I’ve had a long, long Jekyll and Hyde relationship with the Houston Astros. I’ve loved them. I’ve hated them. And, for the biggest part of 56 years, I’ve been totally ambivalent toward them. I suppose you could say I just can’t make up my mind.
In 1963, my family drove to Houston to watch the Houston Colt .45’s play at Colt .45 Stadium. I thought it was a pretty nice stadium. Of course, all I had to compare it by were Municipal Stadium in Kansas City where the Athletics used to play, and Burnett Field by the Trinity River across from downtown Dallas. Maybe it was a dump, but to me it was awesome.
However, I do remember there was a huge hole in the ground adjacent to the stadium where they were building a ballpark with a roof. How dumb!
In 1963, I loved the Colt .45s. They were the nearest major league team and the first one in Texas. I even had a souvenir cap with .45 on the front.
In 1964, the Astrodome was completed, and we went down to watch an exhibition game under the roof.
In March of 1964, I hated the now Houston Astros. Why? They were playing my beloved Yankees. The Yankees were on TV every Saturday, it seemed.
I had memorized the starting lineup. The Yankees were the team of Mantle and Maris. Whitey Ford was throwing to Yogi. Any team playing the Yankees drew my hate.
Then for the next 50 years or so, the subject of the Astros drew a prolonged yawn from me. They were mediocre. They were in the inferior National League.
They weren’t the Rangers, and they wore uniforms with colors they stole from Whataburger. No offense to the greatest fast food burger in the world!
Now, from 1980 through 1988, I did peek at the box scores occasionally with just a tad of interest.
It seems that Alvin’s own Nolan Ryan was pitching for them. Aside from being the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball with the fastest fastball of all time, Nolan signed with the Astros for $1 million.
A million dollars! That was the magic number. ONE MILLION DOLLARS!! Unheard of. During that decade I didn’t hate them.
Then the Ryan Express came to Arlington Stadium, and they became the Who-ston Astros. Did they even field a team in the ‘90s?
After retiring from baseball. Nolan moved to the Rangers’ front office. He became the president of the local club.
The TV camera would often zoom in on President Ryan in his usual seat just to the 1st base side of home plate on the front row. It wasn’t unusual to see President Ryan sitting next to future President (then President, then former President) George Bush.
Nolan was the face of the team when they had the greatest success in the history of the franchise. He presided over back to back World Series appearances.
Then came a power struggle with Jon Boy. With an ownership group with a collective IQ two points lower than on onion, Nolan was allowed to leave. He went south. I couldn’t hate the Astros with Nolan Ryan in charge. Combine that with the fact, that under Mr. Ryan’s watchful eye, they became good….no they became excellent.
Even with a world championship in 2017, and a World Series game 7 appearance this year, they fired Reid Ryan. (Had the Rangers’ ownership moved to Harris County?) When they fired Reid, Nolan quit. I can go back to hating them now.
All of that was to say this. The Astros got caught. The team with the uniforms that make me crave a double meat, double cheese with jalapenos, have been stealing signs.
Now, it’s one thing for a runner on second base to manage to steal a sign from the catcher and tip the batter off. It’s quite another thing for there to be a camera in center field beaming a picture to a TV in the dugout showing the catcher’s sign.
At least Jesse James had to take a risk to rob a bank unlike some hacker who drains it through the internet. The Astros took no risk …. they thought.
As high tech as the theft was, signaling to the batter was pretty old school. You’d think, in this day and age, they’d have the batter wearing a tiny, invisible ear piece, or maybe a Fitbit looking device on their wrist. No, there was no James Bond device for the batters.
According to reports, after they got the sign in the dugout via the closed circuit TV, they relayed it to the hitter by either clapping, whistling or beating on a trash-can. Miss Moneypenny must have turned into Miss Moneypincher.
So, with Nolan gone and the Astros caught with their hand in the … ah… sunflower seed jar,
I can go back to hating them. I can gleefully suggest they have to return their 2017 World Series trophy, and more than that, return the Silver Boot to Arlington where it belongs.
Now, let’s just see if the would-be brain trust of the Rangers will see the light and replace Jon Daniels with Nolan and Reid Ryan.
Then I can return to my ambivalence toward the Houston team, and move my love for the Roller Coaster Cowboys next door to the new and improved Globe Life Park. Just Hyde and watch.