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BASEBALL

Rangers ride through troubles to first World Series

By Larry Fine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - It has been a season of redemption for the Texas Rangers, who have overcome all manner of challenges to reach the World Series for the first time in the 50th year of the franchise.

The Rangers and their long-suffering fans were rewarded for keeping the faith with a best-of-seven Fall Classic showdown against the Giants starting Wednesday in San Francisco.

The championship caps a tumultuous season that began with the revelation of a failed drug test by manager Ron Washington and the fiscal uncertainty of the club's bankruptcy that forced owner Tom Hicks, who also had to sell debt-ridden Liverpool of the Premier League, to give the Rangers up.

Reflecting the calm determination of team president Nolan Ryan, a Hall of Fame pitcher and new part-owner, the Rangers stayed on course for a ride into the Series.

They showed vision in bringing back top draft pick Colby Lewis after two seasons pitching in Japan and turning reliever C.J. Wilson into a top-flight starter.

They shrewdly collected young talent including shortstop Elvis Andrus and closer Neftali Feliz from Atlanta in return for Mark Teixeira, who was planning to test free agent waters.

Texas also showed faith in the talent and character of Josh Hamilton, a superlative prospect who had thrown away the early years of his career in a nightmare of drug and alcohol addiction before finding his way.

They also found a way to add premier playoff pitcher Cliff Lee in a trade with Seattle despite their financial woes.

ROCKY START

Born as the Washington Senators in 1961, the franchise abandoned the U.S. capital after 11 years for Texas sunshine with Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams as manager.

The expansion team had gotten off to a rocky start, losing 100 or more games in each of their first four seasons, and dwindling attendances led them to seek greener pastures.

Williams left after one season in Arlington in what would become a revolving door for managers.

Managers that would eventually get to World Series with other teams took their turns in Texas such as Whitey Herzog, Billy Martin and Bobby Valentine, but the Rangers floundered.

Boosted by slugger Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez in the 1990s, Texas relied on power hitting to make their only previous three post-season trips.

In 2007, Washington succeeded Buck Showalter as manager.

A utility infielder in his playing days, Washington helped shift the emphasis to pitching and defense, and encouraged his players to use their speed aggressively on the bases.

Ryan came on board as president one year later, and in the 2009 season faced a critical decision.

Washington had been given a random doping test, and knew it would show he had used cocaine on a recent road trip. He went straight to Ryan and tearfully offered his resignation.

Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels refused to accept the resignation and a rehabilitated Washington has led the Rangers to unchartered ground - the grand stage of the World Series.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)