Editor’s note – This article originally appeared on AstrosConnection.com.
The Houston Astros. To the diehard Astro-Nuts who hang around the Talk Zone, these three words stir up a plethora of memories and emotions. We recollect fondly Chester Charge and General Admission, Rainbow guts and shooting stars, the drama of Scott’s No-No and Hatcher’s homer, the Orange Fire of Richard and Ryan and the Coneheads of Kerfeld and Andersen, the greatness of 1980 and 1986 and the growing pains of 1991, wondering how the team could lose so many games with Cedeno, Rader, Watson and May and how they could win with platoons at third and center in 1998, Howe’s bald dome and Sambito’s perfect coif, as well as Cabell and Landestoy’s Astro-puffs, the Cardiac Kids and the Killer B’s, the best and biggest scoreboard in the game and the Eighth Wonder of The World, Smith, Hofeniz, McMullen and Mclane and Durocher, Virdon, Lanier and Dierker.
True Astro-philes can name the no-hitters (Nottebart, Johnson, Wilson, Dierker, Forsch, Ryan, Scott and Kile) and the home-run hitters (Wynn, May, Davis, Bagwell and Alou). We take every game seriously, and while we might not remember all the wins, every loss haunts us. We know that Seaver’s lead balloon comments were right on and the Lasorda’s renting first place comments weren’t anywhere close. We know that Cruz isn’t pronounced “Cruise”. We can hear Passe, Elston, Dierker and Hamilton highlight every play, great or not.
We know Astros Baseball. We know that Jackson, Lillis, Menke, Metzger, Niekro, Puhl, Walling, Reynolds, Cruz and Biggio are more valuable than stats could ever show. We know why Wine, Bailey, Gainey, Anthony, Young and Yelding were disappointments. We all have our favorite players, whether or not they were any good. We know that Woods really didn’t leave third too early in 1980 and we know that Bochy had Rose dead to rights if he had just caught the stinkin’ ball. We know about the ones who got away (Cuellar, Staub, Morgan, Reuss, Ryan, Caminiti, Schilling and Lofton), the ones we were happy to get rid of (Knight, Rhodes, and Anthony) and the ones we flat out stole (Scott, Bagwell, Hampton and Johnson). We also know that prior to this year, the biggest deadline deal we’d ever pulled off was getting Davey Lopes for the stretch run in 1986.
I don’t expect everyone to get this stuff or remember all of it, especially you newbees. You see…being an Astros fan isn’t something you luck into or can attack casually. It has to be in your blood. Now, quite a few of us die-hards were Astro-buddies, or had kids that were. Some of us attended games in Colt Stadium. Some of us dreamed of playing in the Dome and wished they had the “run the bases” days when we were still young enough to run. All of us cried in 1980 and 1986. Most of us can still feel the awe of how breathtaking our first trip to the Dome was and how incredible our first game in the Ballpark at Union Station will be. Some of us are even getting used to being considered old-time Astros fans.
Most of us still hate the Reds, Dodgers, Phillies, and Mets, as well as the Braves and Cubs. We all still love Scrap Iron, Cheo, the Express, the Big Bopper, the Red Rooster, the X-Man, Senor Smoke, the Bonham Bullet (a.k.a. Dr. Death), and Billy D. Some of us even know who the Crash-Test Dummy was. Our hearts all sank when Thon was hit, and we all felt the same thing when Wagner was too.
We have history. We aren’t a franchise that just came into creation on July 31, 1998. The Astros didn’t commence existence in 1998, 1997, 1986 or 1980 for that matter. The Stros and their fans are a hodge-podge of broken promises and unfulfilled potential with brief glimpses of glory thrown in. The regulars in the Talk Zone are the living, breathing history of the Astros. We are proud of our team this year, but most of us have been proud for too many years. We can sense something great and we’re ready for it. We’re overdue for it. We’re starving for it.
The Astros are the precious gift of the TZ regulars and the like-minded that haven’t found us yet. Some of us are going to be very careful whom we let in to the Stros inner circle. We’ll be very critical of the front-runners or Band-Wagoneers, as I like to call them. And you can’t blame us. The Astros are our hearts. Many of us have died a bit during every huge defeat and cheered like madmen over every trivial win. I hope, if nothing else comes from the season, we find a few more who know that the current Alou isn’t the first Alou we’ve had, who know that of the two Cedenos, one was much better than the other and that they aren’t related.
I hope that for some others, this can be the season where you get the Astros in your blood. I hope the Dome can be a place that you remember fondly and I hope we can all share in a Championship dream. For you Band-wagoneers, you are welcome to watch our precious gift, you are welcome to celebrate and you are welcome to become Astros fans, like the rest of us. But keep in mind, amongst the die-hards, this is tenuous at best, so try to be good and welcome to the club.