Remembering Good Things About The Astros, Part One
As Shakespeare would have said if he was an Astros fan, there have been several summers of discontent lately, and there ain't no son of York hanging around waiting to make them glorious.
In fact, it's a pretty dismal time to be a Stros fan. Since that big Game Seven against the Cards in 2005, where they finally punched a ticket to the World Series after 40-plus years, things have gone downhill.
But Opening Day is almost here. We choose not to wallow in misery, but to remember why we're Astro fans in the first place. So we asked some prominent Houstonians to write about their favorite Astro memories. Later today, you'll see the photo shoot for our cover boy, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons.
Whitney Pastorek might not exactly be a household name in town, but she's a senior writer for Entertainment Weekly who's written for Sports Illustrated. She heard of our search through her parents, who are members of the Houston Symphony. (As it turns out, we got a great anecdote from one Houston Symphony member.)
She couldn't resist joining in, and we're happy she did:
Since getting word of the plan to collect favorite Astros memories for the Opening Day issue of this here Houston Press, I have searched the recesses of my native-Houstonian brain for something, anything, that ended well. But I keep running into corners, mostly coming up with things like "Had tickets to Game 5 of the 2005 World Series, on the same weekend they closed Astroworld." It's kinda dark in there.
In 2007, I was borrowed by Sports Illustrated to write a feature on Craig Biggio's last season. I got to stand on the fields of Dodger and Shea Stadiums, interviewing teammates past and present about his scrappy, underappreciated career. I spent hours with Biggio himself, trying to crack through his professionally humble attitude into something more ego-tastic and emotional. (At that, I mostly failed.)
I saw his last three games at Minute Maid, joining my fellow H-Townies in arriving hours before the first pitch and milling around outside in the sweltering heat, just to be a part of a Moment in this great sports city that's enjoyed far too few. I sat in the press box, cheering loudly and inappropriately when I couldn't help myself. And when Biggiopalooza was finally over -- when Craig had run the circumference of the Juice Box, high-fiving fans and crying to the tune of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" -- I sat down to write a story intended to honor a man I'd watched ply his noble craft for twenty years, someone who'd been more of a constant in my life than any man save my father.
As I wrote, Minute Maid gradually emptied out. The final fans tucked their commemorative t-shirts and programs under their arms and headed for their SUVs, the Moment ended. I wrote furiously for a couple hours, trying to meet my deadline. When at last I looked up, the only things still on the field were sprinklers.
For whatever reason, that's my favorite Astros memory: Sitting in the silence of Minute Maid, nearly alone, watching the grass grow. The roof was closed against the Indian summer broil, and a fine mist hung in the air. It smelled sweet. One memory was fading, and a new one hadn't yet begun. In between, anything was possible. I felt at peace.
The next day, my Biggio story got bumped from the print magazine to online-only because the idiot Mets collapsed in the stretch. The past two Astros seasons have been ignominious at best, and the upcoming one -- all habitual foolish faith aside -- does not look like it'll be much of an improvement. But so long as they keep watering the grass in the silence of that ballpark every night, there's still hope. We might not have much as Houston baseball fans, but at least we've got that.