Archive for October, 2011

Remember the Astrodome!: Texans, the Astros, and the Spirit of the West

“Few fans will be happy with the move to the American League.” – Chip Bailey on Ultimate Astros

Chip Bailey’s statement above is a strange one for sure, tinged with the kind of naivete and close-mindedness that represents the least adventurous of Astros fans. The assertion that a change to the AL will apply to almost all Astros fans, and cause them to grumble and moan at the injustice of it all, is presumptuous beyond measure. Perhaps Mr. Bailey will cower at the prospect of a new coast to conquer, but he should hardly apply his own quaking to the city as a whole.

In response to a general sense of unease amongst the Astros faithful, I’m calling for a more adventurous attitude, one befitting a proud state and an even prouder city. Houston is hardly a place to rest on its laurels and accept the fate that dusty history ordains. Rather this is a city of redefinitions, from the sprawling madness of its unzoned streets and the fearless richness of the local cuisine, to the gleam of luxury automobiles and the shine of our glass skyscrapers. Limitations are for others, not for us. History shouldn’t weigh us down, but lift us up.

I’m not suggesting there wouldn’t be growing pains if the Astros were to shift their gaze westward. There is a lot of NL Central charm and history that we’ll miss, like the bitter and feckless Chicago Cubs and their neverending melancholy, the St. Louis Cardinals and their history of having players who play for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers and their legacy of changing leagues and representing the city of Milwaukee, and the Pittsburgh Pirates and their funny caps from a while back. Did I miss anybody? There are a lot of teams to remember.

I’m kidding, of course, and I love the NL. But it’s important to remember, in this 50th Anniversary year of the Houston Astros franchise, the frontier spirit that forged the team, and the state of Texas. Alamo heroes Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and William Travis weren’t bearers of old and dusty standards trying to protect the status quo. They were weirdos from the hinterlands of young America, who trekked through the woods to Texas because they wouldn’t have anybody else and nobody else would have them. They moved west because they could give a damn about back east. They weren’t afraid of the freshest, most unknown territory in the world, and they never cowered in the face of dramatic change.

Judge Roy Hofheinz, the driving force in the formation of the Astros existence, identity, and world-famous home, would as soon have brushed his teeth with barbed wire than settle for the status quo. As a judge and a mayor he pushed continually for forward motion, for better or worse but often for the better. When selling the MLB on a Houston franchise, he carried around a scale model of the Astrodome because he knew it would blow their minds. After it did blow their minds, he proceeded to build the weirdest, wildest architectural creation ever seen, based on a premise so absurd that few understood what the ramifications would be. When we sit comfortably in our padded, air-conditioned, luxury boxed seats at Minute Maid Park watching an outdoor game inside, we can thank the Judge and his refusal to accept the grumbling of the masses as rote.

I’m not ready to equate a move to the AL with pure progress, per se, and heck, it might not even happen. But it would be a grand adventure, and one that we should match in spirit as Texans. We would strike out west to places barely known. We would play our fellow Texans with great regularity and flourish as true rivals. We would watch a professional hitter practice his scientific art, rather than suffering the foolishness of a pitcher at the plate.

For all of its charms, the Midwest isn’t our home. It has been a resting point, a place to catch our breath while we cast an eager eye towards the setting sun.

Top Shot: Astrodome

From a Houston Chronicle article, 1965, on the construction and capabilities of the Astrodome:

“The loudspeakers can project a piercing noise that can kill pigeons–‘but it won’t be used that way,’ said Roy Hofheinz.”