In the beginning, there was no so-called face of the Rangers.Oh, maybe a cowboy hat. Or, all too briefly, the befuddled countenance of legend Ted Williams, who openly wondered how he came to manage such a bad team in such a hot and awful place.Such a faceless franchise baseball likely had never seen. The 1972 Texas Rangers, displaced from the nations capital, took roost in neither Fort Worth nor Dallas. They were a turnpike amusement stop, in nearly every sense of the word.Thrust into the abyss, without even time to attend his senior prom, lefty David Clyde soon became a peach-fuzzed poster boy to link with then-owner Bob Shorts idea of the club future. Clydes major league debut on June 27, 1973, came two months after his 18th birthday and achieved Shorts desired result Turnpike Stadiums first sellout.But the crowds, like Clyde, didnt last.The names and faces paraded through.Toby Harrah. Jim Sundberg. Jeff Burroughs. And even established notables such as Billy Martin, Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins.When Sports Illustrated finally decided to put the Rangers on the magazines cover in 1977, however, whose picture did it run?Rookie Bump Wills, identifying him in the headline as Maury Wills son.The team on the turnpike became a final depot, of sorts, for former stars wanting to make one last cash grab before retirement.Shortstop Bert Campaneris, a six-time All-Star, was 35 when he arrived. Perry first came to Texas when he was 36. Slugger Willie Horton became a Ranger at age 34. The nomadic Bobby Bonds joined the club at 32, his fifth of eight major league teams.A Cy Young winner in Yankee pinstripes, Sparky Lyle was traded to the Rangers at age 34. Rusty Staub and Bud Harrelson passed through town, both at 36. Cliff Johnson arrived in 1985 at 37 years old, too surly to even bring a glove.None stayed for very long. The franchise remained faceless.That all changed, however, when the new owners, led by George W. Bush and Rusty Rose, convinced free agent Nolan Ryan, 42, to leave the Houston Astros in December 1988, and sign with the Rangers.Nolan ended up staying for five seasons, breaking baseballs all-time strikeout record and pitching two more no-hitters, cementing his Hall of Fame legacy.Finally, the franchise had a memorable face. Ryans bronze statue symbolically watches over the ballpark today from a Mount Rushmore-like vantage point in center field.It is worth noting that the 1989 Rangers, Nolans first Texas team, also included Rafael Palmeiro, Julio Franco, Ruben Sierra, Harold Baines, Pete Incaviglia, Jim Sundberg, Buddy Bell, Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez, Kevin Brown, Charlie Hough, Jamie Moyer and Kenny Rogers.That group finished only 83-79 and in fourth place, 16 games behind Oakland.Having a face, it seems, doesnt always mean you get a pennant.Nor a World Series title, as Michael Youngs final three seasons here showed.Is there a new Face of the Franchise in the house?Absolutely. But you may have to look quickly.Shortstop Elvis Andrus contract expires after the 2014 season, and club wrecker/super agent Scott Boras seems poised to cash in.Boras has no empathy for a free-agent clients symbolic place within a franchise. The Rangers could put Andrus face on billboards from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande, and the agent would still sell him to a higher bidder.Though only 24, Elvis is entering his fifth major league season. Rangers fans have seen him grow from a wide-eyed 20-year-old to a confident two-time All-Star.His joy of playing is easily apparent. Elvis smile can light up a ballpark. He hustles. He makes plays.Third baseman Adrian Beltre has a lively style and leads the team by his fiery example. Ian Kinsler could move into a prominent role, but does he really want the job?Andrus does and is ready for it, I think. All he needs is for somebody to sew the captains C on his uniform.Elvis can take it from there, if Boras lets him.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton