In the wake of destruction, baseball has become a source of hope for a physically devastated Houston.
For the vast majority of baseball fans, few things are as uplifting as watching the New York Yankees lose. In years like this, there is no satisfaction during the regular season, as they rode through the regular season behind stellar seasons from stars like Aaron Judge. This year, though, the joy was doubled, as they weren’t just bounced from the playoffs, but they were also bounced by the Houston Astros.
For most of the memory of millennial baseball fans, the Astros have been terrible. The past few years, though, they’ve been promising at worst. This year, they’re in the World Series, and they’ve become a baseball household name thanks to the high-profile acquisition of former Detroit ace Justin Verlander.
The feel-good story of the year in baseball has to be the dominant run of the Astros that has coincided with the disaster relief surrounding the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction of Houston. The metropolis in the Lone Star State has felt the full force of one of the greatest periods of natural disasters in American history, and the importance of sport has been reiterated in the Astros’ rise to the national stage of America’s pastime. Sports are fundamentally a distraction, and in times of crisis, they are a redeeming source of hope and optimism.
“Us old-timers still remember the time when the Astros and Dodgers were at each other’s throats…This is not the first time that Houston fans will be chanting, ‘Beat L.A.,’ and not the first time that Dodgers fans will be nervously dealing with the Astros.” – Joe Posnanski on MLB.com
Reminiscent of the New Orleans Saints after the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, the Astros have brought the people of the United States and the baseball world, let alone the people of Houston, together in a moment of joy. While the recovery from disasters like Katrina and Harvey will last far longer than a single baseball postseason, the mental and emotional escape and release for sports fans in New Orleans and Houston is a boost to the city that’s unlike anything else. Watching the Astros win a World Series against a team like the Dodgers, who had a historic season all their own this year, would provide a sense of pride and a level confidence that can be enough for some to get them through the recovery process, even if it doesn’t give them anything physical or material with which to rebuild.
With games three, four, and five taking place in Houston on October 27, 28, and 29, the fourth-largest city in America may well get to see their team earn their Commissioner’s Trophy at home, in Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
The other unique situation in this year’s Fall Classic is that the Astros and Dodgers used to be divisional rivals. In 1980, Houston’s Enos Cabell said, “we can buy champagne in L.A. just as easily as we can buy it here,” before they went and beat the Dodgers in a one-game tiebreaker to get past them and into the playoffs. In ’81, the last time the Astros and Dodgers met in the postseason, the game was brutal for the Nolan Ryan-led Astros as they lost in five games to that year’s eventual World Series champions.
“Us old-timers still remember the time when the Astros and Dodgers were at each other’s throats,” said Joe Posnanski in an article for MLB.com. “Not one of the Dodgers or Astros players – not even Chase Utley or Carlos Beltran – is old enough to remember, but it’s still there, in the background. This is not the first time that Houston fans will be chanting, ‘Beat L.A.,’ and not the first time that Dodgers fans will be nervously dealing with the Astros.”