Mike Stone, who as Texas Rangers president in the 1980s helped the club sign Nolan Ryan, died Friday in Mexico, where he lived with his wife.
Stone, who was 80, was also team president when the Rangers hired Bobby Valentine as manager and Tom Grieve as general manager. Stone guided the team through ownership instability caused by the financial woes of oilman Eddie Chiles, who eventually sold the club to a team led by George W. Bush and Rusty Rose in 1989.
Stone joined the team in 1983 and stayed for two seasons under the new owners until being replaced by Tom Schieffer in 1990.
Grieve told mlb.com that he and Valentine would have never lasted longer than two or three seasons if not for Stone, who championed the Rangers’ push into Latin America that resulted in the signings of Ivan Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez.
“Eddie Chiles was a wonderful owner, but he was a little bit impulsive,” Grieve said. “He made quick changes. I don’t think he would have had the patience to stick with us rebuilding through scouting and player development. Mike was a brilliant guy who brought leadership and stability to the organization.”
Stone also made the sales pitch to Chiles that convinced him of the need to sign Ryan, who was a free agent after the 1988 season. Seeking a 10th season with the Houston Astros, Ryan was rumored to have issues with the negotiations.
Grieve spoke to Stone about the chance to sign Ryan, and he approached Chiles despite his financial constraints.
“So Eddie said, ‘Don’t worry about the cost, just sign Nolan, and I’ll figure out how to pay him,’” Grieve said. “If Mike Stone doesn’t make the sales pitch to Eddie Chiles, we never would have signed Nolan Ryan.”
After leaving the Rangers, Stone was commissioner of the independent Northern Baseball League from 2002-06 and was a professor at SMU in the Sports Management program from 2010-17.
A celebration of Stone’s life has been scheduled for Dec. 8 in Fort Worth. More details are pending.