Oral History of Houston Sports

Story by Jeremy Brener

Houston, Texas is home to over two million people and has a future as one of the rising cities in the global economy. Hundreds of ethnicity’s are represented among its citizens and the city has embraced its identity as a melting pot and a city hustling to become one of most important cities in the world. This status the city has created is now represented in its professional sports and the culture is turning over a new leaf.

2017 might be the most exciting time to support Houston sports. All of its Big 4 sports teams advanced past one round in the playoffs this year.

This year’s Astros were the first team in 55 years to win a World Series game, making them the greatest Astros team ever assembled. As of now, one win is what they have against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Three more and they will be the first World Series champions in franchise history. It would be the first champion in the city since 1995. Some people who have not been alive for a Houston championship can legally purchase a drink at a bar. I am not counting the Dynamo’s two championships in 2006 and 2007, the first two years of the franchise because MLS and the Dynamo had nowhere near the following it has now.

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The struggle and hunger for a Houston championship is not as widely documented as cities like Cleveland or Washington D.C. or Chicago, but it does not receive the attention it deserves. The city has been through loads of heartbreak.

The first team to mosey on into Southeast Texas was the baseball team, the Colt .45s, named after the gun. Since 1962, the name changed to Houston and the team has won just one World Series game. However, they came close numerous times. In 1980, the Astros were one win away from the World Series, and in 1986, perhaps the best team in franchise history up until that point were two wins away.

After nearly a decade of futility, the late 1990’s saw a resurgence in the franchise thanks to two players, future Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. However, the regular season success did not translate in the postseason. Four playoff appearances in five years led to four quick playoff exits.

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At this point, the Astros losing in the playoffs were comparable to death and taxes. However, in 2004, things were different.

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2004 brought on a different team. Bagwell and Biggio were accomplished veterans, but a younger core came in and complemented the vets perfectly. A midseason trade for one of the best center fielders in the game in Carlos Beltran turned the team from good to great. In the playoffs, he was setting records left and right, but the most important record was set: the first playoff series win in franchise history.

The playoff win in the Division Series lead them to the Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, but the team fell in seven games, 4-to-3. The Astros made an exit but they had been where no Astros team had gone before.

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Houston looked to keep their momentum from 2004 into 2005 but Beltran had jetted in free agency from Texas to the bright lights of New York. When Beltran left, it was a slight kick in the face because New York has everything. It has the glitz, it has the glamour, and Houston, Texas is not that. It’s hard to compete with New York City, but Houston is an underdog, and it likes to be in that position.

The underdog mindset is what defines Houston. In 2005, despite Beltran leaving, and losing 30 of their first 45 games, the team returned to the playoffs and came to play the St. Louis Cardinals for the chance to go to the World Series — again.

But this team was different than 2004. This team wanted it more. The idea of getting back up after being hit so hard last year drove this team even further. Houston was World Series bound for the first time.

The World Series saw a four game sweep of Houston to the Chicago White Sox, but the team had so much promise that it looked like 2006 could have been the year.

2006 was not the year, and ultimately the team dove head first into flat out embarrassment. Houston was about to experience some of the most painful years in franchise history, as they endured ten straight seasons without playoffs. This decade did not just produce bad teams, but some of the worst teams in BASEBALL history. Baseball’s been going on for a while y’all, but these Astros teams were some of the worst ever.

Looking to shake things up, the Astros accepted the offer from Major League Baseball to transition from the National League to the American League in 2013. The result that year: 51 wins and 111 losses.

51-111 remains the worst record in Astros history and it will hopefully not get worse than that in the future. If there ever is a team that performs worse than that, Ben Sanders will write the obituary.

The silver lining in the Astros garbage play was the ability to draft some of the team’s current core. In fact, in 2014, the team had drafted so many high-potential prospects that Sports Illustrated predicted that the 2017 Houston Astros would win the World Series.

Right now, Sports Illustrated is only three games away from a correct prediction.

A championship for the city of Houston would mean an awful lot for the city that was drowned by Hurricane Harvey. The city has responded in an incredible way to aid the citizens affected by the hurricane and the city is learning how to get back up.

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Ironically, the way the city is getting back up is how the Astros are responding. After every heartbreaking loss in their history, the team has gotten back up. Every retry has led to disappointment, but the team continues to fight and grind. This year, the Astros were one loss away from being eliminated by the New York Yankees, but won two straight elimination games to bring the team to Los Angeles in the World Series.

Houston is very similar to the Astros. They fight and they get back up when they fall down. Houston has been knocked down plenty, but the team won’t quit before they accomplish their goal. This is the closest they have been to the goal, but the job is not done yet. Everyone in Houston knows that there is always more to fight for.

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Even if Houston wins this championship, it won’t replace all the wreckage Harvey brought to the homes and families of thousands of Houstonians. But, the city will still fight tooth and nail as hard as they can to get to where the city needs to be.

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