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Friday, April 13, 2012

T.R. Sullivan: Ex-Ranger Dave Nelson embodies spirit of Jackie Robinson

Terrific look back at Dave Nelson…(save the Bobby “Challenge The Yankees/Strat-O-Matic Killing” Richardson jazz of course).

Sunday is Jackie Robinson Day in baseball. It is a day for Major League Baseball to celebrate the legacy of the Dodgers infielder who broke the sport’s color barrier. It is a day to remember Robinson’s tremendous spirit and what he accomplished in the game.

Forty years ago, the Rangers had an infielder who embodied that spirit. Obviously Nelson wasn’t as good as Robinson—who was?—but he played the game the same way because that was the way he was taught.

“One of the nicest compliments I ever received was something Billy Martin, my manager, said in an article,” Nelson said. “It was in the Pompano Beach newspaper in Spring Training. He said, ‘Dave Nelson reminds me of Jackie Robinson with the way he plays the game ... his pride and determination, the way he runs the bases, he reminds me of Jackie.’ That made me feel so good.

“I remember my dad telling me about Jackie. He was my inspiration. I was a second baseman and I wanted to play the game like him. Two players I idolized were Jackie Robinson and Bobby Richardson, who was with the Yankees. Bobby Richardson was a second baseman like Jackie. He wasn’t as good as Jackie, but he played the game right, gave himself up to get runners over, did all the little things, played defense, did all of those things.

Repoz Posted: April 13, 2012 at 08:24 PM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, rangers

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   1. sunnyday2 Posted: April 13, 2012 at 09:05 PM (#4106264)
I had the pleasure of knowing Dave Nelson quite well, he dated a high school friend of mine. When he would visit her in Minneapolis, he and I would hang out when they needed a break from the boy-girl thing. Had a great sense of humor. Very generous in every way. Not impressed by himself and his major league lifestyle. Great guy. Got really busted up in a defensive collision with Len Randle, if I remember correctly and was never quite the same again. Speed was his game. He played for Ted Williams, Billy Martin and Whitey Herzog. Ranger fans would go nuts when he got on base. One year, he lost the AL SB title by 1 when Campy stole like 4 bases on the final day. Unfortunately, we lost track of each other, I probably haven't seen him now for 25 years. But he was a very admirable guy. I liked him a lot as you can tell. Best wishes, David Earl.
   2. TR_Sullivan Posted: April 13, 2012 at 09:18 PM (#4106274)
Thank you for posting that... I had a great interview with Mr. Nelson and good stuff that didn't get in the story. Whitey Herzog got fired in September 1973, the year Nelson went to the All-Star Game. Nelson got a Christmas card from Herzog that year thanking him for playing his tail off and doing a great job at second base. Nelson told me, "I still have that Christmas card."
   3. vortex of dissipation Posted: April 13, 2012 at 10:24 PM (#4106321)
One year, he lost the AL SB title by 1 when Campy stole like 4 bases on the final day.


Very close - in 1972, Campy had 52 steals, and Nelson had 51. Campy stole two bases in each of the last three games of the season. Dave stole five in his last three games. On the last day, Campy stole two, and Dave stole three. Obviously, both were gunning for the title.

Thanks for your recollections - it's good to see that he's remembered so fondly.
   4. Bruce Markusen Posted: April 13, 2012 at 11:09 PM (#4106374)
Good article by Mr. Sullivan. In addition to being really fast--and stealing 51 bases when your on-base percentage is only .320 is pretty impressive--Nelson was incredibly versatile. He played every position but pitcher and catcher during his career.
   5. sunnyday2 Posted: April 14, 2012 at 12:10 AM (#4106396)
OK I have to add this. I was vacationing (from Minnesota) in the SF Bay area in 1972 when the Rangers came into town to play the A's, including a Saturday or Sunday doubleheader. It was kind of a mismatch, the Rangers were not a great team, the A's would go on to become the world champs. Sure enough the A's swept something like 4-2, 4-2. But Dave scored or drove in every Texas run that day.

The other game I remember was probably in 1971, Texas had sent David down to AAA to learn 3B, I think it was the Denver Bears, but for sure the opposition was the Iowa Oaks based in Des Moines. Several of us drove down to see the game. Denver won a slugfest, maybe 12-8 or something like that. In the evening newscast the report noted that a couple of Oaks had homered, and they of course HAD to mention that one of the Bears, and I don't remember who, hit 3 HR. They didn't bother to mention that Dave hit a pair of HR that day. David put on this hangdog hurt face and then he just laughed and laughed.

His roomie at the time was Lenny Randle, who later was his teammate in Texas, and it was he, playing CF, who ran over Dave, then at 2B, chasing a short flyball. I think David fractured an ankle and was out for the season.

I also remember David getting hit by a pitch at old Met Stadium in Minnesota, right on the big knuckle on his middle finger. He came out of the game and the trainer just sliced a hole in a lemon and told David to stick his finger (the middle one) into the lemon. I guess to control swelling. David got dressed while the game was still on and came up into the stands and sat down with us and he kept flipping everybody off with the lemon.
   6. The Keith Law Blog Blah Blah (battlekow) Posted: April 14, 2012 at 01:22 AM (#4106415)
I came here to say something unkind, but now I just feel like a jerk.
   7. asinwreck Posted: April 14, 2012 at 08:49 AM (#4106476)
Rudy Law did well when Nelson was the 1B/baserunning coach for the White Sox.
   8. Greg K Posted: April 14, 2012 at 10:33 AM (#4106526)
I came here to say something unkind, but now I just feel like a jerk.

I came here to say that I thought it was a bit much to equate Dave Nelson's leading a New York radio news station despite the handicap of being Canadian with Jackie Robinson's racial trailblazing. Not unkind exactly, but somehow not in keeping with the heartfelt nature of the thread thus far. So I will refrain from saying it...

Damn too late.

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