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It always adds a layer of intrigue to a postseason matchup when the teams involved are geographic rivals. This general principle brings us to the 2023 American League Championship Series that pits the Houston Astros against the Texas Rangers

While this particular baseball feud of proximity isn't as timeless and sepia-toned as, say, the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers, it's still a compelling brew of intertwined histories and Lone Star State hostilities. Partisans of these two teams of course require no scene-setting – life-affirming malevolence toward the opposition is already lodged firmly in place – but the remainder of us might need an introduction to this ascendant rivalry. Let us undertake such a thing right darn now. 

The origins

The Houston Colt .45s, as the Astros franchise was originally known, came along first to the state of Texas in 1962. Three years later, they became the first major-league team to have a domed stadium, and soon after the circle of branding was complete – the Houston Astros played in the Astrodome on AstroTurf. 

As for the Rangers, their origins trace back to the second edition of the Washington Senators, an American League expansion franchise added to the rolls in 1961 (the original Senators franchise moved to Minnesota and became the Twins that same year). Amid declining fortunes, owner Bob Short prior to the 1972 season relocated the franchise to Arlington, Texas, positioned roughly halfway between Dallas and Ft. Worth. It was that relocation and the finagling of it that birthed the Astros-Rangers rivalry. 

Longtime Arlington mayor Tom Vandergriff had been working for years to attract a major-league team to the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. He tried to position Arlington for an expansion franchise, first in 1961-62 – when the Colt .45s, rebooted Senators, Angels, and Mets joined the league – and then again in 1968. Then Charlie Finley showed some interest in relocating the Kansas City A's to North Texas, but he instead wound up heading to Oakland. The on-the-move Seattle Pilots also looked like a possibility until a young Bud Selig landed them for Milwaukee.   

A major impediment for many of those years was Roy Hofheinz, the Houston judge with a 24-cigar-a-day habit and the owner of the Astros. After his Colt .45s joined the league as an expansion franchise, he immediately came to view the entire state of Texas plus Oklahoma and Louisiana as part of his baseball fiefdom. Vandergriff told civic leaders that his tireless and long-standing efforts to lure a team were owing to "one man in South Texas with a big cigar in his mouth and a covered baseball field that feels the entire state is Astro-land. This is not the case."

In '68, Vandergriff worked to land one of the new National League franchises, but Hofheinz wouldn't relent – not even a call from President Lyndon Johnson could sway the judge. Instead, Montreal and San Diego were awarded teams. 

In order to earn approval from American League owners for the Senators' relocation to Arlington, Short and Vandergriff had to overcome the opposition of not only Hofheinz but also commissioner Bowie Kuhn and Finley, who asked for promising young outfielder and future MVP Jeff Burroughs in exchange for his "yes" vote. The margins were treacherously slim, but in the end the franchise won the right to move from D.C. to Arlington thanks in part to a proxy vote in the affirmative by hospitalized Angels owner and Vandergriff ally Gene Autry. 

Just prior to the freshly minted Rangers' first-ever home game on April 21, Vandergriff addressed the crowd at Arlington Stadium and invoked the obstructionist efforts of Hofheinz by telling them, "Let's make our cheers heard all the way to Houston tonight."

The Texas Rangers were born, as was a Texas baseball rivalry. 

Nolan Ryan

A Texas native, a Hall of Famer, and the all-time strikeouts leader who made a hash of hitters and the aging curve, Nolan Ryan played for both the Astros and Rangers, and two clubs have occasionally wrangled – Texas connotations intentional — over possession of his legacy. 

After sliding in the draft, Ryan began his career with the Mets and eventually made his way to the Angels via one of the worst trades in Mets history. At the age of 32 and after parts of 13 seasons in the majors, Ryan signed a free-agent contract with his hometown Astros (the Ryan family had moved from Refugio, Texas to Alvin, just outside Houston, when Nolan was an infant). Ryan spent the next nine seasons with the Astros and along the way twirled his fifth career no-hitter and broke Walter Johnson's career strikeout record. Although Ryan paced the AL in strikeouts in 1988, he also showed signs of decline at age 41. That prompted Astros owner John McMullen to offer to retain him only at a pay cut, which in turn prompted Ryan to become a free agent. 

He signed with the upstate Rangers and across those final five seasons of his career, he authored some of the most memorable moments of the era. At ages when almost all other pitchers – even the greats – had been long retired, Ryan notched such achievements as a 300-strikeout season; the sixth and seventh no-hitters of his career; his 300th win; and, most unimaginably of all, his 5,000th career strikeout. In 1999, Ryan went into the Hall of Fame with a Rangers hat on his plaque.

After his playing career, the Ryan plot thickened. While continuing to help run a minor-league ownership group in retirement, Ryan joined the Astros' front office as a special assistant to the general manager in 2005. Three years later, however, he left to become president of the Rangers, which made him the first Hall of Fame player to serve as top executive of a major-league club since Christy Mathewson more than eight decades prior. In 2013 Ryan went back to the Astros in an executive advisory role when his son Reid was named club president. Ryan's son, however, was eventually reassigned and then fired from the organization in 2020 so that owner Jim Crane could install his own son in a position of power. At that point, the elder Ryan also departed the organization.  

Regarding this general matter, Ryan's uniform number bears mentioning. The Rangers retired his No. 34 on Sept. 15, 1996. Two weeks later, the Astros did the same.

The head-to-heads

Whether you call it the Lone Star Series or the Silver Boot Series, Astros-Rangers clashes on the field go back to 1992, when an annual spring exhibition between the two teams began. It peaked soon after in 1993, when more than 50,000 showed up at the Astrodome to see the return of, yes, Nolan Ryan, who was beginning his fourth season with the Rangers. 

That arrangement prevailed until 2001, when the Astros and Rangers first met in the regular season as part of interleague play. To put a label on that intra-state clash, the winner of the series claimed the Silver Boot trophy. The next structural shift came prior to the 2013 season, when the Astros made the jump from the NL to the AL and became divisional rivals with Texas. While the move was primarily made to balance the leagues by putting 15 teams in each, a secondary motivation was to create an AL West rivalry between the two clubs of note.   

And so they have. Add it all up, and the Rangers and Astros have met 266 times in the regular season, and Texas holds a slim 134-132 edge. Houston, though, has owned the more recent encounters. Since their championship season of 2017, the Astros have a mark of 79-39 against the Rangers. That figure includes their 9-4 record against Texas this season, which turned out to be the tiebreaker that determined the AL West title. 

As long as the subject is a shared contempt, let's briefly revisit the 2015 dust-up between Hank Conger and Rougned Odor that emptied the benches and led to a near-brawl in triumphant retro clothing: 

You'll note that then-Astros manager A.J. Hinch exchanged some possibly adult language with then-Rangers manager Jeff Banister. Coincidentally, Banister twice interviewed for the Astros' managerial job, including after Hinch was let go in 2020. 

Recent intrigue 

This year's edition of the Rangers-Astros rivalry reached new heights – or depths, if you lack appreciation for such things – on July 26 at Minute Maid Park. Things got started early when Texas starter Andrew Heaney plunked Astros fulcrum Yordan Alvarez on the shoulder with an 0-2 fastball, which elicited something of a glare from Alvarez. In the third inning, Astros moundsman Framber Valdez returned the favor by hitting Marcus Semien with a first-pitch sinker. Semien was demonstrative in his frustrations before heading to first base. When Semien soon after scored on a Nate Lowe homer, he and Houston catcher Martin Maldonado exchanged a few words at the plate. 

Semien's true reprisal came later in what turned out to be a 13–5 Texas win on his two-run homer, the relishing of which made things even more tense. Color-television footage forthcoming: 

Things truly boiled over in the fifth, when an Adolis Garcia grand slam brought Semien and Maldonado "together" at the plate once again in a benches-clearing incident: 

No punches were thrown, but Semien and Garcia were both ejected. "After I scored on Adolis' grand slam, I told (Maldonado), 'I told you we were going to win this game' and all of sudden, their bench is out there and both of us are out of the game," Semien said, according to the Associated Press. "I didn't want to get thrown out of the game. I just was talking to him."

So, yes, there'a foundation of mutual disdain in place insofar as the current Houston and Texas models are concerned. 

As for the forthcoming ALCS, it marks the first time the two teams will meet in the postseason. In the 42 years they spent in different leagues, the Astros and Rangers made the playoffs in the same year just twice, in 1998 and 1999. After the Astros joined the AL West, they both made it in 2015. In none of those three years, however, did their October paths intersect. So no matter how this ALCS plays out, it's already a rivalry first. 

Speaking of firsts, let's conclude by noting that this all-Texas ALCS may be prelude to more of firsts. The Astros are angling to become the first repeat World Series champs since the 1999-2000 Yankees, while the Rangers are trying to hoist the trophy for the first time in franchise history. Fitting that one goal can't be accomplished without snuffing out the other. Let the hate commence. 

Sources:,, Fort Worth Magazine, Houston Chronicle, Irving Weekly, Lords of the Realm by John Helyar,, New York Times, SABR, Sports Illustrated, Texas Monthly, Total Baseball by John Thorn, Pete Palmer, and Michael Gershman (editors).