Yes, that’s me, the one in full uniform. I’ll never forget that day. My dad bought it for me, knowing how happy I was about my hometown getting a Major League Baseball team.
I don’t know that I’ve ever received a gift that meant more to me. I remember going to all our neighbors and knocking on doors, waiting for them to answer just so they could see me in my uniform. I was so proud.
So here we are, over half a century later, for the moment I’ve always dreamed of seeing - a chance for the first sports team I ever loved to finally win a World Series. My goodness, all the times I fantasized about a Game 7 for Houston. Of course, I was playing in that game and hitting the game-winning homer in the ninth inning.
That didn’t come to pass, but so much of my life revolved around this team. I loved it when the name changed to the Astros (perfect for the city of NASA and the astronauts that were working hard to get to the Moon).
It was 1965 and the team was moving into the Dome, just down the road from where I grew up in Braes Heights. The Astrodome, Eighth Wonder of the World and the place that became my home away from home.
Counting it up, I spent well over a thousand days in the place. Heck, maybe 2,000 counting Oilers game, University of Houston football games, rodeos, boxing matches and so many other things I attended there.
I was just a boy in the outfield cheap seats loving Jimmy Wynn and Rusty Staub and Bob Aspromonte before becoming a reporter covering the Astros during some of their most dramatic moments in franchise history while working at the Houston Post and later the Houston Chronicle.
Of course, I maintained objectivity those years, but there is no objectivity tonight. I’m all in.
So many memories. All those nights listening on my transistor radio. I can still hear Loel Passe saying: “Now you’re chuckin in there,” after an Astros pitcher recorded a strikeout. And I remember the classic play-by-play man Gene Elston, the consummate pro back in a time when many team broadcasters remained neutral.
And my friend and legendary Astros voice Milo Hamilton, who always had time for a young reporter learning the ropes, traveling across the country for the first time. Milo told me what to do and what not to do. Sometimes I listened; sometimes I didn’t, but he always was there for me.
I left Houston 20 years ago when career pursuits and family needs took me elsewhere, eventually to the Dallas Morning News and later a wonderful decade spent at ESPN. I moved to the Pacific Northwest over 10 years ago, a place I truly love.
But tonight, I’m a Houstonian. I’m still that kid from Braes Heights in his first baseball uniform rooting for my hometown team and hoping to finally see them win it all.
I know that may not happen. The Dodgers are a great team, and this has been a World Series like no other.
I’ll be disappointed if the Astros fall one game short, but I still will smile, remembering so many cherished moments of my life that involved this team, this city and these fans.