Jose Altuve went shirtless, after walking-off the Yankees.
Nothing could be more reflective of the Astros season than Jose Altuve’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Yankees on July 11, 2021. Alongside Mike Scott’s no-hitter that clinched the division for the Astros in 1986, this is one of the greatest regular season games in Astros history.
Altuve is beloved in Houston. He’s the face of the franchise. Humble, kind and an inspiration for anyone who has been told “no” because of their appearance and persevered through it all. He has received the most hate of any player involved in 2017 despite the fact that he didn’t participate in the sign stealing scheme.
He has been booed mercilessly, had “F*** Altuve” chants serenaded regardless of whether he was at the park or not. And at the center of most of this hatred was the New York Yankees and their fan base.
The Yankees earned the karma that came with Altuve earlier in the year as they chanted “Cheater” at him right before he took a high Chad Green fastball out to left field for a three run home run to give the Astros a 5-3 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
You would think that would be enough but when the Yankees came to visit Houston, Yankee players decided to keep the false narrative about Altuve going. They have been the most vocal about the infamous (and bogus) buzzer conspiracy theory. Something they most likely know is a lie but perpetuate it all the same as a way of compensating for their inadequacy whenever they play the Houston Astros and especially Jose Altuve.
Aaron Judge hit a home run in Saturday’s game and pretended to pull at his jersey as he rounded third base, mocking the fact that Altuve didn’t want his jersey ripped off after his ALCS clinching home run off Aroldis Chapman back in 2019.
The next day the Astros were getting pounded 7-2 going into the ninth inning and it looked like they would be swept at home by the hated Yankees. Then all of a sudden it was 7-5 with runners at the corners and Jose Altuve at the plate. This time Chad Green decided to throw a slider down at the feet with a 2-1 count. And Altuve golfed it out to left field, rewarding all the fans who stayed with yet another game winning home run off the Yankees.
The players refused to let him walk away from home plate with a jersey on. It was emblematic of the season for the team and especially Altuve. All year Altuve heard boos he would quiet with home runs at stadiums across the league.
Whether it was a two homer game in San Francisco or a three run homer to put the finishing touches on a series clinching win in a White Sox stadium that had cheered him getting hit earlier in the game off their beloved closer Liam Hendriks (who the game before had predicted “Sox in five” after a solitary playoff win.)
The team had to hear every lame excuse for a joke or heckle in every stadium they went to and would take it like professionals and just do their job better than any other offense in baseball.
It’s truly hard to comprehend how difficult this season was for the Astros. The fact they not only succeeded but were the best in the league offensively with everyone and their mother actively rooting for the team to fail is a true testament to not just skill, but character.
And it was all encapsulated by Altuve’s walk-off against the team and fanbase that had done the most jawing and crowing about the Astros.
We may not have gotten the ultimate vindication of a World Series trophy, but there shouldn’t be a single Astros fan who isn’t proud of how the team persevered in what is arguably the hardest regular season any team in any sport has had to endure.
Here’s to many more memories in 2022 and beyond.