The 2012 baseball season has started and this might be what we call a rough year. My team, the Phillies are 14-16 and 5 games out of first. What is worse is that going up and down the roster, I do not see too many familiar faces. Sure, there are injuries and sure there are over 130 games left, but I do not see it improving any time soon. But today is not about the Phillies, today is about a team that has been around for 50 years and is full of history. I present to you, the Houston Astros.
October 19th, 2005. The Houston Astros are one batter away from doing something for the first time, entering the World Series. But opposite them is the St. Louis Cardinals, and they are in Busch Stadium. However, fate would be with the Stros on this date as they get the final out and go on to the World Series. Then they got swept by the Chicago White Sox in four games. Whoops, but let us not dwell on that and concentrate on the good memories of Astros baseball.
There were only 500,000 people in Houston when baseball came to the city in 1962. But times were changing, NASA had opened, and the place was booming. Judge Roy Hofeinz was the catalyst for bringing the game to the big city. His envision was to build a wonderful stadium called the Astrodome which would be built later. The judge had an idea for the team, the Colt 45’s and it was so odd at first that people thought they were a performing country and western band as they rode from town to town.
The first manager picked for the 45’s was Harry Craft. An expansion draft was held and twenty five players were drafted to the team. General manager Paul Richards thought the team stood an excellent chance. Players like Bob Aspromonte who came over from the Dodgers hoped they could land a starting job and rise to star status for the team. In that season they won 64 games which put them ahead of the other expansion club, the Mets as well as the Cubs. But it was uncertain what lay ahead for the club.
They needed talent and a lot of it. The 1963 season brought more of that talent to the team with players like Rusty Staub, Joe Morgan, and Jimmy Wynn. Other players would follow, like 18 year old pitching sensation, Larry Dierker. In his first game, he would strike out Willie Mays, unfortunately he would end up losing the game. Don Nottebart would pitch a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies. There was plenty to celebrate but for the first three seasons, the Colt ‘45s did not have a winning season. Things would begin to change for the club as the Astrodome was being built right next to Colt Stadium.
This collection also includes four full games:
Nolan Ryan’s 5th No Hitter: September 26th, 1981
Nolan Ryan would come to the Houston Team via free agency in 1980. He had been born in Alvin, Texas which was a small town just south east of the big city. Ryan was a steamballer and was most famous for amassing seven no hitters, over three hundred wins and over five thousand strikeouts. On this day against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he would get his fifth no hitter which would be a big highlight as he ended up the split season with a 1.69 earned run average.
Mike Scott’s No-Hitter Clinches Division: September 25th, 1986
Mike Scott at one point almost never had a 1986 season. However, once he was taught the split fingered fastball, he was nearly un-hittable. People even thought that he was scuffing the ball, he was so good. This was punctuated on September 25th when Scott faced the San Francisco Giants on the final day of the season. Scott was masterful and completely blanked the club. He would then go on to win the Cy Young Award and forever stake his claim in Houston Astros history.
2005 NLDS Clincher: October 9th, 2005
2005 had a ton of promise but the Astros were slow out of the gate. Even the local newspaper put a tombstone on the front page with a R.I.P. on front of it. Things started to change behind the pitching staff highlighted by Roger Clemens, Andy Petite, and Roy Oswalt. The team would eventually clinch a playoff spot which would lead to a series against the Atlanta Braves. Game Four would produce one highlight after another on both sides. The final score would stand 7-6 and a Houston win after an amazing eighteen innings.
Craig Biggio’s 3,000 Hit: June 28th, 2007
Craig Biggio can arguably make the claim that he is the most loyal Houston Astro who has ever played. He can also make the claim that he is one of the most successful Astros with an incredible career that spanned over twenty seasons (in fact, he should be a first ballot Hall of Famer when he hits the ballot in 2013). On this night, he not only reached 3,000 hits, he would smash it by going five for six as the Astros rolled over the Colorado Rockies 8-5 in eleven innings.
(*back to the review*)
I have lived in the Houston area (surrounding suburbs) off and on for twenty years now. I can not say I am a huge fan of the Astros but I treat them like a kid brother. I want to see them do well, but not at the expense of my favorite team, the Phillies. So like a kid brother, I tend to pick on them whenever I see fit. The Astros have had their share of ups and downs and for a period of time in the 90’s as well as the early 2000’s, they have had a really good consistent team. The only problem is the team has only been to the World Series once.
As a result, the documentary is rich in tradition and history but one certainly gets the sense that there have not been a lot of epic seasons in Houston history. The documentary only lasts about seventy five minutes long and a fan is going to easily feel that there is more information out there. What is good is that they use a lot of broadcasters, sports writers and actual players to talk about the team from conception to their current status in Major League Baseball.
I could have done with a little less from Larry Dierker and Richard Justice though. Dierker has been with the Astros organization for a long time and is certainly important to the franchise. However, his little diary moments seem odd at best. Straight up talking would have suited him a lot better. Richard Justice is a sportswriter for MLB.Com but has written a side column on the Chronicle for years. Honestly, he seems to have this aura about him that screams massive ego. Therefore, I have never found him to be terribly interesting.
The four in-full games are as good as any they could have put on disc. Sure, I would have liked to see some games from the seventies (and even sixties if they had footage), but these four games are truly among the best in Astro history. I do want to put in one note here and that is if A&E is going to put box scores on the back of the slipcases, make sure to actually give us a full one. The information is good but incomplete. Pitching is the most glaring omission. It would be better if they used the inside or a smaller font instead of the hap-hazard way they did it.
The video is in 1.33:1 fullscreen presentation. The video is a mixture of archival footage mixed in with some modern day interview segments. The color is very decent and even though the rainbow outfits the Astros wore for over 10 years is still hideous to look at, there is a lot to appreciate for fans. The old footage looks really good for the most part but then at other times, it is very pixilated. Overall, I do not think many people will have any trouble watching this.
For the audio portion, we get a 2.0 Dolby Stereo track. This is strict documentary narrator overture with interview segments and some cheesy inspirational music in the background. Of course, we get some commentating on field action too. All of this sits perfectly in the center channel and there is no reason for it to go anywhere. It helps to create a little bit of excitement for baseball lovers but nothing too much. No subtitles could be found.
- Astros No-Hitters Under the Dome 4:09: A collection of highlights about this very pitcher friendly park which produced a good assortment of no hitters.
- Dierker’s Diary: What Might Have Been 3:11: Another Dierker diary short. This is something of a sad entry where they go over players that had their careers shortened for various reasons. Dickie Thon’s ball to the eye really hit home for me since I suffered a similar injury but luckily my glasses actually saved me to some degree. Dickie was not so lucky as he was never the same. By the way, Dierker, the Phillies would have still beat the Astros no matter who was on the mound in 1980.
- Bob Aspromonte Home Run Story 2:49: A little kid who was struck by lightening and subsequently blinded would receive the greatest gift in a walkoff homer promise by Aspromonte later that night. The kid would have multiple surgeries and then see Bob again where he would again act as a good luck charm and get the player a homer to win it in the tenth inning. Bob was not a home run hitter, but he probably felt like one on those nights that would follow.
- Craig Biggio’s Biggest Night 4:09: Of course from reading this review, we already know about the infamous night of June 28th, 2007. 3000 hits is an amazing feat, the fact he went five for six is amazing beyond belief. I might rag about the Astros, but Biggio is a class act.
- Bob Watson Speech 2:16: Bob Waston talks about the Colt 45’s team and the fact that he did not get a chance to play for the 45’s because they changed their name to the Astros. But eventually Watson would get his chance to play pro baseball for the Astros. He lived his dream and would go on to have a productive career.
- Dierker’s Diary: The All-Time Astros Team 2:00: Dierker takes us on one final diary entry with his all-time Astros team. Nothing really surprising (J.R. Richard on the mound is the only truly surprising choice) but some fun and popular choices.
- Houston Midsummer Classics 9:16: 1968, 1986 and 2004 are on spotlight here where the midsummer classic or the All-Star game was played in Houston. Highlights are shown, and it is certainly neat to see some more of the classic footage. Interesting note, they show Clemens in the 1986 game and even though he was part of the Red Sox, they mention that he called home to Katy, Texas which is just west of Houston. Even then the seeds were planted. Fast forward to 2004 and Clemens started for the NL Squad as part of the Astros. Funny how things happen like that.
- Nolan Ryan in the Gym 2:26: The final extra takes us on a trip to Nolan Ryan at the gym. I am guessing that this is probably in the mid 80’s. He shows off exercises and weight machines. A weird extra but a very human one for one of the greatest players of all time.
The Houston Astros this season are doing better than expected as they are hovering around the .500 mark. The unfortunate side to this is that next year they will not even be a National League team. They were bought by Jim Crane in November of 2011 and he has had a wish to re-do the team from top to bottom. However, due to uproar they are not changing the team name anytime soon. But I still feel that in five years time, the Astros will be barely recognizable to old fans. As such, this is a good box set to have that will always preserve the memories of the team.
Even though the documentary is a little on the short side, there are a variety of extras and full-games that will keep any Astros fan entertained for over 10 hours. If you are not a Houston Astros fan, it is going to be a tough call. On the plus side, there has not been a lot of Astros on dvd for the average fan and this fills a void. As a negative, I still feel there could have been more information and more moments they could have provided. I still give this a decent recommendation but a longer documentary would have been nice.