Astros’s championship is about more than a game

Noah M. Horwitz

My great-grandfather did two things in 1962. The first was purchase a house in Houston, the same house in which I was raised and my parents still live. The second was realize, at the tender age of 64, his lifelong dream of living in a city with a Major League baseball team. The Houston Colt .45s, as they were known for three seasons before becoming the Astros and moving into that eponymous domed stadium, finished that first season 64-96. My mother attended a few of those games in a hot, outdoor stadium beset by mosquitos, where her grandfather taught her how to keep score and the words to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

In 2005, less than a decade after his passing, I gathered with family in that house to watch the first World Series game ever played in Texas, when the Astros fell to the Chicago White Sox in Game 3 of what was ultimately a four-game sweep. Around the singing of the national anthem, the dead-bolted backdoor swung open for no apparent reason.

So on a Wednesday afternoon earlier this month, as George Springer and Jose Altuve and Charlie Morton and so many others boarded a plane with the Commissioner’s Trophy and caps that said “World Series Champs,” we took one such cap to the cemetery and placed it atop Joseph Aloysius Castille Sr.’s headstone.

Most every family who has been in Houston for multiple generations has someone like that in their family tree, if not a few. This is the first World Series championship in Texas, not only in my 23 trips around the sun but my grandfather’s 87. And in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, it means even more.

I have friends of similar political persuasions who dismiss such sporting contests as frivolous and wastes of time, but the truth is that in this era of perpetually troubling news, it is more needed than ever, particularly baseball. Baseball is the pastime by which we measure time because it remains. Baseball is America. It’s my dad, who threw rocks at telephone poles for hours until he got a scholarship to pitch in college. It’s every kid who throws spitballs at summer camp, slides into the crack-in-the-sidewalk that is third base or dares to dream about glory no matter where you’re from or how tall you are.

The Houston Chronicle ran a poignant picture after the series, depicting a man celebrating in a room with a lawn chair, a television and a cooler, but otherwise gutted by water damage. Thousands are still displaced, and the cleanup that will take years has only begun. But now we have something around which to rally and to celebrate.

When my mother would leave from Colt Stadium, she’d go home to a little house on Lafayette Street at the end of a cul-de-sac by a ditch and a railroad track. This August the ditch filled with water that then filled the street, the lawn and each of the bedrooms and kitchens and dens of the block. The house, filled with memories and joy and accomplishments of 80 years and an untold number of families, will likely be demolished.

But its last days were ones in which the city came together and achieved what had eluded us so long.

For on Nov. 2, 2017, about 11 p.m., Altuve fielded a grounder and threw it to first base. What was caught was the culmination of 65 years of heartbreak, disappointment, inspiration and courage of the hundreds who have worn the star on the field — Bagwell and Biggio, but also Backe and Burke — and the millions off it. The Houston Astros are World Champions.

Horwitz is a second-year law student from Houston. He is a senior columnist.