Two words best describe the Houston Astros World Series victory for me. I cried.
For those who have followed the Astros for decades, the win was a relief beyond measure.
It was for those of us who went to Astros games on a whim when we lived in Space City because tickets were always available.
It was for those who grew up watching the Houston team get close but never over the mountain top.
It was for those who would be able to talk baseball with our dads, no matter how mad the dads were at something stupid we had done or how long we wore our hair.
It was for those of us who formerly collected Astros baseball cards, which were easy to get because few others wanted them. (Before they were thrown away).
The long, strange trip to being an Astros fan started for me when I was 9 in 1966. I grew up in Abilene, which is way closer to Dallas-Fort Worth than Houston. Imagine driving from Houston to Dallas and back again. Abilene is a little further driving time than that from Houston – one way.
The Texas Rangers did not move to Arlington from Washington D.C. until 1972, so Houston was the only pro baseball team in the state at the time.
My dad drove me and my two sisters to Houston to see relatives in Baytown the year after the Astrodome opened in 1965, but seeing the relatives was not what I came away from the trip dumbfounded about. We saw the Astros play the St. Louis Cardinals in the Astrodome – the Eighth Wonder of the World.
My dad chose St. Louis to watch in the Dome because before the Astros were created in Houston, the St. Louis Cardinals were the team of record in Texas. They had KMOX-AM radio, which broadcast Cardinals games throughout Texas with its overly-strong signal. My dad would listen on the radio to Cardinals games in the summer over the RCA with the one, small light bulb at our kitchen table or in his living room easy chair. He had listened to the Cardinals’ radio broadcast his whole life.
I remember thinking that the Dome was like a spaceship that landed in Texas. I must have been wide-eyed – we didn’t have anything like it in Abilene, dammit – because old people stopped to talk to me when we were on the concourse. My sisters were way behind me when we went to our seats in the second level, and they never caught up with me. Down I went through the dark tunnel with no lights, to see the klieg lights calling me from the far away entrance to the seating. The lights were closer, and I was walking faster. My dad hollered for me to wait up, but then he gave up. He knew what he wanted didn’t matter.
Then BOOM, I was on the second level. There were lights all around me. There was indoor space as far as I could see. We were on the first-base side and the players running against the left field wall looked like ants. I might as well have been on another planet. My sisters caught up with me, but they couldn’t move me out of the way. I was soaking it in. I was in the freakin’ ASTRODOME. My sisters could just go around me because I was in awe and was going to continue to be awed until I was darn well finished with the aweness.
During the game, a Houston player hit what was thought to be a home run. The space-age scoreboard went off, with the mooing longhorns, the dancing cowboys shooting two six guns and the ricocheting bullets. Then the light show just stopped. The ball had only hit the top of the wall and bounced back in. The Astro was thrown out at second base. The baserunner had slowed down because of the lights. No one hit a homer the rest of the game, and Houston did not win. So I did not get to see the full show of special effects on the scoreboard on that trip. I was pissed.
I remained unhappy until my dad bought me an Astros pennant after the game. No sister was going to soil that pennant with her sister-like hands. I guarded it with my life in the back seat of his Plymouth.
This first thing I did when I got home to West Texas? Pin the pennant on my wall. It remained there in the same spot until I went to college. (I still have it, although it looks like dozens of sisters have played with it maliciously over the years).
True, I doubted the Astros at times. I made fun of the Astros when they had their 100-game losing seasons. There was a joke going around Houston then that said: Someone broke into my car. I had two Astros tickets on the dashboard and when I came back there were four Astros tickets.
But there were times this year when I was nine again, when Houston was playing the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers. They went from Lastros to Firstros, I said with my pre-teenage logic kicking in.
And when Yuli Gurriel took the throw at first base from second baseman Jose Altuve for the final out in 2017, it all hit me again. I was back in the Astrodome. I was back when Enron Field opened in 1999 (and saw Ricky Ledee of the Yankees hit the first homer). I was there when Enron became Minute Maid Park. I had followed all the previous orange futility. And I cried.
TEXANS LOSE WITHOUT WATSON – If the Houston Texans cannot beat the bottom-dwelling Indianapolis Colts, who also are playing a second-string quarterback due to an injury to a starter, I am worried that Houston will not win again this year.
Reserve QB Tom Savage threw a TD pass in the second half, but looked inept in the first two quarters. He frequently overthrew receivers. It was a helpless and hapless offensive effort that only Cleveland could appreciate.
Jacoby Brissett blistered the Houston defensive secondary for 308 yards. It could only have been worse if someone had poured gasoline on them.
The play I will take away from the game is when Houston had a chance to win at the end of the contest, despite being outplayed. Savage sat in the pocket on fourth and goal inside the five and down 20-14. He was strip-sacked by Jabaal Sheard, the ball popped out and the game was over.
Houston’s first TD was by the defense on a 34-yard fumble return by Lamarr Houston.
This game reminded me of – shudder – Brock Osweiler. The Texans cannot win games with defense only.
The most-accurate quote after the game came from Savage: “I played like crap.”
Help won’t be coming in the draft. Houston gave away its first and second round draft picks in 2018 to get rid of Osweiler (which still was a great move). Houston will have two picks in the third round after this season, as well as one each in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. Houston also is scheduled to receive four compensatory picks for losing players to free agency before the 2017 season.
They are going to have to beat the bushes for unsigned free agents – especially offensive linemen – or hope that the knee doctors in Houston working on Watson qualify as Super Heroes.
DYNAMO ADVANCE PAST PORTLAND – When the MLS Dynamo first came to Houston from San Jose, Calif., they won their first two MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007.
On Sunday, Dylan Remick (43rd minute) and Mauro Manots (77th minute) scored to give Houston a 2-1 win. The Dynamo is now in the Western Conference championship against Seattle.
The Dynamo are the underdogs. But so was another team in Houston that wears orange.
TCU TOPS TEXAS FOR FOURTH TIME IN A ROW – I never thought I’d live to see the University of Texas beaten by TCU four years in a row. I am not sure if that has happened before. Maybe when Slingin’ Sam Baugh was a Horned Frog? UT had better get an offense. TCU certainly has the defense to play in a New Year’s bowl.
I still think TCU is the Big 12’s best shot at the college football playoffs for the Big 12. The Oklahoma-Oklahoma State shootout proves that neither of them have a defense. But Penn State and Ohio State both losing throws open a fourth spot for the playoffs.
I wouldn’t bet against Georgia and Alabama – who likely will play each other in the SEC championship game – could both make the playoffs, even with a loss in the SEC Championship Game.
WHO IS PLAYING TODAY WHO IS A LOCK FOR THE NFL HALL OF FAME? – JJ Watt is in there. That’s all I care about.
VERLANDER SKIPPED PARADE TO GET MARRIED – New Astros pitcher Justin Verlander – without whom the Astros could not have won the World Series – skipped the Friday victory parade and instead got married. In Italy. He missed what some are guessing was a crowd of more than 750,000 Houstonians who showed up for the parade. How do you guess at such a number? Was it 800,000 or higher? Even at 500,000, that number would be impressive.
One thing is certain, the Verlanders’ first son will be named George-Carlos Jose-Dallas Verlander.
CLASSICAL NOTES – Camille Saint Saens, the only French composer I am familiar with. He wrote a piece on Sampson and Delilah that a lot of Arabic musical pieces have copied. It has a big finish and is something to listen to when you want to build up confidence for a big event.
QUOTE OF THE DAY – “What do you think of your team’s execution?” “I think it is a good idea.” — attributed to Tampa Bay’s John McKay of the inept, expansion NFL franchise, but something all Texans fans were thinking at halftime today.
HOTTIE OF THE DAY:
With all the multitude of things you can now order because of Houston’s World Series win, I found out it was too late for her — but that she did ship for free.