GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Van Cliburn, who passed away on Wednesday morning in Fort Worth, was one of the most renowned pianists ever, and he also holds a special place in Rangers history. Cliburn and the Fort Worth Symphony performed the Star-Spangled Banner at the opening of the Ballpark in Arlington in 1994.
"I thought it was ... it was amazing," Rangers vice-president John Blake said. "I can still remember them wheeling that piano out behind home plate. [Rangers vice-president of ballpark entertainment] Chuck Morgan said it was the best, and he has seen over 3,000 of them."
Cliburn's appearance was the work of Rangers president Tom Schieffer, who also lived in Fort Worth and had the social connections to get it done. Cliburn, who had rocketed to fame by winning the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, started all his concerts with the Star-Spangled Banner and was considered one of the best at playing it. Fort Worth Star-Telegram music critic Wayne Gay said the Star-Spangled Banner was one of five songs Cliburn played better than anybody in the world.
Cliburn played the first verse of the anthem on his piano. Then he stood at attention, put his hand over his heart and began to sing as the Fort Worth Symphony began playing the second verse.
It was a magical moment at the Ballpark.
"Best national anthem ever," Morgan said.
Morgan said the Rangers tried to get Cliburn to come back to the Ballpark, but could never connect on the dates.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger.