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Nancy Jane
Posted on Friday, October 21, 2005 - 07:28 am:   

The Astros are in the World Series! I've been a fan since the beginning -- since they joined the National League as the Colt .45s along with the Mets. I remember the days when they were lovable losers, usually ending up with a record just a tad better than the Mets. But the Mets eventually got good -- at least some years -- and the Astros became perpetual also-rans, neither lovable nor successful.

I didn't go to baseball games as a kid -- we lived in the sticks outside of Houston and there was no way my parents would have driven into the city for a baseball game. I didn't even see much of it on TV; our TV broke in 1960 (I know because we had to follow the 1960 election returns on the radio) and we didn't get another for several years. I became a baseball fan by reading the sports page every day, at first because it was the only section available at the breakfast table in my house, and then by choice. There's always been great writing about baseball, and it hooked me. Plus there are the box scores, the little details.

I have no illusions about baseball. I lost them early on, when I watched the political machinations that gave Houston the Astrodome -- a portent of things to come in stadium building, though probably it was ever thus. I applauded the free agency changes that gave players a chance to get their share of the money, but now the teams change so much that you need a computer to keep up with who plays where. And there's no such thing as cheap seats any more. Many of the disappointing years for the Astros (and the Baltimore Orioles and many other teams) can be put down to bad ownership. (I've never forgiven the Astros for letting Nolan Ryan go to the Rangers in the late 80s -- he ended up pitching his seventh no-hitter in North Texas.)

I've also become a Washington Nationals fan this year -- a team of journeymen playing over their heads, with only their manager in the superstar category. But, hell, Major League Baseball keeps fucking around with who gets to buy them. Who knows if they'll even play here next year? And assuming that all works out, even as a baseball fan I question whether building a fancy new baseball stadium is the best use of the District of Columbia's tax dollars (my tax dollars) in a city that still has problem schools and infrastructure issues.

Plus there aren't any women in baseball, except for fans and the occasional ball girl or reporter and even more occasional owner (though I don't really want to claim Marge Schott). Baseball's so male it aproaches being a caricature of maleness.

Still, the perfectly turned double play, the diving catch in centerfield, runs manufactured by bunts and steals, the perfect throw that nails a runner at the plate, and above all the duel between pitcher and batter -- all these things are a joy to watch. And to read about over and over.

I'm not crazed enough to fly to Houston or Chicago and try to get a ticket, but I'll be watching the Series. And reading what Tom Boswell has to say about it the next day.

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