonderful thing for the sport.

Sunday could be even wilder because the Cowboys will play across the street in the afternoon. Said Wilson: "They'll need ambulances."

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.