At the start of the memorial service for Tom Vandergriff – the former Arlington mayor, congressman and Tarrant County judge – an announcement was piped over the loudspeaker: "Please remove your caps for the singing of our National Anthem."The baseball theme was certainly fitting, because without Vendergriff's tenacity, there's a pretty good chance that the Metroplex wouldn't have landed the then-Washington Senators and turned them into the Texas Rangers we know and love; at best, it would have been a much longer time before that happened.
Baseball and the Texas Rangers were a constant theme as hundreds gathered Friday in Texas Hall at the University of Texas at Arlington to pay tribute to Vandergriff, the man who helped turn a small town into a North Texas destination.
I meant to mark the passing of Vandergriff when it happened last week. He certainly did a lot for the city of Arlington, helping it become, as he was fond of saying, the hyphen between Dallas and Ft. Worth. He also helped the city land the GM plant and Six Flags, and he was instrumental in UTA becoming a four-year school. (Additionally, he owned an auto dealership which resided for years at Division and Collins streets, and I wish they'd been able to keep the iconic "V" sign at that corner after the dealership moved south to I-20 and was replaced with a QT station.) He certainly deserves to be remembered for a lot more than just being "that other guy with a statue at the Ballpark besides Nolan Ryan."
The ceremony ended on an appropriate note as well:
[A]t the end of the memorial, the crowd was asked to sing along on a Vandergriff favorite – "a sacred hymn."Perfect. My (baseball) hat is off to whomever decided to do that.
The Arlington Community Band then struck up with "Take Me Out the Ballgame."
R.I.P., Mayor Tom. The Metroplex owes you a great deal.