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After his playing days ended, Rader had to find new sources of competition. One evening while he was managing in Texas, Rader and his wife, Jeannette, and Donnelly and his first wife, Peggy, went out to dinner. When they got back to the Donnellys' house, Rich's son Bubba was in the driveway shooting hoops, playing a game he called Beat the Pros, in which a player has to make 10 good shots before he misses five from particular spots on the court. Rader, in a three-piece suit, a tie and oxford shoes, began to shoot. Jeannette waited in the car for him, and the Donnellys went to bed, leaving Bubba to shag balls for Rader. At about 1 a.m., Bubba burst into the Donnellys' bedroom, leaped on the bed and screamed, "He did it! He beat the pros!" Says Donnelly, "Doug's shirt was torn, his pants were ruined, and his shoes were scuffed beyond repair. But he beat the pros."
That same competitiveness may have cost Rader his job in Texas—and it nearly cost him the chance ever to manage again. With the Rangers, the frustration of losing ate away at him. "He took everything too personally," says Buddy Bell, who played for Rader then.
Things started out well enough in Texas. In the five years since Rader had retired as a player—two as a Padres coach under Roger Craig and three managing the Padres' Hawaii farm club—he had built a formidable reputation. Says Brewers pitching coach Chuck Hartenstein, who served in the same capacity for Rader, "He was unconventional in that he wore shorts and sandals, but guys played above their heads for him more than for anyone I'd ever seen."
For half the '83 season, Rader had the Rangers in first place in the American League West, but there were signs of trouble. In Kansas City, after losing a fourth straight game, Rader became enraged. When a writer asked a question, Rader crushed an unopened beer can with one hand, smashed a steel door with his fist and slapped his clothes rack so hard that his pants flew across the room and landed atop a reporter's head. Everyone was so intimidated that the pants stayed on the reporter's head until the interview session ended.
Afterward, Rader told Donnelly, "I'm walking back." It was a six-mile trip from Royals Stadium to the hotel; before he began his hike, Rader took off his boots and handed them to Donnelly. "I've got to punish myself," Rader said. By the time he reached the hotel, his bare feet were badly blistered.
The team finished third in '83, then slid to seventh, at 69-92, in '84. In May of 1985, with the Rangers 9-23, Rader was fired. Since being named the Angels' manager, Rader has often been asked about the Texas failure. He would prefer not to talk about it. "But I have to, because I messed up and I admit it," he says. "I thought I could personally raise everyone's level of play out of sheer energy and will. One cannot ask more out of a person than he can give, but I tried to, and I was wrong."
Rader criticized Rangers veterans Jim Sundberg and Bell. He humiliated pitchers Dave Stewart and Tom Henke. He feuded with the media, responding to one writer's questions with the same two-word expletive for 12 straight days. "It got to the point where they expected me to act like an ass, and I did," says Rader. "When I was finally fired, I was actually relieved. I was totally exhausted, and so was everyone around me."
After his sacking, Rader went home to Florida and took Jeannette, Matt and daughters Christine and Elizabeth to the Keys. "It was great therapy to just spend time with my family," he says. "I love that life—swimming, diving, fishing. If I hadn't come back to baseball, I'd have probably lived happily ever after in the Caribbean."
For years, Rader has kept a daily journal of his thoughts. He dabbled with it in college, in his playing days and as a coach. "But my last year in Texas," he says, "I really got serious about keeping this journal. I realized it could be a problem-solving exercise, and by the time I was fired, I had gone from sporadic writings to a detailed discipline. I don't think I could ever have come back and managed again without it. I write down how I handle situations, and how I should have handled them. I detail battles I fight within myself. Did I handle myself in a dignified and professional manner? When things are going well, am I guilty of hubris? How am I affecting others, and how do they affect me?
"The journal is a self-created keel, which I know from my Texas experience is something I need. We all have to learn to make our own course corrections. In the years following my firing, I looked at myself closely. And I was very lucky to work with Tony La Russa."