The thing I will take most from this series is the thought of missing the Houston Astros in the future even though the Mets might not. The Astros are moving to the American League, a move I don’t agree with on any level.
The Astros were born the same year as the Mets and have a 50-year tradition in the National League. If any NL team should move to the AL, it has to be the Milwaukee Brewers who originally switched from the AL. The Brewers have a AL history and should move back. They switched because when Bud Selig owned the team he wanted the Cubs to come to his park for the draw. Connect the dots.
Despite their link in baseball history, Mets-Astros never became the rivalry one would have thought. It died with the introduction of divisions before the 1969 season.
The Mets haven’t done well in Houston, save that 16-inning gem in the 1986 NLCS. If they didn’t pull that one out, there never would have been the Bill Buckner game. The Mets would have faced Mike Scott the next game, and Keith Hernandez is the first to say Scott was in their heads.
Ron Darling has other not-so-pleasant memories of Houston as earlier that year he, Bob Ojeda, Rick Aguilera, and Tim Teufel were arrested after a disturbance at a nightclub well after midnight following a Darling start.
Although the Mets lost the first two games of this series, I enjoyed watching it as it brought back fond memories of the Astrodome and Houston for me.
Years before that playoff, I interned in the Astrodome. Yes, it was as nasty as Keith described. It was huge and dark, but a unique place. There were rats, but the thing that got me were the bugs. Some were as big as rats while some rats I swear you could ride.
This was when Urban Cowboy was a hit, and I admit a crush on Debra Winger. The nightclub was Gilley’s, and yes, I checked it out. Gas stations in the area posted directions how to get there. After awhile, I didn’t need them anymore.
I did the Houston thing with the jeans and boots. Loved the hole-in-the-wall barbeque joints. Drank long neck beer (named for the shape of the bottle). Rode the mechanical bulls and learned to Texas Two Step. Watched the rodeos in the Astrodome. In the offseason I got to the Summit to see the Celtics win the title. Made a point to wear a green sweater.
Also, got to see Phi Slamma Jamma, one of the great team nicknames of all time for the Akeem and Clyde The Glyde Houston Cougars. That was the year they lost to NC State on the miracle play.
After work, I freelanced the games for UPI. I worked as a runner for NBC Sports and did the Oiler games and Game of the Week. Once picked Joe Garagiola up at the airport. Had coffee and donuts waiting for him. He said I was the best runner he ever had.
I did stats in the radio-TV booth when the Mets came to town and met Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner. Steve Albert was on the team then. I got them to autograph a ball and still have it somewhere.
Even if I can’t find it, I’ll always have fond memories of Houston. It was hot, humid and the traffic was terrible, but for a year it was home.