The year was 1980. 16-year-old me just moved from Baton Rouge to Houston. Attended my first MLB game in the 8th Wonder of the World – the Houston Astrodome. I was in awe and immediately became an Astros fan. And that year the Astros were pretty damn good. You had Terry Puhl, Cheo Cruz, Cesar Cedeno, JR Richard, Nolan Ryan, etc. etc. I was raised in Braves territory in Jacksonville, but it wasn’t until 16 that I felt like I had my own team.
That year, the Astros faced the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series for the honor to play in the World Series. Back then the CS was only 5 games so a lot was riding on each one. The 1980 NLCS remains one of the greatest League Championship Series ever played, with come from behind wins and 4 out of the 5 games going into extra innings. Including Game 5 – which I attended with my dad. In fact, we attended both Games 3 and 5 that year. Both extra innings. One of them victories.
Just not Game 5.
Like all the games between the teams, G5 was intense. I can still remember how my heart was racing the entire time. And when the last out came, and Philadelphia had pulled out the victory, it crushed me.
So yeah, I’ve never really gotten over the Phillies. Even 42 years later.
And here we are now in the 2022 World Series with the fightin’ Phils facing off against my Astros in the playoffs once again. Only this time on the sport’s biggest stage.
Houston, with 106 victories in the regular season and 7-0 in the postseason, is heavily favored. As well they should be. Philadelphia was the last team to even qualify for the WS with just 87 wins. The 19 wins between the two teams is the largest deficit in World Series history.
But that doesn’t matter now. I’ve seen this movie before. Mediocre regular season teams from the National League Eastern division going up against the perennial powerhouse and heavily favored Astros in the World Series and pulling out victories. The Atlanta Braves won just 88 games in 2021 en route to their world championship against Houston. And in 2019, when Houston won 107 regular season games, the Washington Nationals started their unlikely WS run from the wildcard spot.
Now we have 2022 Philly. Another wildcard team from the NL East that bashed their way past all the favorites to land here.
I’ve heard people call them a team of destiny this month. Maybe they are.
Or maybe Houston has the pitching and just enough offense to win. Like they have all year.
You know what they say – great pitching beats great hitting. The ALCS against the vaunted New York Yankees being a prime example when Houston utterly dominated the Yankees giving up only 6 earned runs and striking out 50. To put that into perspective – out of 108 total outs in the series – nearly half were by strikeout. And this is a Yankees team that lead all of baseball with 254 home runs during the regular season.
I hope the Astros play the revenge card in this series against Philadelphia. God knows they’ll need it, if 2019 and 2021 are any indication.
I’ve been an Astros fan for 42 years. 1980 was just one of many heartbreaks I’ve endured. The second time was 1986 when I attended Game 6 of the NLCS against the Mets. 16 innings of back-and-forth agita which left me crying openly in the Astrodome.
The last time they broke me, with a dose of heavy irony, was in 2017 when they finally took me to the pinnacle – only to rip my heart out and throw it into a landfill. I hated what happened – especially since I’ve always believed they were good enough without some bullshit video tech Carlos Beltran brought with him from New York. Some dudes on the team cheated. Period. And they all knew about it, but no one stepped up. As such, 2017 is a tainted title to me.
But this is still my team. Despite the devastating NLCS losses in the 80s. Despite the disappointments of 2019 and 2021. And yes, despite the cheating. The Astros were my first love in baseball.
And they owe me.
As far as the 2022 World Series which starts tonight – I have no faith that they’ll win this thing. I’ve seen this movie before. But you can bet your ass I’ll be cheering for them.