In his second start, against the White Sox before a near-sellout crowd, Clyde roughly replicated his earlier performance, but this time the Texas bullpen blew the lead. In Clyde's third start, on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers, the pitcher was blistered for four earned runs and eight hits in 4⅔ innings in a game the Rangers eventually lost 17-2.
After Texas dropped a doubleheader to the Brewers the next day, Herzog began to display symptoms of a meltdown. He accused the Milwaukee mascot, Bernie Brewer, of stealing the Rangers' signs. Bernie was perched in an ersatz chalet near the centerfield scoreboard, and whenever a Brewer hit a home run he slid down a metal trough into a giant beer mug. Herzog claimed that someone else was in the chalet with binoculars, feeding the Texas catcher's signs to Bernie, who in turn signaled the Milwaukee hitters. "The little geek wears these white gloves and claps his hands—once for a fastball, two for a curve," Herzog sputtered. "Can you imagine a team that has to cheat to beat us?"
Not that the Rangers wouldn't resort to a trick or two in an attempt to beat anybody. In late August veteran lefthander Jim Merritt pitched a shutout in Cleveland and afterward confessed to having used a lubricant to throw what he called a "Gay-lord Perry fastball."
Considering the Rangers' lowly position in the standings, everybody thought Merritt's ploy was amusing—everybody except Perry and American League president Joe Cronin. Perry, the Indians righthander who was frequently accused of throwing a greaseball, deemed Merritt's public disclosure "very foolish...considering the way he pitched." Cronin fined Merritt.
Merritt's revelation helped establish the Rangers' reputation as an unorthodox and often bizarre franchise. That image was reinforced in early September when Short called a press conference at Arlington Stadium and announced that he was firing Herzog. Short cited a "lack of artistic success on the field" as grounds for the manager's dismissal.
Candid to the end, Herzog said, "I thought the emphasis was on development and not winning right now, but I guess I was wrong about that. And when you're wrong with a 47-91 record, you're not going to get very far." Herzog also suggested that Billy Martin's being fired as manager of the Detroit Tigers earlier in the week had hastened his own dismissal.
The next afternoon, three hours before game time, I bumped into Martin on the press-box elevator at Arlington Stadium. In the Texas clubhouse the equipment manager was attaching the numeral 1 to the back of Martin's new uniform. After I introduced myself I said, "There are some fairly controversial characters associated with this team, beginning with the owner. How do you plan to deal with that?"
Martin seemed offended. "Who do they have," he demanded, "who is more controversial than I am?"
Short's desire to sell his oddball team to local ownership grew exponentially toward the end of the '73 season. A novelty food item—a gooey combination of sodium and fat known as ballpark nachos—had been introduced at Arlington Stadium, to the delight of coronary-bypass surgeons in the area, but not much else had happened to boost interest in the team through two tedious summers in which the Rangers went a combined 111-205. Short believed that if you wish to sell a lousy used car in Texas, you need a gaudy hood ornament (in this case, Martin) to help unload the lemon.
At the dawn of the 1974 season Short's lawyer, Frank Ryan, was awaiting a connecting flight in the lounge of the Atlanta airport when he became intrigued by a conversation at a nearby table. A man who had a New York accent but Texan ambitions was telling companions of his desire to own an NBA team. Ryan introduced himself to the man and explained that while he couldn't offer anything in the NBA line (Short had moved his Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles in 1960 and unloaded them in 1965), something might be available in the form of a used two-door American League baseball team.