Quo Vadis? The 2009 Astros

added 12/2/2008 by Dr. Bill McCurdy

Houston Post cartoon by Bud Bentley

Back in the spring of 1961, Houston baseball fans still had a whole year to imagine how their new National League club, the Colt .45s, would fare playing against the big boys. After seventy-three years of minor league baseball, played mostly as the Houston Buffaloes (Buffs) of the Texas League, the Bayou City was midway through their two year wait for actuality in the big time under a brand new baseball name.

The voice of the fans was more than a little stifled back in that day. There was no ESPN, sports talk radio, Internet, MLB.com, cable TV, or even 24-hour a day regular TV network to carry forth any direct expression of what the fans were thinking, and not too many people got their brief comments published in the letters to the editor at the local Chronicle and Post, either.

As a result, sportswriters, and sometimes sports cartoonists, were left with the awesome responsibility of speaking publicly on what they thought the fans were really thinking about the major questions of the day. Many sportswriters in 2008 still think that speaking the mind of the fans is their job. It's too bad they aren't aware of all the avenues, including blogs, that have now opened up to completely makeover reporting and opinion-gathering of all kinds.

All that being said, and suffice to say, we all need to speak for ourselves. On March 8, 1961, that's exactly what cartoonist Bud Bentley of the Houston Post seemed to be doing when he drafted the artwork that is reprinted. Although he probably wasn't trying to speak for the fans, he most likely stumbled into doing so. We Houston fans weren't totally stupid, even then, about how long it might take to field a winner in the National League. On the other hand, there weren't many of us around back then who thought that forty-seven years later, we would have only one World Series appearance and zero World Series titles to show for our efforts.

Historically and projectively speaking, here are the numbers in terms of seasons played that rest large as our sign posts on the road to an eventual World Series victory:

3 = numbers of seasons it took before the potential of a lawsuit from the Colt .45 Gun Company forced a nickname change in the Houston club's on-field identity. "3" is also the answer to how many seasons the Colt .45s played in Colt Stadium without so much as coming anywhere near a close sniff of the National League pennant.

4 = number of seasons in their life it was before the club finally finished their first year of play in the modern world's first big scale domed stadium and adopted a new nickname that hardly anyone on Earth had ever heard until our boys took the field in 1965 as the Houston Astros.

8 = number of seasons played before Houston finished with a record that did not include more losses than wins. The 1969 Astros finished Even-Steven with 81 wins and 81 losses.

11 = number of seasons played before Houston finally finished as a team that won more games than it lost. The 1972 Astros finished with a record of 84 wins and 69 losses.

19 = number of seasons passed before Houston won a division championship and made it to the playoffs. The 1980 Astros won the National League West crown with a 93-70 won/lost record but then lost a 3-2 games won series to the eventual World Series champions, the Philadelphia Phillies.

35 = number of seasons the Astros played in the Astrodome (1964-1999) without advancing a single time to the World Series.

44 = total number of seasons played before the Astros finally advanced to their one and only World Series appearance which, unfortunately, they lost on a 4-0 goose egg roll to the Chicago White Sox.

?? = number of total seasons that Houston fans must still prepare to wait before the Astros return to the World Series and walk away as champions of the baseball world.

0 = starting in 2009, zero is the number of seasons that will pass before some Houston fans will attack the Astros in myriad ways for not doing more to make themselves over into grand champions of the baseball world. Complaints will include suggestions that owner Drayton McLane, Jr. needs to either spend more money on players or else, sell the club; General Manager Ed Wade needs to be fired; Manager Cecil Cooper needs to be replaced; good hit/slow running left fielder Carlos Lee needs to be traded for starting pitching; and that the club was crazy for letting Jose Valverde and Ty Wigginton go because of a stupid payroll cap.

(infinity) = the volume of patience possessed by most knowledgeable Houston baseball fans.

Pardon the baseball talk in December too, football fans. It may be football season to most of you, but for a lot of us Houstonians, it's just the baseball off-season and time to talk with each other in ways that help us search for renewed and credible hope in the future of the Houston Astros.

Apparently, our counting out the years it's taken for us to get this far isn't one of the most positive ways to go. It's just that I've gone from young adulthood to AARP status over that course in time and, as is deep-down true with every other Houston fan of my generation, I'd still really like to see the Astros win a World Series before the sun sets.

Reprinted by permission from Dr. McCurdy's blog at the Houston Chronicle. Dr. McCurdy, known around the internet as "Houston Buff", is a historian of the city's baseball past as well as other accomplishments. We thank him for the use of this column.