I spent much of the summer of 2007 with my friends at Minute Maid Park. When you’re seventeen and looking to get into trouble, the city is your playground. Those days, a Powerade label and a dollar got you a ticket in the nosebleeds, so Minute Maid became our second home. The Astros won only 73 games in the 2007 season and finished fourth in the division, a long fall from National League champions in 2005.
It was the beginning of the worst slide in franchise history. A prelude to the 100-loss seasons of 2011–2013. But we didn’t care. We loved our ‘Stros. I remember opening day with my dad in 2000, the inaugural opening day of Minute Maid Park. Our boys stomped the Brewers 11–3 and I caught a Bagwell foul ball (that I tragically lost years later). These memories have carried my friends and me, and countless other Astros fans, through years of disappointment. They are the moments that shaped a childhood and an adolescence, and they were the memories that framed the night of November 1, 2017. The night that the Astros Earned History.
When Yuli Gurriel caught the last out and put his hands on his head in disbelief, I did the same. Standing in front of the TV, my wife on the couch behind me, I stood and stared at the screen, speechless. “Are you alright?” she asked, only half-joking. The Astros had just won the World Series, in seven, in Dodgers Stadium. Just a few nights before, they had won the best World Series game ever played, the 10-inning classic that saw the Astros recover two three-run deficits with two three-run homers. The night before, on Halloween, the Dodgers won a convincing Game Six that took the life out of the city of Houston. Going into Game Seven, I was emotionally exhausted, and, as an Astros fan, prepared for the worst. We were not supposed to win Game Seven. Not with Verlander out and an exhausted bullpen; not against the bats of Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig, with Kershaw rested and ready to relieve Darvish. And certainly not in L.A., given our inability to hit balls away from home all post-season. But we did. And convincingly so. No 12-inning slugfest, no endless rotation of pitchers.
Just a solid 1st and 2nd inning at bat and some of the most clutch pitching I’ve ever seen, courtesy of Charlie Morton. AJ Hinch told reporters after the game that he kept a picture on the clubhouse wall next to the lineup all fall. It was a photograph of a submerged car somewhere in Houston, days after Hurricane Harvey dropped 51 inches of rain on the city. It served as a reminder of what his boys were playing for. A reminder that this year it wasn’t just about baseball. Since the first game back in Minute Maid after the storm, the Astros wore “Houston Strong” patches on their jerseys. Those patches meant more to the city than most people outside of the Gulf Coast could ever understand. Late into the playoffs, however, the novelty had worn off. The media stopped mentioning the storm and were naturally more concerned with the baseball of it all. Pitching matchups, the
antics of Yasiel Puig and the dominance of George Springer. Until Marwin Gonzalez tied the game in the 10th inning of Game Five and pointed, proudly, to the patch on his chest. A reminder to everyone watching what he and his teammates were playing for. For a franchise on a 55-year losing streak, in a state that’s never been home to a World Series champion, there could not have been a more fitting moment to bring home the Commissioner’s Trophy.
The “Earn It” mantra that the Astros adopted for the 2017 season became “Earn History” as soon as we clinched the playoffs back in September. A more appropriate slogan does not exist, both for the franchise and the city of Houston. To end more than a half century of disappointment, to bring Houston and Texas their first title, to confirm one of the boldest and most premature sports predictions of all time*, and to do it all in the wake of the most destructive US natural disaster in recorded history, no word is more fitting than “Historic.“ Say it with me Houston, the Astros have won the World Series.
*Sports Illustrated predicted the 2017 Astros championship in 2014 with George Springer on the cover.