A no-doubter game for the Houston Astros

Published 10:52 pm Friday, November 3, 2017

We have a running reservation made for every Thursday morning to sit down and prepare the Saturday morning conversation that you and I have every week. Oh, it’s not an exact science, because my mind has long worked on the “eleventh hour” premise. I guess if my mind were a baseball player, it’d want to hit in that two-on, two-out, bottom of the ninth scenario.

But, with writing, you cannot afford a slump, for newspaper editors and newspaper readers expect to see your picture and an offering of something that resembles wisdom, humor or information. They want a taste of that coffee-drinking conversation Coca-Cola Mike and I have out on his back porch as the sun comes up over the tall pines and the horses mill around in the pasture across the way, making their plans for the day.

So, today, we’ll have that. We’ll have our rocking chair, coffee-drinking visit, and it will be a special one, too — a “no-doubter,” as baseball voices say when a young man like George Springer launches a fastball high into the stands in game seven of the World Series to give his team a five-run lead in the second inning. More on that in a moment.

But, first, this is the 52nd column we’ve shared since coming out of a brief front-porch-writing retirement. This past year — excuse the grammar — has been good. We may be a bit older, but you and I still “have it,” I think.

Then, we get to report that, yes, George Springer and the amazing Houston Astros — my Astros — won their first World Series. This is our championship, though — yours and mine, and everyone and any one from Atlanta to Houston and in between who appreciate good, humble determination and teamwork.

We know it was good for Houston. “Houston Strong” reminds us of the value and beauty of our all being “one” regardless of pedigree.

And there’s the David versus Goliath theme, although both the Astros and Dodgers are giants on the field. But did you know that the Astros beat the three highest-payroll baseball teams in these playoffs — Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers — with the ‘Stros having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. But that won’t last long, because the day will come when Altuve, Correa, Bregman, and Springer will get paid big. But today they’re playing for the love of the game and fans.

Celebrations are strange things sometimes, though. One thing you learn when you spend your life coaching is that the best thing about a win is that it is not a loss. When you win, you don’t have to deal with a knot in your gut, or wake up in the middle of the night turning and tossing. I’ve enjoyed those pleasures too many times.

So my celebration for these Astros was a strange mixture of glee and relief, games two and five — particularly — agonizing microcosms of those strange bedfellows. If you stayed up half the night this past Sunday night, you know what I mean.

To win four games, the Astros had to win two that defied reason. It shows you how hard it is to win a championship. You have to be good, unified, blessed  and, I guess, on good terms with a little lady named luck.

Forty-two years ago — only two years after leaving my red-clay home, and a few years before my baby Astros fans arrived — I moved to Houston and became an Astro. That was 1975, and Jose Cruz stole the show for the Astros in those days. During those four decades, I agonized more than a few times, as you all have done.

In 1980, the great Nolan Ryan could not hold a play-off lead, and the Astros lost to the Phillies.

In 1986, the Astros and Mets went 16 innings in game six — a young man named Billy Hatcher hitting a homer to save the game a few innings earlier — but the Astros could not bring the winning run home, and they would not bring their unhittable ace, Mike Scott, to the mound for a game seven. The Houston Chronicle’s headline the next day read, “Mets get off ‘Scott-free.”

And there were those Houston Oilers and Earl Campbell not being able to get past the Steelers in the late 70s, even though Bum Phillips vowed on national television after the second playoff loss,

“Two years ago we knocked on the door, last year we beat on the door, and next year we’re going to knock that blankety-blank door down” — only, he didn’t say “blankety-blank.” His mama made him apologize to the nation the next day for using profanity. That tells us all we need to know about those Oilers, Bum Phillips, and the humble, lay-the-ball-down-gently-in-the-end-zone Earl Campbell.

But that was then. Today, ladies and gentlemen, the Houston Astros are World Champions. Some young, humble, thankful young men have brought Houston their first World Series championship.

If you want to see humility, listen to any interview with Jose Altuve, or Correa, or Springer, or Bregman.

I am thankful that, for the 52nd column since our “comeback,” we get to celebrate together.

And together we say, “Way to go Astros! You did good. That’s a ‘No-doubter!’”

Steven Ray Bowen is a former Granger who lives and writes in Red Oak, Texas.