The Houston Astros parade on Friday was a long time coming for the new World Series champs. Houston’s own Brandon C. Williams took the time to reflect on who was truly part of the celebration as team history washed over him while the confetti flew
THIS ONE WAS for Roman Mejias, Carl Warwick, Turk Farrell and the unforgivable summer heat and humidity that turned Colt Stadium into a mosquito-filled sauna that made visiting teams cringe in fear upon coming into Houston.
This one is for Joe Morgan and Larry Dierker, two wide-eyed youngsters who began to make the sauna just a bit bearable while also giving fans a taste of the future in the new, sports-altering stadium that also came with a new name for the city that struggled with the changes that civil rights required. It’s also for Ken Johnson, who pitched the game of his life yet came on the losing end of a no-hitter.
This one is for Jimmy “The Toy Cannon” Wynn, who helped bridge the color gap one monster home run at a time while also giving this writer one of the greatest weeks of his career when he was able to see his number 24 finally retired on a Saturday afternoon filled with nostalgia and memories. I’m forever grateful for the invite, Mr. Wynn.
It’s for Rusty Staub, Don Wilson, Denis Menke and Doug Rader, the latter becoming one of the most underrated fielding third basemen of all-time along with helping the 1969 Astros play deep into September and printing postseason tickets for the first time, although it would take 12 more seasons before meaningful October baseball became a reality.
This one is for the mercurial talents that were Cesar Cedeno and J.R. Richard. Both had Hall of Fame talent yet were unable to fully realize it. Still, they wore those forever awesome rainbow jerseys while pushing the franchise out of the dark of the mid-1970s to the light of 1980.
This one is for Gene Elston, whose voice became a beacon light to a young kid who’d sometimes rather listen to the game on KTRH (740 AM) rather than watching it on TV. It’s for Milo Hamilton and Bill Brown, who narrated years of remarkable stories without being able to enjoy the final chapter where the home team won and lived happily ever after.
This one is for Darren Merryman and Danny Rambin, two longtime Astros fans and then-fellow fourth graders in Mrs. Whileyman’s class that got the chance to sit on the stage at Northside Elementary School and watch the first part of Game 3 of the 1980 National League Championship Series against the Phillies and the sadness we all felt the Monday morning after Nolan Ryan and the bullpen couldn’t hold a 5-2 lead just six outs away in Game 5 at the Astrodome.
It’s for Dickie Thon and what might have been had he not been hit by Mike Torrez in the first week of the 1984 season.
This is for the light bulb I blew out of my bedroom jumping in joy after Mike Scott’s no-no clinched the NL West in 1986. This is for the extra slices of pizza that helped me skip school (yes, Mom, I now, 31 years later confess) so I could watch Game 6 of the NLCS. It’s for Billy Hatcher and his moonshot that gave the Astros new life. It’s for the heartache of seeing Kevin Bass flail away at the last pitch and the tears that came from seeing The Mets avoid Scott in Game 7.
It’s for Eric Anthony, Gerald Young and Eric Yelding. They weren’t on the level of Eric Davis, Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson, but they were favorite Astros in high school. It’s also for the 30-50 rookie cards of Anthony I collected that were supposed to be gold, but became a fun failure of an investment.
It’s for the kid from Seton Hall who became the heart and soul of the franchise and made Craig Biggio ours from the moment he arrived to the majors to his induction to Cooperstown. It’s for Larry Andersen and the Red Sox’s need for a reliever that led them to trade a line drive-hitting third baseman in Boston’s minor league system that paired with Biggio and helped bring us years of Hall of Fame production. And of course, it’s for his longtime teammate, slugger Jeff Bagwell.
It’s for the brief run of Phil Plantier and the coolest home run swing ever.
It’s for then-Enron Field and being there for the first game while thinking it would be a great place to hang out with my dad, not knowing he would pass away less than two weeks later.
It’s for the night I spent working as Vin Scully’s stats man, one of the best nights of my life.
It’s for Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, who got some help from Andy Petitite and Roger Clemens and the whirlwind that became covering the 2005 playoffs. It’s for Brad Lidge and the way he made it feel like Minute Maid Park was shaking each time he came out to Drowning Pool’s version of “The Game” and how I didn’t mind losing my press box seat to ESPN that eventually led me to sit deep in left field next to the great Bob Ryan.
It’s for being able to shake President George H.W. Bush’s hand as he passed by us in front of the locker rooms after Game 4 of the 2005 World Series.
It’s for the darkness that the 2009-14 seasons became and never losing hope.
It’s for Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Correa and the persistence that is Jose Altuve. It’s for the last-second trade for Justin Verlander and the fielding of George Springer and the future batting champion that will be Alex Bregman.
It’s for Houston. It’s for me. It’s even for my dad, Dodgers fan for life, who would have given the Astros their due.
It’s for Darren and Danny to share with their kids.
It’s for us all.
It’s the long journey that finally concluded with the phrase, “Houston Astros, World Series Champions” and the parade that also conjured up a parade of memories.