Meanwhile, On a Different Field

 

I’ve never been a baseball fan. To be honest, I’ve lived with only a rudimentary knowledge of the game through most of my life. But an occasional peek into the goings-on during the Houston Astros’ run toward the American League championship meant that I saw Yordan Alvarez’s walk off homer in game one of that series. Like much of Houston, I couldn’t stop watching the next game, and the next, and the next.

This morning, one of the most elderly residents of my complex was out walking her dog as usual, and we greeted one another as we usually do. But this time, when I said, “Good morning!” she replied, “How ’bout them Astros?” Today, even supporters of other teams are saying the same thing.

In the grand scheme of things, a World Series title may seem unimportant, but a happy city isn’t the worst thing in the world, and down at the local café the happiness was palpable. Everyone — Black, White, Hispanic, male and female, young and old — was talking about only one thing, and perhaps remembering what it felt like to live beyond divisions.

 

Comments always are welcome.

79 thoughts on “Meanwhile, On a Different Field

    1. One of the nicest things about this Astros team is that they’re truly good guys — especially Dusty Baker. He’s been associated with so many teams for so many years that there are a lot of people around the country particularly happy for him.

    1. When Houston was named a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, there certainly were a lot of happy soccer fans here. Maybe some day we’ll be as happy for a soccer win as Brazil is when the win is yours!

  1. Like you, mostly I couldn’t care less, but still it’s a fun thing and you’re right: it’ll put a smile on lots of folks and that’s never a bad thing. My oldest SIL is a huge ‘Stros fan–guess I’d better call/text her congratulations for her team.

    1. One of the most interesting results that emerged from watching this team through the championship series is that I came to know the players. Instead of a generic ‘Astros team’ I was watching rookie Jeremy Pena play shortstop, Yordan Alvarez produce stunning homeruns with his parents watching for the first time, and so on. I suppose it’s obvious to most people, but it’s a new learning for me: it’s more fun to watch a game when you know the players. (Now: let’s transfer that lesson to your backyard birds!)

  2. Go ‘Stros! I don’t really follow them, but it is great to have a win. I was at a charity event on Thursday and they would flip the game on a big screen between speakers and it was fun to be with a crowd. I watched all the interviews today and Jeremy Pena is a very impressive young man.

    1. It was Jeremy Pena who first caught my eye, with a back-handed sliding catch. Even with minimal baseball knowledge, I knew I was seeing remarkable athletic ability, and it was captivating. I’m glad that we was rewarded with so many honors, and I’m glad you got to see some of the play at your event.

  3. I’ve never been a baseball fan. I don’t grasp any of the rules. Mary – who loves the game – has tried and tried to explain the rules to me, but I still consider the game as boring as cricket.

    1. I used to think the game was unutterably boring, too, but this season has changed my mind a bit. Two things have helped. One is the use of multiple camera angles on plays, and the ability to find certain plays on YouTube and watch them in slow motion,etc. The other is an increasing amount of explanatory commentary by the announcers — useful for those of us who don’t know much at all about the terminology or rules!

        1. Just as I’m still trying to make sense of soccer! Which reminds me: I’m sure you know that Houston was selected as a FIFA World Cup city for 2027 (?) or whenever it’s coming here.

          1. Well, soccer is so easy to understand: it’s just twenty-two people competing for one ball. I didn’t know about Houston and the FIFA World Cup. Thanks for the info.

            1. Mary and I will be on a soccer field trip next Saturday, to Austin. Two German soccer clubs will be playing each other there and we have tickets. The clubs are on a US field trip.
              Talking of field trips: I don’t think there would ever be enough field trips for me to understand baseball.

  4. My husband and I were at a grocery store yesterday, and I think almost every other person was wearing an Astros shirt. They’ve had a great season and, like you said, they seem to be pretty awesome people. Houston will be excited and teeming with celebrations for the next few weeks, if not longer. Definitely much needed! Go, Stros!

    1. I suspect tomorrow’s parade will be quite an event. There were so many cars and people around the stadium area last night they finally shut down the Metro Rail — I suppose to avoid running over people who might have imbibed a little too much, not to mention not being able to clear the crowds off the tracks. But as far as I know there wasn’t any truly bad behavior: just a lot of celebrating.

      I loved that Mattress Mack threw out the first pitch. That was ‘pitch perfect’!

  5. I like baseball, but it’s a tad slow for me. Still, there’s nothing like the hopeful spirit that accompanies a team and a community when victory is near. It’s especially nice when victory draws together (even if for just a wee while!) otherwise disagreeing factions.

    1. I’ve decided that the slow pace of the game is part of its charm for me. It’s especially fun to listen to a game on the radio, which I do at work from time to time when there’s an afternoon game. There’s time for conversation between the play-by-play guy and the color commentator, and that usually includes bits of history, stories about players present and past, and so on. It was delightful to watch this team focus on winning as a team, too — instead of every player constantly yapping about his individual paycheck.

  6. I’m glad your city is a happy one this morning. Just don’t remind them that come April, your players have to start all over again!! Sorry to be a spoilsport, but my Red Sox didn’t even come close to the playoffs this year!

    1. On the other hand: come April, the players (and fans) get to start all over again! So many of the players who performed well this year are going to be here for an extended period. Some will leave, of course, but the ‘youngsters’ may well be building blocks for another championship — or at least a few satisfying seasons. Wouldn’t it be something if the Astros end up facing the Red Sox next year? That would be fun.

  7. I remember watching the Yankees on TV (in black and white) on Saturdays. My brother would have been four or five. We had asphalt tile in the den and my brother would make a baseball diamond with modeling clay (the greyish green that you end up with when all four colors had been thoroughly mixed together). He would roll out the long lines of clay to make the base lines, and make little bases. Green plastic soldiers (the “assorted” kind that came 25 to a bag) were his teams. He’d do all the sound effects and the play by play. The televised games of that era had two announcers: the stats guy and the “color” guy (the one who knew anecdotes about the various players). My dad and I took great delight when Dizzy Dean was the “color” guy. He mangled the language almost as badly as Yogi Bera. My brother had baseball cards. Which, if he’d kept them and kept them in mint condition, would be worth a pretty penny today.

    1. When it comes to baseball cards, I remember two things: that they usually came with bubble gum, and that the boys liked to put them in their bicycle spokes to jazz things up a bit.

      Some things haven’t changed; there’s still a play-by-play guy and a color commentator. In Iowa in the 1930s, one of the baseball guys was “Dutch” Reagan, aka later-to-be-president Ronald Reagan. My mom remembered listening to him on WHO out of Des Moines; she said she liked his commentary more than the game.By the time I came along, Reagan was gone from the station, but I got the Sons of the Pioneers as a consolation prize.

      By the way: I was thinking about the funny names many minor league teams have, and I discovered the Amarillo team is called the Sod Poodles. Naturally, their mascot is a prairie dog.

    1. If I had to list baseball players, most of the names I’d know would be from those earlier years. I smiled when I saw the women softball players included in the video. My mom played softball and basketball in high school, and said she much preferred softball — although I don’t know why.

      One thing I really enjoyed through these series was listening to snippets of the Spanish-language broadcasts. There’s something about the Spanish language that makes the same play sound a lot more exciting than it sounds in English.

    1. You mean in person? Or were you cheering for another team when they broke the “curse” in 2016? That curse of the goat was one of the first bits of baseball lore I remember hearing as a kid (no pun intended). Pro football was my dad’s game of choice, so it took me a while to learn the baseball teams, let alone watch a game.

    2. By the way: did you know that Ronald Reagan was a Cubs broadcaster on WHO Des Moines in the thirties? He was known as “Dutch Reagan” then, and my mom said she listened to him regularly. There’s some information here.

  8. I don’t really understand the game of baseball nor of cricket which is I believe is very similar in that they hit a ball as hard as they can and then a player wildly runs somewhere.
    I just give you ‘the essence of cricket’.
    The very essence of a riveting cricketing contest is an even battle between bat and ball. If the conditions – pitch, weather, lighting, colour of the ball etc – are loaded heavily in favour of one of these the game loses its charm. It becomes boring and predictable and can even be a bad advertisement for the sport.

    1. I took a very brief look at a cricket game on YouTube, and thought, “What in the world?” Using a bat and ball is similar to baseball, but at least in baseball the players know where they’re supposed to run. Cricket looks rather like chaos.

      On the other hand, that balance between offense and defense is important — at least, it makes the game more interesting. If a baseball game’s score is lopsided in the seventh or eighth inning, fans will start leaving the stadium. Part of it’s boredom, I suppose, but avoiding traffic snarls certainly plays into such decisions.

  9. It is a welcomed phenomenon.
    What may make baseball so appreciated now is that it is a simple game and it makes people happy So nice to see large groups smiling together again. Life does feel more “normal”
    Great observation – perfect post

    1. The relationship between simplicity and happiness pops up remarkably often. As for those large groups, one of the things I couldn’t help thinking about is the role Mattress Mack has played over the years in Houston. Whether sheltering people after one of our storms, heading up relief for other affected states, or offering those crazy deals based on his sports bets, he’s developed the kind of relationship with the city that made him the perfect person to throw out the first pitch. His profanity-laced exchange with the hecklers in Philly only endeared him even more to everyone.

  10. I’m not much of a sports fan, any sport, BUT I like being around happy people who have hope in their hearts. And sports fans fill that bill. Congratulation on winning the World Series, enjoy the happy vibe while it lasts.

    1. It was a happy time, indeed. Yesterday’s parade was simple, but nice. Kids were let out of school, a variety of high school and college bands marched, and everyone got a chance to cheer their favorite players. Even the weather cooperated, and people seemed more than usually tolerant of the traffic once the event was over. There were plenty of wins for everyone.

  11. Sports are not generally my thing. I woke up Saturday night hearing fireworks, wondering groggily which holiday I’d forgotten about, not realizing until the next day that the Astros had even played, let alone won. I do love the way baseball unites a community – across all boundaries. And Mattress Mack is the story of Houston in microcosm – success out of adversity. Thanks for this thoughtful (and joyful) post!

    1. It was a little hard for me to imagine anyone not knowing the Astros were playing last weekend, but then I remembered how often I have to turn to a search engine to figure out who’s who among the rappers and such. It’s a big, wide world, and none of us can pay attention to it all.

      I used to laugh at Mattress Mack in his earliest days: that time when he still was jumping into the air with his fistsful of dollars. Like Marvin Zindler’s “slime in the ice machine,” Mack’s “Saves you money!” became iconic parts of the Houston landscape, and the good Mack has done is inestimable. I was glad to see him throwing out the first pitch, and having a place of honor in yesterday’s parade.

  12. I’m happy for my Astro fan friends, which there are numerous! I am a Texas Rangers fan, though! I played softball from 5-17 so I’m fully aware of the game’s rules but I’m just a die hard fan of my home team! It was great when they won the pennant a decade ago but they failed to clinch the series. It is good to have a clean win for the Astros, minus the controversy from their 2017 series win.

    1. When you mentioned the Rangers, my first thought was of the Silver Boot Series, which I’ve been aware of but haven’t known much about. A quick glance at its history revealed something fascinating: “Nolan Ryan — who played for both teams — was once the Rangers team president and later an executive team advisor to the Astros, who were then run by Ryan’s son, Reid.” Of course Nolan Ryan’s a legend here, but it seems he might be up there, too!

  13. I do enjoy baseball probably because my dad did and my son played from the time he was in kindergarten through high school. So…”how ’bout them Astros?” Congrats to them!! And they beat the Phillies, which is okay in my book.

    1. One of our best meteorologists was an east-coaster who grew up rooting for the Phillies. After being in Houston for years, he was torn over who to root for — to say the least. He tried so hard to stay focused on “whoever wins, I’ll be happy,” but he’s especially happy now that the situation has been resolved and he doesn’t have to live with the tension any more!

  14. That’s what I felt like after St. Louis’ hockey team won the Stanley Cup. I”m not a fan of hockey, but it was so nice to see the city “come together” during the playoffs and celebrate the victory! Just for a little while, all our divisions were forgotten, and we were simply proud of our home team.

    1. Despite the American Hockey League including teams from Canada and the U.S., I still think of it as an essentially Canadian sport. That’s quite far from the truth, but it still surprised me when you mentioned the St. Louis team. No matter the sport or the team, though, the experience of shared joy at a winning season is the same. I’m glad you’ve had the experience, too!

  15. Congrats to the Astros and Houston, they’re entitled to celebrate. (I’m not a baseball diehard and have divided loyalties, so I root for Brewers, Phillies, Mets and Yankees, shhh better keep that quiet!) I love the minor league names, too, like your Sod Poodles (great!) my favorite is the Toledo Mudhens. Akron Rubber Ducks and Hartford Yard Goats aren’t bad either.

    1. The Astos have a Triple A franchise in an outlying suburb that was known for a while as the Sugarland Skeeters: an obvious tribute to a certain insect that could make watching their games less than enjoyable. They changed the name, and now they’re known as the Space Cowboys, which is a great name for this Texas team.

      When it comes to team names, I think my favorite still is the name of the teams of a Texas high school down the coast: the Fighting Sand Crabs of Port Lavaca.

    1. I’ve always loved the song, too — entirely apart from its relationship to baseball. After all, being ‘ready to play’ certainly applies to far more than the game of baseball!

  16. It was a great series! I struggled with who to pull for – I like Bryce Harper & a number of the other Phillies players. In the end though, I was pulling for Dusty Baker. I’ve always liked him from back when he used to manage the Cincinnati Reds.

    1. Everyone was pulling for Dusty. I heard this afternoon that he’s going to be here for another year, and that makes me happy. The man has class, and that’s sometimes in short supply these days.

    1. I’m not one to buy sports gear of any sort — not even a t-shirt — but there are a lot of tees, caps, headbands, and jerseys around town these days. That said, my favorite fans might be the pair I caught in the crowd when I was watching some game videos; they were sporting matching astronaut helmets!

    1. Well, look there. You’re the second Rangers fan who surfaced today! We’ll have to touch base when the next Silver Boot series comes around. I know so little about the Rangers that I wasn’t aware Nolan Ryan played for that team. I only knew him as an Astro.

  17. I can kinda relate. I’m not really a soccer fan, but the local women’s pro team (the Thorns) just won it all. Not quite as big a deal as a world series and half the city probably didn’t even notice, but if you’re only going to watch one game a year, winning it all is a good one.

    I was a Minnesota Twins fan as a kid…

    1. Once I stopped to think about it, I remembered women’s soccer, but I had to stop and think for a minute. Even though I know plenty of young girls who play soccer, I didn’t realize that Houston has a professional women’s team: the Dash. That said, your point about the pleasure of cheering any winning team is on target.

      I grew up with a dad dedicated to the Green Bay Packers, while Mom was a very casual — almost inattentive — Chicago Cubs fan. I do enjoy the Super Bowl, but mostly for the food at the parties.

    1. The excitement is easing now, but the pleasure lingers — especially since the beloved team manager just signed on for another year. He’s in his 70s, so year to year probably suits him.

  18. My Dad was a huge Cincinatti Redlegs fan. Their spring training camp was in Tampa, FL and we went every chance we got. During regular season, Sundays after church and lunch, it was baseball on TV. Fond memories.

    Your observation … ” remembering what it felt like to live beyond divisions”, is spot on.

    Being in a public place in a city which has just won a major championship is a thrilling experience. Whether it was downtown Tampa Bay in 2003 after a Super Bowl win or in a gasthaus in Munich in 1974 following West Germany’s World Cup victory – there were happy citizens.

    At such times, we are all winners.

    1. I have a cousin who convinced his wife to move from Kansas City to Arizona so they could spend their leisure time following the various teams out there during spring training. I couldn’t imagine why he’d want to do such a thing, but his mom finally explained what I didn’t know: he’d been a pretty good baseball player himself, in one of the minor leagues, and never lost his love of the game.

      One of the most pleasing aspects of the Astros’ win and the ensuing celebrations was the lack of violence (or simple stupidity) that sometimes mark such occasions. There were a few isolated incidents, but for the most part we’ve had a few days of people smiling more than usual, and taking advantage of opportunities to meet the players. On Wednesday, fans waited in line at local Academy stores for over 20 hours to meet Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, and Cristian Javier. Why not?

  19. I know very little about baseball, or about most any large sport, and my favorite thing about going to the few games I have (possibly just one) were the fireworks at the end. But I completely agree with you about the sense of togetherness these sorts of things can sometimes create and that’s always a good thing.

    1. It is a good thing. The nice thing about events like a World Series win is that everyone can bask in the happiness — even those who aren’t necessarily baseball fans. I’ve never been to a game, and probably wouldn’t go if someone offered me a ticket; I’m just not that fond of crowds, Houston traffic, and so on. I do have a friend who attends a minor league team’s games out in the suburbs, and of course there are plenty of Little League games around if I ever feel the urge to see a live game.

  20. I really love the song you linked to!! And baseball is the sport I have most enjoyed watching over the years, though I have done very little of that since my husband died. It seems to have been a social phenomenon in my life. The first time I went to a major league baseball stadium, I was awed by the poetry of it all!

    1. Sports as a social phenomenon can take so many forms, and all of them can be pleasurable. For me, pro football always took pride of place rather than baseball, but that’s because I grew up watching the Green Bay Packers with my father. Beyond that, one of the most memorable events of my young life was traveling to Iowa City with him aboard a coal-powered train to watch a college game at the University of Iowa. Given the number of silver flasks carried on that train, things became very social by the time we got home!

  21. As a child baseball provided great pleasure and interest for me. ..especially watching MIckey Mantle. As a teen I lost interest in most things mainstream-popular and dwelled in the rebellion of youth into college with music being my main passion. In the following years, 40 or so of them, sports became an interest once again. But now in my later years not so much aside from football. The ridiculous amounts of money athletes receive for what they do, talent and skills recognized, but for anything the amounts seem just obscene. That said there is something uniting in following a sports team as you mention at the end, It would indeed be a blessing if there were more things in society that could bring us together although it seems no matter what happens our political divisions currently just don’t allow for such oneness.

    One reason football works for me is most of the games take place during my waking hours on the weekend. It is almost impossible now for me to watch a game at night since most start at or after my bedtime which is true for most baseball and basketball games. Getting older is a privilege but it does cause some changes in lifestyle. There are other reasons but the most salient is sleep.

    1. To be honest, I don’t watch any sporting events. I listen on the radio from time to time, but mostly when I’m at work. It’s easy listening, and doesn’t require much attention. While it’s interesting to follow how the teams are doing, once the season is over and talk turns to trades, salaries, and such, I get bored, and stop listening until the next season gets interesting.

      I mostly don’t fuss any more about what sports figures are paid. Like film stars or musicians, they’re entertainers, and many of them earn far less than those in other fields. I have no idea who Taylor Swift is, but I’ve heard the news about tickets to her next tour going for $20K – $35K on the resale market. Clearly, there are a lot of people with a lot of money to spend, and if that’s their choice of how to spend it, so be it. I’ll put in a CD, make some coffee, and enjoy my music at home. I’m sure not about to spend a year’s income on a concert ticket.

      1. I watched a football game yesterday, the New England Patriots versus the New York Jets. It was an abysmal performance by both offenses and all someone had to do was watch the last few seconds to see all the excitement contained in the game. If it wasn’t for the quality time with Bentley on my lap it would have been a total waste of time.

        My memory usually fails me so I am not positive but I think the last concert I went to was Jorma Kaukonen at a local venue, The Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, in 2004 on a very cold cold night. I don’t remember the admission price but it was maybe 1/1000th of what Taylor Swift’s tickets are going for. The cost is now outrageous. I’m old school and remember seeing J.Geils or Joan Baez for $2.00. at UMass. Springsteen, Santana, the Dead, even Pablo Casals in Springfield for $10. I don’t think I’d consider going to any concert now. I hate crowds at any price anyway. Compare the price for a concert ticket to one of those CD’s you mention and it’s a no brainer decision for which I am considerably qualified to make. I won’t be carrying on telling anyone what a great time I had listening to Pink Floyd’s Pulse concert in my car but I can live with that.

        1. This isn’t directly related, but it’s a sort of music story you might enjoy. A friend had a birthday Saturday, and we celebrated at another friend’s house on the west end of Galveston Island. One thing led to another, and we started talking about Gordon Lightfoot, and the fact that some of his most well-known songs actually were written by Ian Tyson. The birthday girl never had heard of Ian Tyson, or Ian and Sylvia, or Gordon Bok, despite being the right age to have come across them at the height of their popularity. We spent a couple of hours pulling up videos while the weather howled outside, and it was one of the best concerts I can remember.

          1. I often have little YouTube concerts aka rabbit holes. While I am familiar with those folks I did not know that Ian had written so many of Lightfoot’s songs…or rather that Gordon had recorded so many of Ian’s. Speaking of Rabbit Holes. I’m kind of addicted.

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