By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
So I went up there, tried my best, but the ball — Brandon Backe caught it, but it kinda hit the plate. My split-finger kinda got away from me a little bit. I was so embarrassed. It's not like I'm a wimpy guy or something, it was just I was so nervous. My second time I did better.
My wife, we were engaged to be married in Cancún and a hurricane came, so we had to change our wedding plans.
We were going to change it to Jamaica, but the Astros, we were at the  game against the Cardinals, Game Six when Brad Lidge gave up the home run in the ninth inning to Albert [Pujols]. And I was sitting right there, under the Dasani sign, and it went right in front of my face, and I remember how loud it got and then when he swung and hit that homerun how quiet it got.
I told my wife — our honeymoon was supposed to be to go to Jamaica, but when the Astros went to the World Series, I went, "No way — sorry baby, but we're gonna have to postpone the honeymoon. I can't miss this, this is once in a lifetime."
The funny thing was, ever since that game, I get so much anxiety attacks at the games, especially when I'm watching someone I really like, watching Roger Clemens pitch or Roy O, so I couldn't — my anxiety attacks were so bad I couldn't even go to the World Series. I had tickets to all of them, but I was like I can't go, I don't want to bring bad luck, I had all these omens, since I was at the game where Brad Lidge gave up the homerun. Maybe I'm the bad luck. My anxiety attacks were so crazy. I'd go to the game with my Xanax to calm my nerves down.
What is my favorite memory of the Houston Astros? Like many others, I suppose the quickest and easiest answer is my first trip to the Astrodome.
When my family moved here from East Texas in 1966, I was just completing my junior year in high school. I had never attended a major league baseball game. The Dome was packed. Attendants were dressed in spacesuit-looking attire. I still remember how different the hamburgers tasted. I liked them, but others thought they were strange-tasting. And, oh yeah, there was a baseball game featuring the Astros and some other team.
As far as a specific Astros memory, I have one of those, too. As a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1979 to 1987, I traveled between Intercontinental Airport and Austin quite frequently. I remember getting off an airplane at the old Austin Airport in 1986 and glancing at the television in the airport lounge. The Astros were playing the San Francisco Giants in a decisive game, so I had a seat. A couple of drinks later, Mike Scott completed his unforgettable no-hitter, and the Astros had clinched the National League West.
For the first time, I and everyone in that lounge saw the Houston Astros as a real winner on the national stage.
My best Astros story is a hard one because there's so many of them.
I'm a lifelong 'Stros fan and always will be. I've been there at almost all the important home games since I was a kid....I've sung the National Anthem (scariest gig I ever did), and was even allowed to call the game for two innings in the booth with Milo Hamilton, but my dearest Astros story goes like this.
My best friend is a guy named Lew Temple from Houston. He used to be the equipment manager and did some Minor League scouting for the 'Stros as well. Now, Lew is a big-time character actor in the movies in Los Angeles; he's just finished making the new Tony Scott movie with Denzel Washington. He calls me one day in the early '90s and says, "You wanna bring a buddy and come out to the ball park today?" I say yeah, and he gets seats for us down with the players' wives right behind the ump.
Casey Candaele is up to bat, he swings, strike...swings again, strike...swings a third time...BAM! A pop fly ball comes over the fence. Me and my buddy both dive for it, as the players' wives look at us with smiles on their faces. My buddy gets the ball bare-fisted and yells, "Hell yeah!" Casey swings again, and the first baseman catches it. Boom, he's out. Candaele takes off his batting helmet, walks up to the fence right in front of me, looks me right in the eye as though he's totally pissed, slings down his helmet and walks back to the dugout.
Lew comes down to our seats the next inning. "How are the seats?" I say, "Great, but I think Casey wants to kick my ass." Lew says, no way, he's just in a slump and he's cranky. Anyway, the 'Stros end up losing that day to the Braves (by the way...what baseball teams do I like? The 'Stros and anybody who beats the Braves!), and everyone's down about it except my buddy who caught his fly ball.