Over the decades I have probably been to 500 or 600 Colt 45's / Astros games. Since 1962.
Barbara was so sweet to offer Don and I tickets to Game 5 of the League Championship Series (if that game would be necessary). It would be The Astros versus whoever. That offer was nearly 2 weeks ago.
As it turned out, the game was necessary. The Astros had the opportunity to win the National League pennant against The Cardinals. Never before in The Astros 44-year history had this situation presented itself, and I was there!
We got there at 5:30pm, a full two hours before game time. The teams were still taking batting practice. The game was, of course, a sellout. Two of the top pitchers of 2005 were pitted against each other - Chris Carpenter (StL) vs Andy Pettitte (Hou). It was a close game all the way and The Astros led 4-2 into the 8th inning. The crowd of 43,470 was loud beyond belief.
Six outs left to go, the Astros batting in the bottom of the 8th inning. The noise was comparable to standing next to a Boeing 747 on takeoff. Everyone screaming and waving their little white Astros towels in the air and banging noise sticks which had been handed out freely before the game. Management and Fox Sports wanted loud and they got it. They even kept the roof closed to increase the noise level.
Don and I stood up so we could see. Everyone was standing and jumping. Everyone but me.
Uncharacteristically (maybe) I began reflecting, thoughts running around inside my head. I thought of the early days in the 60's when the team was terrible. When my dad took me to games. The Astros were a joke for years amongst the league. I thought of the 70's when they actually had a few seasons that saw as many wins as losses. A few players that became stars - after they were traded elsewhere. I thought of 1980 and 1986 when The Astros almost made the playoffs. A couple of gut-wrenching losses. They nearly got there. I thought of the 90's and teams that had good won-loss records but never progressed. The years of Bagwell and Biggio. Of my hero Larry Dierker as manager. I thought of last season when they came within an out of beating these same Cardinals for the pennant. I thought of all these things while the Astros batted in the 8th inning and The Cardinals came to bat in the 9th. The crowd noise was nearly unbearable and a few tears rolled down my sentimental cheek.
The Cards threatened and I knew I could not yet celebrate. Pujols at bat. Maybe the best hitter in the game today. I've seen too much over the decades. One bad pitch, one experienced swing of the bat. That's all it would take. And that's exactly what happened.
The Astros lost the game on one swing of the bat. The noise was over. But I was calm. I was pleased. Disappointed of course. But pleased that I could keep everything in perspective. Pleased that I got to witness such excitement. Pleased that the season is not yet over. On to St Louis to try again tomorrow.
And I was very pleased that I was sober.