Astros: A Fan’s Journey from 1975

Jun 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; The Houston Astros celebrate the win against the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park. Astros won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; The Houston Astros celebrate the win against the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park. Astros won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

Week after week, I receive grief for my love of the Astros.

I live in an area that seems to be populated by Rangers fans, at least they’ve become Rangers fans over the past few years. They just don’t understand my affection for this team, the Astros, down south. They haven’t walked my journey. They just don’t get it.

It started for me in the summer of 1975 when my Dad took this, then, 8-year-old boy to his first baseball game. At the time, my exposure to baseball had been one season of playing two innings of each game in right field and getting one hit in my final at-bat of the year, but a lifetime love was born. This GAME! It breathed life into me.

Then it HAPPENED! My dad took me to the Astrodome in July of 1975. Not only were men playing this game that I loved, but they were playing indoors on plastic grass, and it had to be the most remarkable thing I had ever seen. To top it off, Bob Watson hit a home run for the Astros to win the game and my dad’s name happened to be Bob Watson. How cool was that?

More from Climbing Tal's Hill

That Astros team didn’t have a lot of household names, but it did have a few pretty good players. Cesar Cedeno was gliding around center field and stealing bases. Doug Rader was making diving stops at 3B and hitting balls into the gap. Watson was cranking out RBI’s. J.R. Richard was scaring people with his 6′ 8″ frame and yet-to-be tamed control.

However, there were other names on that team who were important players for the Astros either then or in the next couple of years. There was a sure-handed shortstop named Roger Metzger, an emerging outfielder named Jose Cruz, a former Rookie of the Year named Greg Gross, a pencil thin body full of potential named Enos Cabell, the wily veteran second-sacker named Tommy Helms and the stalwart of the staff trying to hold it together named Larry Dierker.

Just as important for me were some of the role players like Wilbur Howard, Cliff Johnson, Larry Milbourne, and Skip Jutze, who had the coolest name for a backup catcher that I’ve heard to date.

People ask me “How can you keep following the Astros?” I tell them that the first team I ever followed finished in last place and I’ve stayed committed through the World Series team in 2005 and everything between and since.

More from Astros News

When I look at today’s roster with genuine all-star players like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, I think this team has a lot that the 1975 team didn’t have, and it makes me feel even better about being an Astros fan.

Through the years I’ve endured names like Mark Lemongello, Doug Konieczny, Jerry Davanon, Buddy Biancalana, Scott Loucks and Eddie Zosky to get to names like Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and now to the aforementioned Altuve, Springer, Correa, and Keuchel. Also, I can look at the yet-untapped potential of A.J. Reed, Alex Bregman, Joe Musgrove, Brady Rodgers and Forrest Whitley and see that my lifelong affection is in good hands.

Now my grown daughters watch the games with me, perhaps as passionate as I am about the team that has helped shape my life. The victories and disappointments, the highs and the lows, the characters and the stalwarts, all of these have contributed to shape me.

From the days of me putting on my plastic Astros replica batting helmet and taking my plastic bat to an imaginary home plate in my room while listening to Gene Elston to fast-forwarding through the commercials on the DVD now so I can get to the next inning or hear the next tidbit from Julia Morales . . . I have to say I’d do it all over again.