MMQB: Memories transcend years of disappointment and losses


Most fans here are die hards. In fact, most Houston fans that are still paying attention at all are diehards. With a decade of losing teams and three 100-loss seasons in the recent past, it’s hard to remain interested if you aren’t.

Each of us has our unique memories. The Astrodome. The ’86 playoffs. Dierker as a pitcher. Dierker as a broadcaster. Dierker as a manager. The Astrodome scoreboard. The World Series in ’05.

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Whether it’s Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno, Bob Watson, Mike Scott, Roger Metzger or even Jeff Kent, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte or one of  hundreds of others each of us has a player or two or three who holds that special place.  For most, there are autographed pictures, score cards, newspaper clippings, videos or even old baseball cards.

The memories for me are many, but here are a few of the top ones.

  • My youngest son and I sat the in Crawford Boxes for that infamous 18 inning game when Brad Ausmus homered, Lance Berkman finished on the bench and Clemens pitched in relief. For the last 12 innings. Seems a couple of fans were anxious to “beat the traffic” and we were walking by at just the right time. (see the picture of Destin and Chip in this entry).
  • Before they were even born, we came up with the names of all three of our kids during an evening at the Astrodome. Joshua Daniel, Jason Nathaniel and Jonathan Destin.
  • Does anyone remember this play? Yep, I was there, with the two oldest boys and my dad.
  • Or how ’bout this one? Wasn’t there, but I do know exactly where I was when I heard it on the radio!
  • I remember spring training 2001. Surprised my oldest son Josh and took him to Kissimmee. He met Dierker, Bill Brown, several players, got a private tour of the facilities and got to play catch on the field.
  • Some of the best Astros’ memories come from my childhood, and I’ve mentioned many before. Listening to Gene Elston and Loel Passe on the ol’ transistor radio as a kid. After I was supposed to be asleep.

There are so many more. I’m obviously leaving out quite a few. Unfortunately, the memories — good ones anyway — have been few and far between since that 18-inning game back in 2005. Surely you have one or two in the time frame, no?IMG_20130724_211137

Here’s a quick lightning round for me:

  • Best Astros’ moment: The 18-inning game and spring training ’01.
  • Favorite player all-time: Hmmm. Okay, I’ll be a kid again: Biggio and Bagwell.
  • Favorite manager: Dierker. Can he still manage please?
  • Favorite announcers: Elston and Dierker in their primes together would have been awesome.
  • Favorite non-star player: Casey Candaele, Denny Walling.
  • Favorite playoff team: ’86, hands down.
  • Best GM: Gerry Hunsicker. If he could have gotten along with Drayton, the Astros might have had a dynasty.
  • That sinking feeling.  A tie: When it started to fall apart after 2001 and the dark years with trades of players like Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence et al.

So, as the Astros prepare to embark on what may be one of their better seasons since the ’05 World Series season, what do you remember of the last 50 or so years?

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43 comments on “MMQB: Memories transcend years of disappointment and losses

  1. Best Astros Moment: The 18-inning game as well. Favorite player all-time: Definitely Bagwell. Favorite manager: Also Dierker. Favorite announces: Dierker and Deshaies (I really miss Jimm D.). Favorite non-star player: John Cangelosi…I know he wasn’t an Astro long, but I really liked how he played the game (Bill Spier is a very close 2nd). Favorite playoff team: A tie between 1986 and 1998. Best GM: Hunsicker, but I am a Luhnow Kool-Aid drinker, but time is too short for him now. That sinking feeling: The Pujols HR was like a kick in the gut when it happeneed.

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  2. I remember the first major league baseball game I ever attended…. Houston Colt .45s, 1962. Cannot recall who we played or who won as I was overwhelmed by the expanse of beautiful, at the time, green field and the people in the stands. My dad was not a baseball fan and we went only because his best friend was taking his son. We did go a couple of times more and I was hooked! I never went to the dome until 1973!!!! I had to take myself, my wife, and my son. Went to many more games since, including opening day from ’97 – ’12. Quit the Opening Day stuff because of the higher prices on that day, thanks to Mr. Crane….

    One thing I could always count on when I saw the Giants or Reds, in person, play back in the day… Willie McCovey would hit a home run and Johnny Bench would hit one. I enjoyed hearing Tom Griffin’s, J.R. Richard’s, and Ken Forsch’s fastballs smack the catcher’s glove… the huge grin of John Edwards as he framed a fastball for the umpire as if saying, “How about that one ump?”

    Sonny Jackson at shortstop and Joe Morgan as his partner at second. Joe Pepitone bringing his big mustache and curly hair to the dome and proclaiming the dome as the world’s largest hair dryer. Doug Rader strutting around at third base as the Red Rooster. Nolan Ryan arriving only to see J.R. go down with his stroke. Jim Wynn launching massive homeruns. Always knowing that when a certain team came into town that its stars would STILL be on the team (the aforementioned McCovey, Aaron, Bench, Stargell, Clemente, Banks, etc.)

    Then the team’s fortunes turning for the better as Biggio, Bagwell, and Caminiti mature into players for us. Better scouting by our team bringing homegrown star players to the big club which, in turn, drew interest of good free agents.

    The best seasons to me are the ’99 season followed by the World Series appearance.

    But my best memories of the team over the many decades are when I would listen to the game, usually under the cover of my sheet at night, being describes by Gene Elston. What a wonderful picture he could paint in my mind’s eye as the pitcher threw effortlessly and the batters hit the ball so easily out of the park. Gene, you are really missed my old friend.

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    • Sarge, my parents relocated from upstate NY to Houston in 1977. One day shortly after we moved here in August of that year my dad says ‘let’s go for a ride’. I had no idea where we were going. As we were driving along the 610 Loop I could see the roof of the Dome glistening in the hot summer sun and my eyes lit up. It was a memory that has stayed with me forever. I also remember walking into the Dome for the first time and being mesmerized by the scoreboard and the green of the turf. Oh, the memories.

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  3. Chip, let me just say I love that photo of you and your son at the 18-inning game. I am biased, but in my opinion, no sport bonds a father and son like baseball. I have 2 boys and baseball bonds us like no other sport or activity. We will be attending our 3rd spring training this year and, although we live in Round Rock, will still attend 4-5 games this season. Both of my boys play baseball, with my older son playing on a travel team, and I look forward, and get excited, the day either son plays a game. Baseball is and always will be a passion for me.

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    • Tim, my own son was not very coordinated and did not play baseball very well but he did play! Baseball came naturally for me. As I mentioned, my father was not an athlete so I had to learn the different games myself. Tried out for the Astros in ’73 and ’74. I was invited back for more evaluation but was told both times that I was too “old.” My wife’s son has an athletic son of his own. The 8 year old is a lefty but… his mom and dad want him playing kick ball (soccer). UGH! I suppose I say all of this because of my envy of your boys playing baseball. Have fun with them and enjoy!

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    • Tim, all three of my boys played (one still playing). My oldest played collegiately for UL-L (#1 in the country part of last year). Prior to that, he won a JUCO World Series with LSU-Eunice, perenially ranked #1 in the country. All three have won USSSA and/or Super Series World Series titles and we’ve traveled around the country (endlessly!). Josh played summer tournaments at some of the spring training facilities in Florida, Jason played in an International World Series at the Disney complex. Destin is the lefty (6-2) and is a junior this year in a high school that has won multiple state titles over the past 2 decades.

      All that to say is you’re right…baseball does bond. Lots and lots of memories at either the Astrodome, Kissimmee or MMP. Common ground. When you can’t talk about anything else, you can always talk baseball! 🙂

      Great, incredible, wonderful memories!

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      • Here in the Austin area we play in Super Series, USSSA and Nations tournaments. We know on weekends we have a tournament that our weekend is booked, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The friends my son has made playing baseball will probably last a lifetime. He is 12 now and he has played 6-7 seasons with many of the same boys. Naturally, both my boys are Astros fans, but my youngest, who is 9, hasn’t fully grasped the beauty of watching the game on television, but he enjoys going to games in person. All I can say is Viva el Beisbol!

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  4. Wow – many memories along the way.
    – We moved here from Dallas in 1965, so I knew the Astrodome existed and was looking everywhere for it as we drove into town (you can’t quite see the Dome from Spring Branch but how was I supposed to know).
    – Odd first memory was going to the Dome and seeing Colt 45 stadium sitting unused in the parking lot of the Dome
    – In those early days they would serenade you with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass before the games with some shadowy cartoons up on the big board.
    – If you got straight A’s you could send in for 2 free tickets to multiple games during the season and it was great motivation because this was one of the few ways my family saw a game live then
    – Very few televised games in the early days – usually just Sunday road games. I remember how Jimmy (Toy Cannon) Wynn became my hero. Remember him ripping one over the Centerfield fence at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh which was like 460′. It was so deep they stored the batting cage on the field in CF (kind of like the flag pole at MMP).
    – Listened to them win a 24 inning night game 1-0 against the Mets on a school night – it must have been 2 in the morning when it finished. It only ended because Al Weiss (who became an unlikely WS hero in 1969) let a Bob Aspromonte 2 out ground ball roll through his legs with the bases loaded. Still the longest shutout in mlb history
    – Was at one of the first games that Cesar Cedeno played in. The team was losing by 2 in the ninth with 2 guys on and he came up to pinch hit (no not a walk-off homer) – he sacrificed them over but he was so fast he beat it out and ended up scoring the winning walk off run a couple batters later.
    – Saw Willie Mays and Johnny Bench rip two in a game against the Astros.
    – Saw Steve Carlton throw a one hitter (never had a no-hitter in his career) with Jeffrey (don’t call me Jeff) Leonard getting the only hit late in the game
    – Watched the Walt Weiss play on TV – just another heart break among many
    – Losing to the Phillies in 1980 playoffs one game short of the WS. Game 4 blew a 2 run lead in the 8th, came back to tie in the 9th and lose it in the 10th. Game 5 blew a 3 run lead in the 8th, came back to tie it in the 8th and lose it in the 10th.
    – 1986 and the 16 inning loss to the Mets (after blowing a 3 run lead in the 9th) DO I SEE A PATTERN HERE?
    – Losing tough playoff series to the Braves and Padres – it seemed like we so often had the early game during the work week and by the time I went home we had lost
    – THE GAME – the 18 inning wonderful game that will never die in my brain – that is the highlight of my Astros life
    – Favorite Astro – Biggio with Bagwell 1A
    – Favorite manager – Dierker – Another huge mistake by Drayton followed by the fatal release of Hunsicker was letting Dierk go
    – Favorite announcer – Elston – Loved Jim Deshaies and Dierker as color guys in the booth
    – Favorite non-star – Billy Spiers – that is why I named my Astroholics rehab clinic after him
    – Favorite GM – Had to be Hunsicker
    – That sinking feeling – when they announced we could not have the roof closed for the 2005 WS. Drayton should have had the motor removed and paid the $1 million fine from his mentor Bud

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    • One other Astrodome memory – at one time sang in the church choir with X-Man Hernandez’s wife. She got us a “gig” singing the national anthem during the last season at the Dome. Walking out there it just seemed unbelievably huge from that angle. Funny thing was that there were probably less people in the stands before that week night game than were usually at our church. Oh well.

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  5. I forgot to mention, that as a 16-year old, I got to play a game with our little league All-Star team in the Dome. We played against a team from Mexico (this was in 1983). Our coach had some connections and the week before we traveled to Nuevo Leon to play the Mexican team and then the following week they traveled here to play us in the Dome. This is not an Astros memory, but a fond baseball memory from my youth.

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  6. Favorite Astros moment-Taking my son to a game in the Dome that turned out to be longest in it’s history. We got home at 3:30 am. We were the only people left in the Skyboxes at the end.
    Favorite non-star- Art Howe. I just loved how he played the game.
    Favorite All-Time player Bob Aspromonte
    Favorite playoff team- 1980
    Favorite announcers-Elston, Jim De
    Sinking Feeling-The entire Jim Crane purchase timeline
    Favorite General manager-None
    Favorite Astrodome moment for me personally- U of H and UCLA in the Dome-incredible!
    Most memorable Dome moment for me personally-Ryan’s preseason return to the Dome to pitch for Texas against my Astros. Good God, how stupid can an owner be? The other team’s new star player sells out a preseason game. 55,000 people cheering for the other team’s player. It was a very emotional moment for all of Houston. I was in the upper deck yellow seats with my entire family in deepest right center field, which gave me the weirdest prospective of the Ryan debacle, because from out there it seemed to me we were on the outside, looking down on something nobody believed could happen.

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  7. Best Astros moment live: Saw Bagwell hit for the cycle in, I think 2001 or 2002.

    Best Astros moment on TV: The 18-inning win. It felt like we were destined. Well, we weren’t, but it felt like it.

    Best Astros moment, other: I was in my living room in Austin listening to the Mike Scott no-hitter on the radio. At the time I lived with two girls (think Jack Tripper) who were not baseball fans. They thought I was insane.

    Favorite player all-time: Tough call. I might go with Oswalt. Saw his MLB debut in TV and his first start in Houston live. His stuff was amazing.

    Favorite manager: Also Dierker. And, yes Chip, I bet he can.

    Favorite announcers: Loved Dierker. Never heard Elston, but I do like Ashby.

    Favorite non-star player: Denny Walling was pretty great. And I loved me some Bill Spiers.

    Favorite playoff team: 1986. I think we’d have mowed through Boston.

    Best GM: Agree with Chip here. Hunsicker left Houston and built Tampa Bay from the ground up.

    That sinking feeling. Losing Game 1 to Kevin Brown. When they lost Johnson’s start I just felt like that whole trade was a waste. Then losing Johnson in the offseason just made it worse. Most expensive two-month rental ever.

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    • Brian, Elston was a great one. You should pull up some of his broadcasts and give a listen to them. He always caused me to feel as if I were sitting against a huge shade tree, up on a hill overlooking a field of tall grass, gently swaying in the wind. Smooth delivery.

      Loel Passe was his partner most of the time. He was a real team rah-rah guy and had a lot of cornpone in his color. They did not get along but you would never know it from their time on the air. Funny, back then, I did not care for Passe’s shtick but now, I find I miss it. “Now ya chunkin’ in ‘dere! Hot diggity dog and sassafras tea!”

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  8. Moved to Houston in ’86…guess you could say it was fortunate timing. I have many fun memories of the dome – an Andujar Cedeno walk off homer, ground rule doubles by Craig Reynolds, JD striking out the first 8 Dodgers, sitting in the cheap seats by General Admission, Lima-time, etc.

    However, since my mom passed last year and was a bigger fan than I, I’ll tell you that her favorite Astros were probably Greg Swindell, Craig Biggio, Larry Anderson, Billy Spiers, and Hunter Pence. We were at an event in the early 90’s and Jose Cruz was supposed to be the headliner…but he stiffed us. Swindell and his wife stepped up and offered far more of their time as consolation to the crowd. I can’t express enough how generous and friendly they were. As for Spiers and Pence, they just played the game right.

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  9. Best Astros Moment for me: September 25, 1986, Mike Scott strikes out 13 and no-hits the Giants to clinch the Astros’ second-ever division title. This masterpiece propeled the Astros into to the greatest play-off series of all time, ending with the greatest play-off game of all time.

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  10. If I had to pick a lineup made up of my personal favorite Astros it would look like this:
    Thon SS
    Doran 2B
    Staub 1B
    Pence RF
    Cedeno CF
    Cruz LF
    Biggio C
    Aspromonte 3B
    Oswalt P
    I would have that team playing Cincy, any Cincy team, because with Oswalt on the hill we couldn’t lose.

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      • Dan, personal favorites is different than “best Astros”. It is a list of players who etched places in my heart. It was tough leaving John Bateman off of this team at catcher, because of how I felt about him, but Biggio was my dream player long after my youth was gone. You would have to have been a fan of the hapless Astros of the early years to understand what Staub meant to this franchise, both on the field and off of it. Staub brought an entire state of new fans to the Astros, back when they needed fans desperately and when they threw him away it could only be matched by throwing away the HOF career of Ryan. When you look at Staub’s career stats you wonder how they could have done such a thing. 1255 BBs vs 888 SOs is just an amazing stat for someone not even considered great. This guy was an All-Star the two years before the Astros traded him and four times after.
        The absolute worst trade in Astros history, in my book. Even worse than the Morgan trade, because of what Staub meant to Astros’ fans while a member of this franchise when he left.

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    • Best lineup:

      P Richard or maybe Oswalt
      C Biggio
      1B Bagwell
      2B Altuve
      3B Cabell or Camaniti
      SS Thon
      LF Cruz
      CF Cedeño
      RF Pence

      That’s a World Series winner right there.

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  11. My all-time Astros five-man rotation: Nolan Ryan, Roy Oswalt, Mike Scott, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson. Hon. Mentions: Joe Niekro, Turk Farrell, J.R. Richard, Larry Dierker, Shane Reynolds.

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  12. Enjoyed seeing the pictures of you and your son. I remember when my dad carried the family to Colt 45 stadium. It was the grandest sporting event I had ever seen. They played the Giants and Willie Mays was still with them. We had seats along the left field line and I watched Willie catch fly balls in the outfield. He made everything look effortless. I thought the stadium was huge and later remembered how small it looked compared to the Astrodome. Wonderful memory of my Mom and Dad who both loved baseball.

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    • Now it is funny to see the Dome dwarfed by Reliant Stadium next door. (Though the Dome has it beat in rat infestation).
      I figure that is why they don’t want to blow up the Dome – afraid all the rats will run over to Reliant.

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  13. My first game to see was a doubleheader. July 15, 1962 against the Cubs (had to look it up). I remember the games were split. It shows the attendance was 6907. That had to be early in the afternoon because by the end of the games you could take your pick of any seat. I remember it being GREAT but HOT. At the old Colt Stadium they had some mosquitoes so big, they could mate with a turkey.

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    • Also went to an exhibition game in the Astrodome to see the Twins (probably 1966). The highlight for me was batting practice. Killebrew, Allison, Battey, Oliva, Mincher, Hall, Versalles, Rollins, Tovar. I have never seen a complete team of hitters like they had.

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  14. Best Astros moment – several, including Jeff Kent’s home run, Beltran in the 04 playoffs, Roger Clemens pitching after his mum had passed away, going to cheat and say Lance Berkman’s batting in the 2011 WS and especially in game 6, but best Astros moment of all, when chipalatta was born and Chip freed himself and all of us from chron DOT com
    Favourite player – hands down Lance
    Berkman
    Favourite manager – Larry Dierker 1998
    Favourite playoff team – 2004
    Favourite non star player – to me they were all stars, but maybe Moises Alou or perhaps Morgan Ensberg
    Icy declining feeling – when they declined Jeff Kent’s option (and then stuffed up Beltran)

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  15. First game was against Cincinnati in 1972. Best moment, Last out if Scott’s no no, 9/25/86, most exciting game I ever attended. Favorite all time player, that’s a hard one. Probably Biggio with special mention to Wynn and Ryan. Manager, Dierker, I sent him a get well card when he had that seizure in the dugout and he replied with a hand written thank you card. Announcers, Elston and Dierker. Favorite non-star, Rob Andrews ( cause he would stop and talk to us after the games). Favorite playoff team, 86, with special mention of 80 ( cause it was the first one). GM, Hunsucker.That sinking feeling, the day I read in the Chronicle that Selig proposed the move to the AL, but unlike Bo, I got over it.

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