After writing about the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination last week and managing to convince readers on the right that I’m way to the left, and readers on the left that I’m way to the right (when all I thought I was doing was making some fairly benign observations), this week I decided to once again risk alienating a segment of the population by writing about my favorite baseball team, which is surely not a favorite for most of you.
Only this time I don’t think I’ll offend anyone, because my team lost. There will be no gloating.
Regular visitors here might remember last year around this time, after the Houston Astros won the World Series for the first time ever, I wrote a piece in which I reminisced about visiting the Astrodome with my family in the ’60s and becoming a lifelong fan. For me, the 2017 World Series victory was the culmination of 50 years of following a team that, during that time, gave me much to be disappointed about.
My big regret last year, as they sailed through postseason play, was that I never made it to one of the games. Shortly after it was all over last fall, I told my wife that would not happen again. If they were in postseason in 2018, I would do my best to go.
She gave me her blessing to do so.
Such events are difficult to plan for, however, because you don’t know if they are going to make it. The Astros had another great year and led the American League Western Division for most of the season, but the Oakland Athletics were right on their heels until about mid-September when the Astros went comfortably ahead in the standings and clinched the division title.
So while I knew they would be playing in the American League Division Series, my real desire was to see them play for the American League Pennant, if not a World Series game. Although they could get knocked out by their opponent in the division series, I decided to bide my time and go for a league championship game.
Also, my favorite National League team, the Atlanta Braves, had a surprisingly good year and in September were looking probable to win the NL East.
So I waivered a bit on my commitment to go to Houston and was considering going to Atlanta to get my postseason fix. It’s much closer, of course, and my older son, a diehard fan himself, lives there.
To further complicate matters, in another theoretical scenario, we thought the Chicago Cubs and the Braves might play for the NL Pennant. Long shot, I admit, but it was possible.
With my younger son living within driving distance of the Windy City, both of my sons and I fantasized about going to the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field.
Again, it was hard to make plans and in the ultimate of first world pains, it became a little stressful. All through September my wife would ask me what I was thinking about going to see October baseball – where I thought I would go and who might go with me. I had to tell her I simply did not know.
As it turned out, Chicago didn’t make it. The Braves, however, did win their division. And if they would have gone on to win the division series and play for the Pennant, Atlanta would have probably been my destination. But it did not work out that way, as the Braves lost to the Dodgers, who would go on to play Milwaukee for the championship of the National League.
The Astros swept the Cleveland Indians in the division series for the American League, so Houston it would be. The day tickets went on sale, I bought them for Game Five of the American League Championship Series, which would just happen to fall on my birthday. I also bought plane tickets for Houston. My wife and younger son, who was going to be home for a week, would go with me. The only risk would be a four-game sweep that would make Game Five unnecessary.
That’s comical to think of now. The series started in Boston, and Houston played almost perfectly to win Game One. The next night Boston took Game Two. I’m embarrassed to tell you I kind of pulled for the Sox in that game so I would not have to worry about Game Five not happening. Again, that’s kind of sadly funny in hindsight, my worrying the Astros might sweep it and I would not get to go.
Boston won the rest of the games, clinching the title Thursday night in Houston with me looking on.
But I have not one regret. There is simply nothing like postseason baseball and seeing it live elevates it even more. The atmosphere at Houston’s Minute Maid Park was electric and I loved every minute of it (except, perhaps, for the outcome).
The three of us had a tremendous time, having lunch in Houston with some old, dear friends from my childhood and enjoying some neighborhood watering holes before the game. For me, a low key celebrator of birthdays, it was one of the best in recent memory.
The Astros have more than made up for all the lean years. They have played some incredibly exciting ball the past couple of seasons. And as much as I wish it had turned out differently, the Red Sox, with the best record in baseball this year, deserve the American League title.
And of course there’s always next year.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.