It is my contention that Albert Pujols ruined everything for the only Houston Astros club to make it to the World Series. Let me explain.
My immediate family and I were all huddled together, hugging, bouncing and anticipating what was sure to be one of our greatest shared sports experiences. My father had his video camera rolling. I remember the stadium had never been so loud. It was about to happen! The count was 0-1 with 2 outs in the 9th. Our red hot closer was on the mound and the Astros were 2 strikes away from going to their first World Series. It was a beautiful moment in time that was shattered on the very next pitch.
I grew up in Houston with an older brother, a younger sister, and two great parents. We have always been close, but some events make you even closer. For us, sports provided a lot of those moments. My father bought his first set of Astros season tickets at the Astrodome in 1996. We would keep them for 12 seasons. The most magical moments shared as a family were in that 2005 playoff run and subsequent World Series appearance.
Me and my family (including fellow Climbing Tal’s Hill writer, Brandon del Castillo) getting ready for game 5 of the 2005 NLCS.
Sometimes, memorable experiences aren’t happy ones. Of course, my opening stanza is in reference to the Pujols home run off of Brad Lidge in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS. Sure, it had crossed our minds that Pujols could wreck the moment, but Lidge was so great that season that he seemed impervious to such a defeat. When that ball was hit, I never even turned my head. It was a couple of years later before I actually saw the video of where the ball landed. It was a devastating moment for all Houston sports fans.
The Astros traveled to St. Louis for game 6 and closed out the series, but the damage to the Astros World Series championship hopes had been done. Roy Oswalt, the ace of that team, had been used to secure game 6 of the NLCS. That led to Roger Clemens getting the call in game 1 of the Fall Classic. Well, Roger’s 42 year-old hamstring was already a problem before traveling up north to start the series. In case you didn’t know, Chicago is cold in October. The weather wreaked havoc on Clemens’ already tight tendons and the Rocket was chased after only 2 innings with a strain to his hammy, thus also straining the Houston bullpen and giving the Southsiders a 1-0 series lead and a commanding mental edge.
That seemed to be the way the whole series went. The Astros just couldn’t catch a break. The White Sox avoided Lance Berkman, the unquestioned offensive star at this point for the Astros, and instead challenged Morgan Ensberg who batted .111 in the series. Houston lost four gut-wrenching games by a total of six runs. Maybe the White Sox were a team of destiny that year. Maybe they were just a better constructed team. Or maybe, Albert Pujols doomed the Astros with a swing of the bat that didn’t even occur in the same series.
We still got to see the Astros in the World Series. Pujols couldn’t stop that!
The magical Houston Astros run of 2005 ended for me and my family in the same seats where we had been silenced by Prince Albert nine days earlier. Again silenced by the opponent, we watched as the White Sox celebrated a sweep and World Series victory on our field. I wonder to this day…. What if Roy Oswalt had been able to start game 1? Would that have changed everything?
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