It has already been some time. For most that means the luster may have left a little, the excitement has waned. Maybe a few have even forgotten those moments of despair and struggle throughout October that were eventually overcome. (That is unless you obsessively watch the video of every run the Astros scored in Game 5 of the World Series. That pivotal, roller coaster ride of the century.) It was a great time to be an Astros fan.
A lot has been said too about Houston Strong, about the summer that saw our city soaked to the bones and our World Series bound Astros forced from home. About how Harvey brought a city together, brought a team together to get past their struggles, to prevail. Houston has had their fair share of heartache and, Harvey aside, our sports teams have always struggled. Until now the only glorious rise to the top was limited to the spring times of ’94 and ’95 when Hakeem the Dream Olajuwon lifted the whole of Houston and all of his Rockets teammates upon his back and carried them to the promised land. (Some even believe that because Jordan wasn’t in the league that the ’94-’95 Rockets championships are tainted.) It was a city that was in a quasi sports purgatory. One that had celebrated great victories, great teams and even greater players, but by the grace of the sports gods always came up short. There is a reason that when H-town natives and fans hear the name Frank Reich they shudder and possibly convulse.
Something has always happened. In ’80 JR had a stroke, in ’86 the Mets clipped Hatcher’s heroics. Buddy Ryan punched Kevin Gilbride and the House of Pain became painful for Oiler fans. The Twin Towers came up short vs Bird. Renfro caught that ball but the refs stole that game for the Steel Curtain. The Chicago White Sox (had) swept the Astros in their only World Series appearance. Yao goes down vs LA. They are still looking for the ball Pujols hit off of Lidge. Joe Montana twice gunned Houston down, once with Notre Dame, once with Kansas City. Valvano makes a great story but Phi Slamma Jamma should have never lost that game. Even the Texans, in their most successful season to date, wore letterman jackets to a showdown in New England only to further show Houston sports needed more schooling. Always coming up short. Good enough to say we were close, not great enough to get past, Bad News Bears status, “Just wait until next year…”
That is until now.
When the final out was cast. When the ball was trapped by Altuve and thrown on the infield side of first base. When Yuli gripped that ball in the back of glove. When the Astros beat the Dodgers in the seventh game of the World Series. At that moment there was a weight lifted. Downtown Houston went from below sea level to 10 feet above. At that moment the demons of many Houston failures were let loose. They were gone. Tears flowed, minds exploded, hell froze over (Or at least got flooded from Harvey.) They had won it for Houston. And that also meant they won it for a lot more.
They won it for Mike Scott. For Jose Cruz and Nolan Ryan. For Glenn Davis, Daryl Kile and Craig Biggio. For Shane Reynolds and Jose’ Lima…..Ken Caminiti, Enos Cabell, Richard Hidalgo, Craig Reynolds, Joe Neikro, JR Richard, Sean Berry, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Hampton, Jim Deshaies, Julio Lugo, Gene Elston, Daryl Ward, Octavio Dotel, even Randy Johnson. It was for Larry Dierker, Ricky Gutiérrez, Phil Garner, Terry Puhl, Luis Gonzales, Mark Portugal, Lance Berkman, Art Howe, Roy Oswalt, Cesar Cedeno, Mike Lamb, Billy Wagner, Tim Bogar, Charlie Kerfeld, Scott Elarton, Kirk Saarloos, Buddy Bell, Casey Candeale, Matt Galante, and Brad Lidge. It was for Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn, Bud Norris, Jed Lowrie, Moises Alou, Dickie Thon, Brad Ausmus, Don Wilson, Hunter Pence, Miguel Tejada, Bill Spires, Luke Scott, Joaquín Andújar, Chad Qualls, Jason Lane, Bob Knepper and Bob Watson. For Alan Ashby, Eric Bruntlet, Tony Eusibio, Rafael Ramirez, Bill Doran, Pete Incaviglia Carlos Lee, Jeff Kent, Kevin Bass, Bob Aspromonte, Larry Anderson, Danny Darwin, Steve Finley and Derek freaking Bell. For Adam Everett, Wandy Rodriguez, Doug Henry, Curt Schilling, Morgan Ensberg, Carl Everett, Denny Walling, Wade Miller, Geoff Blum, Milo Hamilton, Bobby Abreu, Brandon Backe, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Rusty Staub, Roy Hofeinz, Don Wilson, Bill Virdon, Tal Smith, Doug Rader, Hal Lanier, Joe Sambito, Dave Smith, and Billy Freaking Hatcher. For Pete Harnisch, Chris Burke, Aubrey Huff, Willy Taveras, and Michael Bourn.
It was for Dan Pastorini. For Bum Phillips, For Earl Campbell and Carl Mauck. For Mike Renfro, Bruce Matthews, Haywood Jeffries, Ken Stabler and Warren Moon. For Lorenzo White, Greg Bingham, Dave Casper and Coach Glanville. For White Shoes Johnson, Elvin Bethea, Kenny Borrough and Vernon Perry. For Cris Dishman, Earnest Givens and Lamar Lathon. For Drew Hill, Ray Childress and Jack Pardee. Alonso Highsmith, Mike Rozier, Alan Pinket, Sean Jones and Ray Childress. For Mike Munchak and Eugene Seale. Mike Barber, Cody Carlson and Robert Brazile. Giff Nielsen, Will Fuller and Al Smith.
It was for every member of the Houston Cougars Phi Slamma Jamma.
It was even for Tracy Mcgrady, James Harden and Yao Ming. For Carl Herrera and Ralph Sampson, For the Dream and Drexler…….
It was for the current Astros roster. The one that sweated three years of 100+ losses. That weathered a switch to the AL, Hurricane Harvey, and won in spite of Bud Selig. It was for a city that has taken so much disappointment in stride. It was for people tearing out the walls in their houses while listening to the game. It was for the world, but most of all it was for us, the Houston fans. For all the heartbreak. The champions. Thank you Houston Astros. Thank you!
By Omar Gobby:
The Duke Blue Devils. The New England Patriots. The Green Bay Packers. The St. Louis Cardinals. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The New York Yankees. All winners. All very much hated outside their own fan bases.
But why the hatred? They are all programs with long-standing traditions of success. Duke has been to 11 NCAA finals (won 5 of them). The Packers have more titles (13) than anyone else in NFL history. The Cardinals have been to 19 World Series (winning 11 of them). The Irish have laid claim to at least 13 NCAA championships and 7 Heisman Trophy winners. The Patriots have become a January fixture, making the playoffs in 14 of the last 16 seasons. To add insult to injury, they have won 5 Super Bowl titles in that span. And then there are the New York Yankees. Is there a more hated team in American professional sports? And why not hate a team that boasts more Hall of Famers (62, if one includes broadcasters), retired numbers (19), pennants (40), and World Series titles (27!) than anyone else in MLB history? Why all this vitriol directed at these teams? I will tell you why: they win. Period.
Which brings us to the Chicago Cubs.
I am a lifelong Cubs fan. I went to my first game in 1975, watching the Cubs and Manny Trillo go down to the Atlanta Braves on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon. I ran home from school to watch the greatest regular season game from my youth. I got excited when Bump Wills (Maury’s kid) was acquired. I got pissed when they traded Ivan DeJesus for Larry Bowa and some kid shortstop named Sandberg. I got excited every March and disappointed every August. Same old Cubs.
And the Cubs were everyone’s lovable losers. They had not tasted October since 1945, nor had they actually won the whole thing since 1908. So when 1984 rolled around, I sat on the edge of my seat along with baseball fans everywhere. It was hip to be a Cubs fan. It was cool to pull for the underdogs. Alas, it was not to be.
“Same Old Cubs!” was the cry going up all over. Same old losers. 1908….1945….1969. Those numbers haunted Cubs fans and energized people nationally. THIS year just HAS to be the one, people muttered. Poor Cubs cannot catch a break.
And they couldn’t. The 1985 season opened with such promise, and then it seemed that each and every pitcher on the staff went down, in succession, with injuries. Oh well. “Wait’ll Next Year!” yet again.
1989. 1998. More of the national support for Cubs teams which seemed to come from nowhere. “Everyone” was pulling for them to win! And that magical 1998 Home Run Race…”it brought back baseball”, as this video says. Say what you will about the ethical issues surrounding that race, it surely did re-energize a game which was declining in popularity. And it sure did not hurt that the Cubs were smack dab in the middle of it. People everywhere wanted on to the Cubs bandwagon. It was great.
2003…we all know what happened. Next.
2007, another Cubs team “out of nowhere”. 2008, led the NL in wins (97). And people everywhere wanted to be there for “it”…it was still cool to be a Cubs fan. To support this sad sack cursed Cubs team.
2015. An improved team, built from the ground up by architects Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and, to a lesser extent, Jim Hendry. A team meant to contend a few years down the line. But they didn’t want to wait. That hungry and young team went out and won 97 games and made it to the NLCS, bowing out against the New York Mets. This seemed to be just the Same Old Cubs, yet again.
We all know what happened in 2016. And something changed. All those people who wanted to see the end of the longest drought in American Professional Sports stopped for a moment. This was not an out of nowhere team. This was not a fluke win. This is a young team, with all its top stars under control for a few years. The tables have turned. The Cubs are universally recognized as the top team in the game, and there are already rumblings and grumblings about that. Cardinals and White Sox fans have their ire directed at all things Cub these days, and that trend will only grow.
I have told anyone who will listen that my biggest goal, as a Cubs fan, is to have my team be hated the way the Yankees are hated. Because people are disgusted by a winner. They want the underdog. After 108 years of being everyone’s underdog, I am ecstatic that the Cubs are the favorites, and look to remain there for the foreseeable future.
By: Paul DiSclafani
But $25 Grand for my 18 tickets? How do I not even consider that amount of scratch?
Most people reading this are sports fans, fanatics, if you will, just like me. The casual sports fans looks at this conundrum and can really consider the alternatives. The non-sports fan, like my wife, thinks that I am insane. Am I?
As an investigative reporter, I poo-poo’d the newspaper articles showing tickets going for $10,000 and that the “average” price on Stubhub was $1,200. I did my own research. Surely tickets, MY tickets in section 529, were not going for $1,200, were they? They are face value of “just” $160. When I checked for Game 3, I found that my section, my row in fact, were “only” going for $995. Sheesh…
It gets worse. My section, my row got Game 4? $1,500. And for Game 5? My section, three rows behind me, $2,000.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you do the math. That’s over $25,000 ($26,970 to be exact).
Am I nuts? Are other people nuts? Will people actually pay that much for tickets, specifically my tickets? I could fly first class to Kansas City and attend the first two games there for about $2,000. What is wrong with me?
I’m a Mets fan, I guess.
Only a real sports fan understands what it would be like to attend a World Series game that your team is participating in. You have spent thousands of your hard-earned dollars going to Mets games year after year, only to sit home and watch the World Series with two other teams.
In 1986, I was working on Roosevelt Island in New York and had to commute to and from work by car every day to Long Island. My route always brought me past Shea Stadium. The day of World Series Game 7, a die-hard Yankee fan friend of mine called me to tell me he had scored a ticket to Game 7. I was flabbergasted. I told him, “How can you go to Game 7 with the Mets playing the Red Sox? You’re a Yankee fan! I should be going to Game 7.” He simply said, “If you had a chance to go to a World Series Game 7 at Yankee Stadium, wouldn’t you go?” Of course, he was right. It was the World Series after all, and it was a Game 7.
I remember driving past Shea that night, cursing to no one but myself in the car, that I should be there. I should be at the World Series. But alas, without tickets, I wasn’t going. Don’t know how much of my 1986 paycheck I would have paid to go that night, but I wanted to have the opportunity.
And the Baseball Gods smiled on me that night when a friend called me to say his sister had taken sick and was unable to go to the Game 7 with him, and I got the opportunity of a life-time. Not only a Mets World Series game, it was a Game 7. Turned out to be one of only two games in franchise history that gave the fans the ultimate present – a World Championship celebration right in front of their eyes.
And during the celebration after Jessie Orosco made the final out, I thought of my father and how I wished I could have shared this moment with him. I was able to do that many years later with a cell phone the night that Mike Hampton sent us to the World Series against the Yankees (ugh), but it wasn’t a World Series.
Most fathers are responsible for introducing their children to baseball and mine was no different. Maybe, in a way, he cursed me with being such a fanatic. Unfortunately, I believe I have passed that curse down to my children. In 2013, I spent a ton of money on three strips of tickets to the All-Star Game for myself and my boys. It was a once in a life-time experience that we got to cherish together. Talk about priceless.
I’m almost 60 now, and I guess as I grow older and they grow older and have families of their own someday, we will still always have baseball.
If I was on the other side and had a chance to buy tickets to a World Series for all of us, I might spring for the extra cash and get it done. As a Mets fan, we all know too well that this opportunity doesn’t come along too often.
But $25 Grand? It’s not like we can’t all get together and watch it on a big screen TV with beer and hot dogs along with friends and family, right? The three games are on the weekend anyway, we can make a big party out of it!
I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast yesterday, but 29 years ago I went to my one and only World Series and I remember every detail, every nuance, every up and down of that game, including the exultation at the end. I only hope that 29 years from now, my kids will have those same memories, only this time I will be at their side.
I am going to the World Series. My kids are going to the World Series with me. My friends and family are going to the World Series with me. But my wife might divorce me…
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Are you surprised the Mets are in the World Series? Like David Byrne asked in “Once In A Life-Time”: “AND YOU MAY ASK YOURSELF, WELL, HOW DID I GET HERE?”
By: Paul DiSclafani
If you’ve ever gotten song lyrics stuck in your head, all season long I’ve been hearing the lyrics for “Once In a Lifetime”. In the words of the Talking Head’s David Byrne, “And you may ask yourself-Well, how did I get here?”
Listen to “Once In A Life Time” while you enjoy this article.
How did we get here, Mets fans?
Can you believe that the Mets – Our Mets – are in the National League Championship Series? Last night at Citi Field was electric despite the chilly weather. I was part of the crowd waving bright orange rally towels and standing up, screaming on almost every pitch. Quite a different atmosphere from a warm Tuesday night in June against the Marlins, no?
Playoff baseball in New York knows no equal, especially when it came quite unexpectedly. Back in April, we Mets fans were cautiously optimistic about competing in the NL East. We knew how good the Nationals were (on paper, anyway), but we also knew how good the Mets pitching staff could be. But we all know what happens to this team – our team – when we know how good we could be. We just aren’t.
Something always happens and this year was no different. Right out of the gate, in Spring Training no less, we found out that Zack Wheeler would miss the next 18 months with Tommy John surgery.
“And you may ask yourself, how do I work this?”
Then Daniel Murphy was hurt all spring and had only 21 AB’s. Our closer, Jennry Mejia is then suspended 80 games for PED use and we have to use our primary set up guy, Jeurys Familia to close out games. Our bullpen was already going to be a weak link, now this? Sheesh…
“Same as it ever was… same as it ever was … same as it ever was …”
No problem, we open the season in Washington and take two out of three to make everyone happy again, only to drop two out of three in Atlanta. We won the home opener (don’t we always?) and then got to see Matt Harvey in person for the first time. During the game, Captain David Wright pulled up lame sliding into second base with a hamstring injury. All summer we all became junior orthopedic surgeons and learned much more about spinal stenosis than we ever cared to know and didn’t see Wright in uniform again until the middle of August.
“And you may ask yourself, Am I right? … Am I Wrong?”
Oh sure, we had an incredible 11-game winning streak, then went into Yankee Stadium all high and mighty, ready to take over New York, and spit the bit, losing two out of three and being put back in our place as second class citizens in our own town. A week later, we had lost two out of three in Miami and came home to lose three out of four to the Nationals, going from the euphoria of a 13-3 start to a fairly pedestrian 16-10. Dillon Gee was 0-2, Jacob deGrom was 2-3 and Jonathan Niese was 2-2.
“Same as it ever was… same as it ever was … same as it ever was …”
And it went that way most of the summer; we would get swept by the Cubs, lose a few, win a few, then sweep the Phillies. We won 5 out of 6, only to lose seven in a row, then win four in a row. We were keeping our heads above water, treading hard to stay alive and keeping an eye on the prize, as we slowly came to realize something. The Nationals just weren’t that good.
“Letting the days go by..”
Like everything else in life, it came to a tipping point. We were right there, right on the fringe of catching the Nationals. They couldn’t put us away and we couldn’t get out of our own way sometimes, but we were still in this thing. We obviously had the horses once Noah Syndergaard arrived to join Harvey, deGrom and Colon, but we didn’t have the jockeys.
When the Dodgers rolled into town in late July, our cleanup hitter was John Mayberry Jr (batting .165) followed by Eric Campbell (batting .176). Clayton Kershaw, who was 7-6 at the time, took a perfect game into the seventh inning, embarrassing the Mets and forcing GM Sandy Alderson’s hand.
“And you may say to yourself, My God! What have I done?”
You know the rest, Mets fans. The turnaround was so dramatic, so unexpected that we flew past the Nationals before they even knew what hit them. Within six weeks, just a blip on the baseball season radar, we were preparing for a clinching game for the NL East title.
And last night, with a packed Citi Field, you could feel that energy again. That pure, baseball energy again. It smelled like October again in Queens. Suddenly, Cleon Jones bending to one knee to catch that last out in 1969 didn’t seem like it was almost 50 years ago.
And there was Keith Hernandez, mustache and all, throwing out the first pitch. Matt Harvey took the mound and struck out the first two batters he faced, putting a charge into an already electric crowd that was there for one thing only. To cheer on the orange and blue and remember what October baseball was all about. That feeling of angst in the pit of your stomach. As Mike Meyers would say, you are all “fer-klempt”.
We Met fans may not get this feeling too often, but we know it when we see it. And we can feel it. It’s the postseason and it is always special.
“Same as it ever was… same as it ever was … same as it ever was …”