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Ryan group wins bid to buy Rangers

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Add one more win for Big Tex.

Nolan Ryan became the first former big leaguer to own a ballclub when his group emerged from an all-night bidding war early Thursday with control of the Texas Rangers.

"Did I ever think I'd be in a position to be an owner of a major league team?" the Hall of Fame pitcher said, repeating the question. "Not at all. But I never thought I'd throw seven no-hitters, either."

The auction came 17 years to the day after Ryan's memorable tussle with Chicago White Sox star Robin Ventura on the mound at old Arlington Stadium, now paved over with a parking lot.

Ryan came out on top in that scuffle, too, punching Ventura while holding him in a headlock.

"It's funny how dates coincide," Ryan said with a chuckle.

Just as Ryan and sports attorney Chuck Greenberg were submitting their final bid in bankruptcy court in Fort Worth, Michael Young was hitting a grand slam to seal the AL West-leading Rangers' 11-6 win at Seattle.

"I hope that was omen," Ryan said.

Around 1 a.m., the Greenberg-Ryan group won out over Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Ryan declined to disclose percentages of ownership, but said he is a minority owner. He will remain team president and Greenberg will serve as CEO.

"It was a long night, but a very productive night," Ryan said.

Someone offered Ryan a bottle of champagne after this victory, but the 63-year-old former ace was drained.

"I had a small sip of it, but I was so tired I wanted to go home," he said.

Major League Baseball could formally approve the sale next week.

Ryan said he never thought of the consequences of not being a part of the Rangers -- where he pitched his final five seasons -- or whether he would have worked for Cuban.

"I hadn't gone there mentally," Ryan said. "I had not allowed myself to do that because I was very concerned about our employees and what we're doing and the direction we're going."

The winning bid was valued at $590 million and despite the increased sales price, Ryan is confident the Rangers can compete. Ace Cliff Lee can become a free agent after the season and star outfielder Josh Hamilton is eligible for salary arbitration.

Ryan said his group didn't increase its bid at the expense of some "other aspect of the game or organization, so we anticipate putting a budget together for next year that would include trying to improve the ballclub," Ryan said.

The new owners are also planning improvements at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, such as a larger video board and a new scoreboard to replace the ones that were originally installed when the stadium opened in 1994.

Ryan was glad to be planning for a future with the Rangers.

"I didn't know what yesterday was going to bring and where it would put me," Ryan said.