In the years before Charley Pride became a country singer, he proved himself as a talent on the baseball field. He was a player in the Negro Leagues, and he once pitched four innings in an all-star game against a team made of major-league players, including future Hall of Fame members Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
Now that Charley’s a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, he finds himself back in baseball in a big way. On Thursday, an 18-person investment group headed by former pitcher Nolan Ryan placed the highest bid in a Fort Worth auction of the Texas Rangers ballclub, with a bid of $593 million, according to MLB.com. The transaction still has to be approved by Major League Baseball, which has its next quarterly meetings Wednesday and Thursday in Minneapolis.
Charley’s hardly the only country singer who’s ever had a stake in a professional team. Glen Campbell was part of the original investment group in the Arizona Diamondbacks, Roy Clark had a hand in the ownership of the Tulsa Drillers, and several stars — Conway Twitty, Jerry Reed and the Oak Ridge Boys’ Richard Sterban — all had a share when the Nashville Sounds franchise was established in the 1970s. Country’s most-successful owner was Gene Autry, who established the Los Angeles Angels in 1960.
A few other sports notes from country music:
• Mel Tillis was on hand in Canton, Ohio, Saturday when the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted its latest class, including Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and former New Orleans Saints linebacker Ricky Jackson. Mel attended a post-induction party for Ricky with Saints owner Tom Benson, according to The New Orleans Times-Picayune, as did Football Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Harry Carson and Eric Dickerson.
• Bo Bice sang the national anthem on Sunday before the 2010 Heluva Good! Sour Creams Dips NASCAR race, won by Juan Pablo Montoya in Watkins Glen. Bo is on tap to repeat the anthem Aug. 23 before the Tennessee Titans’ first NFL preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.
• Country stars were a bit of a good luck charm for the Atlanta Braves over the last week. Little Big Town sang the anthem at Turner Field Aug. 4, and the Braves ended up defeating the New York Mets, 8-3. Sara Evans did the honors Aug. 7 — and chipped in a post-game concert, too — and the Braves again came up winners, shutting out the San Francisco Giants, 3-0.
• Johnny Cash proved the ultimate good luck charm for the Erie Crushers when the minor-league team banged out a 4-0 win against the Kalamazoo Kings. The Crushers had been in a slump for days and had only three hits after seven innings in the game. According to The Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, manager John Massarelli had threatened to change the players’ walk-out music to Johnny Cash songs if they didn’t start hitting, and in the eighth inning, he did just that. “Ring Of Fire,” “Walk The Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues” were used to introduce each player as they came up to bat, and the Crushers responded by scoring three runs. “If a Johnny Cash song is the key to our rally, then so be it,” said the Crushers’ Arden McWilliams. “I’ll be happy to have Johnny Cash be my walk-out song the rest of the year.”