You’ve seen the news and the photos and you might even know some souls currently there, so you understand the city of Houston and surrounding areas are in trouble, and will be for some time. We remain fans of Houston, but today we are officially Astros fans, as evidenced by today’s all-Astros theme. Alongside today's Houstoncentric assortment of Short Relief bon mots will be Actual Relief, where we implore you to donate to survival and relief efforts, specifically the Houston Food Bank.
To My Beloved Houston Astros
By: David G. Temple
Dear Houston Astros,
I am an Astros fan living in Minnesota. I am not a transplant — a Houston native that had to move north for jobs/parents/etc. — I am simply a person living in the middle-west who has chosen the Houston Astros baseball club as the club they want to root for. There are lots of reasons for this, but it’s not important to get into that now.
The city in which you play is going through hell right now. As a baseball team, there isn’t much you can really do. You’ve donated some money — which is tremendous — and many of your players have reached out to show their support. You can feel a little helpless, I understand. But please know that many of us are extremely grateful for what you are already doing. As a non-resident, I feel particularly helpless. But for some reason, knowing that I root for you and that you are helping makes me feel better about myself. Certainly better than that $10 text I sent to the Red Cross.
You want to know the time I became a full-fledged Astros fan? It’s a dumb story but it will only take a minute.
© Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
The day was August 2nd, 2014. I was in town for the SABR convention and a group of friends and I decided to take in an extra game. It was against Toronto. You were a team on the upswing, and 2014 would be the year you broke your three-year 100-loss season streak. Nevertheless, the lineups weren’t all that formidable quite yet. The boxscore was a veritable “who’s that” of players. Regardless, I was excited to see my first Astros game in your fine ballpark.
As far as meaningless games between two middling teams goes, this one was off the chain. You remember? Brett Oberholtzer started. Remember him?! He actually pitched pretty well that game. Oh, but the whole game was so fun to be present for. Chris Carter hit a monster bomb to the train tracks and stole a base. Altuve scored from first on an errant pickoff. Jon Singleton — all 230+ lbs. of him — hit an inside-the-park homer. L.J. Hoes dove into the stands for a catch. And my dude Robbie Grossman robbed a homer from Juan Francisco. He’s doing pretty OK in Minnesota now, coincidentally enough. I still find myself rooting for him.
You won that game eight to two. It would be one of your 70 wins that whole season. But that feeling I got watching all those amazing feats with my friends — I walked out wanting to make love and do crack and steal a car and buy a Powerball ticket. I was alive. It sounds dumb, but it was the first time a baseball game really made me feel that way.
Anyway, this is about you, not me. But I wanted you to know that you have brought me a great amount of joy these past years. And when everything dries out and the damage is tallied, I think you making a long run into the postseason will help people, for however long, feel some of that joy too. Godspeed. Good luck. If the playoff schedule finds a way to bring you to Target Field, I’ll be the idiot cheering for both George Springer and Robbie Grossman. I apologize for my actions in advance.
A Stance On Tony Eusebio’s Hitting Streak
By: Matt Sussman
First of all, the word stance is way better than the word take and I suggest we immediately call topical opinions “stances.” So what’s your stance on how Tony Eusebio held the bat at the plate?
In terms of baseball feats, Eusebio’s indelible accomplishment was a 24-game hitting streak in 2000 that was notable for, at the time, being the longest in Astros history. Since he was a backup catcher, it was spread out over 45 games and 51 days and excluding injuries and offseasons, nobody’s had a longer-lasting meaningful hit streak since.
When the streak was six games, Eusebio was brought into the fifth inning to replace the injured Mitch Meluskey and went 1-for-2. He still never appeared in three straight games until the streak went to 21. It’s for the calendar duration for the streak that his Baseball-Reference nickname is “The Astro Clipper.” Having gone on record as condemning the liberality of B-R’s nicknames, my stance: the nickname is acceptable.
During Eusebio's streak: .409/.458/.716
During DiMaggio's streak: .408/.463/.717
We would probably not be discussing Eusebio were it not for him having a stance like that. For the years in the late 90s/early 00s that I spent watching SportsCenter after SportsCenter repeat, for whatever reason, I perked up a little every time I saw a Tony Eusebio highlight. This is another thing about stances today. You can picture Griffey and Bonds and Rickey Henderson’s stances. Why is Mike Trout not more famous? He has perfect mechanics, but try picturing them. Try picturing anything other than Tony Eusebio.
The Man with the Numbers
By: Rob Mains
I grew up a long time ago in Minnesota. OK, a really long time ago. I also grew up playing APBA, a baseball board game similar to Strat-O-Matic. APBA gave me exposure to players whom I never had the opportunity to see live. Thanks to APBA, instead of being a Harmon Killebrew or Tony Oliva or Rod Carew fan, my favorite player was Houston's César Cedeño.
In 1972, César Cedeño hit .320 with 22 homers and 55 stolen bases. In 1973, he hit .320 again, this time with 25 homers and 57 stolen bases. His APBA cards were awesome. This was decades before Lids stores started popping up in malls, but I somehow found an Astros patch somewhere. My mom bought an orange cap for me and sewed the patch onto the cap. I had an Astros cap to wear among all my friends wearing Twins caps.
The infatuation didn't last long. I outgrew the cap, and 1973 was Cedeño's last really great APBA card. But years later, I can still appreciate those seasons. Cedeño played in the offense-suppressing Astrodome. Applying today's metrics, including park adjustments, he led the majors in WARP in 1972. At age 21. He was eighth in 1973. Even in 1974, when his batting average slipped to .269, he was still seventh in the majors in WARP. Playing on the same team as park-adjusted stars like Bob Watson and Jimmy Wynn, that cap turned out to be stathead statement long before Bill James's first Abstract.
Brad Lidge and the Last Crusade
By: Bret Sayre
Baseball players do not play baseball forever, and their ends are often public and cruel. A former hero in both Houston and Philadelphia, Brad Lidge channeled his inner Indy over the last near decade, doing coursework in religious archaeology at Regis University and the University of Leicester. It almost makes too much sense: after all, both MLB closers and archaeologists often stand on the front lines between daily life and a history that will live on long after our bones are uncovered.
This particular trek led him to the ruins of a 12th century Buddhist temple. His party had come in search of the lost meditation site of Machig Labdrön, a place where Chöd was not only practiced, but in many ways where it was truly birthed. The mountain paths alternated between protecting him and his party from the bitter winds driving southward and exposing them entirely. The terrain was tough but, for the man who so gracefully danced around a 12 percent walk rate in 2008 without blowing a single save, perseverance was a given.
As they descended into what looked like an unfinished cave, the party split up to check out the sprawling space. Lidge found himself in the northwest corner of the former communal space, not more than 100 feet from where his guide and closest traveling companion, Moheyan, was admiring the feint drawings on the walls. Just then, he felt his ankle turn slightly awkwardly and looked down. The look was hauntingly familiar, as the red of the seams just shone through the dirt that had gathered all along the ground. He picked it up in a mix of awe and horror and rubbed its side until the logo appeared. The “2005 Postseason” was still visible.
“Are you okay?,” Moheyan called over as Lidge looked visibly shaken at this point.
He took the ball and shoved it deep into his jacket pocket. “Y-y-yeah, I’m okay,” Lidge responded.
His mind went blank and he descended into the same nothingness that was central to the teachings of Chöd, which felt both appropriate and empty, just like he had more than a decade earlier. Over time, the episode faded and his person reappeared. They returned to their home base just outside of Damthang and Lidge unpacked his things, preparing for the journey back across the Pacific.
When he finally returned home to Colorado, the ball was the last thing he took out of his suitcase. He gently took it out to the backyard and placed it on a manicured pile of what appeared to be kindling from a distance. Yet, between the brown of the branches was a deep red portending the violence to come.
His wife, Lindsay, came out from the solarium when she heard the explosion. “What on Earth was that?, she asked.
He looked at her, fully at peace. “It has landed,” was all he said.
By: Patrick Dubuque
When you watch Mike Scott, you find yourself watching his hands. After each pitch his right hand hangs down as if heavy, then twitches, finds a cap or a pant leg or strains against the open air, waiting for the ball back like an impatient animal. A pitcher is a hand first, then an arm, then a shoulder, then the rest of him.
You watch Mike Scott’s hands to see if you can see it, the way you trace a magician’s wrist, watch the ball roll imperceptibly against some hidden emery board, watch a fingernail dig into the surface of the leather. That was his time, that was what they did in those days; it was almost more of a struggle between the pitcher and the surface of the ball than it was the batter. You never saw it. Just a split-finger fastball that traveled almost straight–almost.
You see Mike Scott’s hands because the rest of him is a blur: not of motion, exactly, or the cameras of the eighties. He’s indistinct, ephemeral, an accident waiting for the timeline to correct itself. There’s no way, you think to yourself, watching this plain man in oversized glasses and disorganized hair, his glove hand tucked in like a new father, falling off the mound in seemingly random directions. No way this is real.
And then Will Clark chops one to first, and Mike Scott is enveloped in a cluster of red, orange, and yellow. All you can see, raised above it all, are his hands.
By: Mary Craig
Buildings begin as the products of math and science, the culmination of years of planning, the precise configuration of brick and steel and concrete. But over time, they become more than that; they assume the characteristics of the people they house, absorbing their stories until they themselves become storytellers.
The construction of the Astrodome was a marvelous feat of architecture, engineering, and chemistry that promised to revolutionize the sporting world. From its opening, it was special. It was the only dome, the only stadium with luxury seating, the only astroturf playing surface, and the only structure to be dubbed the 8th Wonder of the World. Though its grandeur also led to its demise, the Astrodome was, for years, in a architectural category of its own.
But embedded in all buildings designed to serve human beings is a sense of humanity, and so over time, the mechanical awe of the Astrodome gave way to human wonderment. The stadium witnessed some of the most novel and bizarre occurrences in baseball, such as the 1976 rainout and the exploding home run spectacular. Through its walls reverberates the euphoria of Mike Scott’s division-clinching no-hitter, the collective exhalation after the team’s 1998 game 2 NLDS victory, the panic of Larry Dierker’s seizure, and the relief of his return to the dugout one month later. No longer was the Astrodome great because of what it gave people; instead, its essence became tied to what people gave to it.
The secret of the Astrodome is that it has always been this way, more than a baseball stadium, more than a multi-sports complex; it has long been the epicenter of Houston’s bravery, resolve, and moral dignity. It stands as the physical actualization of the community’s dedication to civil and human rights. Without Roy Hofheinz’s assurance of integration and the tireless work of Black leaders in the ‘60s, the Astrodome would have remained a pipedream, another project halted by lack of funds. Through the years, it has recognized these roots, transforming its cold steel beams and calculated design into the personification of human action at its best. Years after the Astros abandoned it for the splendors of Minute Maid Park, it threw open its doors to those abandoned by Hurricane Katrina, providing thousands of people with shelter, medical care, and hope.
Since then, the Astrodome has been reduced to a warehouse of forgotten items, a place of legend rather than life, a worn down sign of the past next to the brightness of the present and future. But it has fought back against this burgeoning insignificance, time and again halting calls for demolition until it aroused in its people this same dedication. And now, months after being named a State Antiquities Landmark, the Astrodome again stands as a reminder of the innate humanity Houston possesses and the duty that we all carry with us.