Monday, April 30, 2018

Yankees Sweep Angels in Anaheim

Note: Due to my new job eating a lot of time, I fell 7 games behind. I've fixed the dates on these posts to make them look a bit more timely.

After an extra-inning thriller on Friday night, the Yankees decided to have a little fun. As yo ucan see by the photo of Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius above, they succeeded.

Jacob Ruppert, who owned the Yankees from 1915 until his death in 1939, bought Babe Ruth, and built the 1st Yankee Stadium and the 1st Yankee Dynasty, said his idea of a perfect day was when the Yankees scored 9 runs in the 1st inning, and slowly pulled away.

This game, against "the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" at "Angel Stadium of Anaheim," wasn't quite that, but still rather satisfying.

Brett Gardner struck out to start the game, but Aaron Judge singled to center. Didi drew a walk. Giancarlo Stanton reached on an error. Sanchez doubled to left. Aaron Hicks got an RBI groundout to 2nd. Neil Walker struck out, but, Tommy Henrich and Mickey Owen 1941-style, the ball got away from Angels catcher Martin Maldonado, Walker got to 1st base, and Sanchez scored. Miguel Andujar doubled to left. The Yankees scored 5 runs before the Angels even came to bat for the 1st time.

2nd inning: Again, Gardner led off, and this time, he drew a walk. The cliche of "Walks can kill you, especially the leadoff variety" doesn't really apply here, since the Angels were already "mortally wounded." Judge doubled to left. Didi and GCS (are we allowed to call Giancarlo Stanton "GCS"?) both grounded out, but Sanchez drew a walk, and Hicks tripled to right. Walker singled up the middle. Andujar singled to right. Gleyber Torres, who ended the previous inning with a groundout, singled to left.

Gardner grounded to 2nd to end the inning, but think about this: By this point, the Yankees had sent as many batters named Brett Gardner to the plate as the Angels had sent batters of any name: 3.

Given that support, Masahiro Tanaka didn't have to be particularly good, but he went 6 innings, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and 2 walks, striking out 9. Typical for him, even on a good night, the run was a home run, but Zack Cozart in the 5th inning.

Chasen Shreve pitched a scoreless 7th inning, and A.J. Cole, a former Washington National making his Yankee debut, pitched a scoreless 8th and 9th. The Yankees added a run on a Walker single in the 8th. Yankees 11, Angels 1. WP: Tanaka (4-2). No save. LP: Garrett Richards (3-1).


The Sunday game was a lot more like the Friday game. Same result, though, which is good for me, because I'm a Yankee Fan. Hopefully, you're also a Yankee Fan, meaning it's good for you, too.

CC Sabathia took the mound, and turned back the years: 7 innings, 1 run, 5 hits, 1 walk. Chad Green pitched a scoreless 8th, Aroldis Chapman a scoreless 9th.

So CC needed 2 runs. He got them. Stanton doubled in the 4th, and Sanchez followed this with a home run, his 7th of the season.

Yankees 2, Angels 1. That's 9 wins in a row. WP: Sabathia (2-0). SV Chapman (6). LP: Tyler Skaggs (3-2).

With this 7-game roadtrip to Anaheim and Houston, 2 places where the Yankees have had problems in the past, I was hoping they would be able to take 5 out of 7. Well, now, they would only need a split in Houston to do that.

Bring on the defending World Champions.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

San Diego's 10 Greatest Athletes

This weekend, the Mets play a series in San Diego against the Padres.

San Diego's 10 Greatest Athletes

Honorable Mention to Baseball Hall-of-Famers who played for the Padres but didn't make the Top 10: Willie McCovey, Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Smith, Goose Gossage, Roberto Alomar, Rickey Henderson and Greg Maddux.

Honorable Mention to Fred Dean, defensive end, San Diego Chargers, 1975-81. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I might have put him in this Top 10 if he'd played his entire career for the Bolts. He later won 2 Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. Maybe Chargers owner Gene Klein shouldn't have traded him.

Honorable Mention to Bill Walton, center, San Diego Clippers, 1979-84 (plus 1984-85 in Los Angeles). Injuries prevented him from making much of a contribution for his hometown team, but he did have enough great moments in the NBA to make the Basketball Hall of Fame.

10. Ron Mix, offensive tackle, San Diego Chargers, 1960-69 (including the 1st season, in Los Angeles). He played in the AFL for its entire 10-season existence, helping the Chargers reach 6 Championship Games, winning in 1963, and making the All-Star Team every season except the last, 1969, when he was playing hurt.

After that season, he announced his retirement, and Klein made Mix's Number 74 the 1st number ever retired by a San Diego sports team. Then he signed a replacement, Gene Ferguson. Mix suddenly changed his mind, and said he wanted to play again. He asked to have his rights traded to the Jets. Klein instead traded him to the Oakland Raiders for high draft picks, and unretired Mix's number. It remains officially available for the Chargers, and was worn by All-Pro defensive tackle Louie Kelcher.

Ron Mix is 1 of 3 Jewish players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with 1930s Giants quarterback Benny Friedman and 1940s Chicago Bears quarterback Sid Luckman. And while the also-Jewish Klein unretired his number, subsequent owner Alex Spanos named Mix to the Chargers Hall of Fame.

9. Charlie Joiner, wide receiver, San Diego Chargers, 1976-86. He previously played 4 seasons each with the Houston Oilers and the Cincinnati Bengals. If he had spent his entire career with the Chargers, he would be much higher on this list.

A 3-time Pro Bowler, he caught 750 passes for 12,146 yards and 65 touchdowns, big numbers by 1970s standards. The Chargers named him to their team Hall of Fame, but have not retired his Number 18. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and in 1999, The Sporting News began its list of the 100 Greatest Football Players by selecting Joiner at Number 100.

8. Dave Winfield, right field, San Diego Padres, 1973-80. If he had spent his entire career with the Padres, he would easily be Number 1 on this list. Instead, he only spent the 1st 1/3rd of his career with them, but was arguably the best player in baseball over a 3-year stretch from 1978 to 1980, resulting in the Yankees giving him the 1st contract in baseball worth more than $1 million a year. (Nolan Ryan got the 1st contract at an even $1 million from Houston the year before.)

He was a 12-time All-Star, 4 with the Padres; and a 7-time Gold Glove, 2 with the Padres. Of his 3,110 career hits, 1,134 were with the Padres, who retired his Number 31, and elected him to their team Hall of Fame. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. The Sporting News listed him 94th on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999.

7. Junior Seau, linebacker, San Diego Chargers, 1990-2002. No defensive player had a more appropriate pronunciation to his name: Junior made many, many players "Say ow." I wonder if he ever hit Drew Bledsoe hard enough that he made him say ow and he bled so?

A 12-time Pro Bowler, he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992, and was a member of the Chargers' 1994 AFC Championship team. He won another AFC title with the 2007 New England Patriots, but was on the losing side of the Super Bowl both times.

He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team. The Chargers named him to their team Hall of Fame and retired his Number 55. But he became the face of NFL brain trauma following his suicide. He did not live to see his election to Canton.

6. Dan Fouts, quarterback, San Diego Chargers, 1973-87. A few years ago, he was broadcasting a college football game on ABC, proving color commentary for Keith Jackson, and it was pouring. Keith asked him if he'd ever played in weather as bad as that. "Keith," he said, "I played in the State of Oregon, where rain was invented!"

He was born and raised in San Francisco, a city which has had its share of weird weather, before becoming one in a long line of University of Oregon quarterbacks to brave the Pacific Northwest's climate. His 15 seasons in sunny San Diego were his reward.

He was a 6-time Pro Bowler, and NFL Most Valuable Player in 1982. At the time he retired, his 43,040 passing yards were 2nd-most all-time, behind Fran Tarkenton and ahead of Johnny Unitas, who, interviewed on CBS' The NFL Today, called him the quarterback playing then that he liked the best. He led the Air Coryell attack that included Charlie Joiner, Kellen Winslow and John Jefferson, but couldn't get closer to the Super Bowl than defeats in the 1980 and '81 AFC Championship Games.

He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and named to the NFL's 1980s All-Decade Team. The Chargers named him to their team Hall of Fame and retired his Number 14. He was 92nd on The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, but did not make the 2010 list of the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players.

5. Kellen Winslow, tight end, San Diego Chargers, 1979-87. He's been called the greatest tight end ever. He made 5 Pro Bowls, and his 541 catches (leading the NFL -- as a tight end -- in 1980 and '81), 6,741 receptions and 45 touchdowns were the standards by which all later tight ends have been measured. His exhausting performance in the January 2, 1982 "Epic in Miami" has given that Playoff classic another name: "The Kellen Winslow Game."

He was named to the Pro Football and San Diego Chargers Halls of Fame, and the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time and 1980s All-Decade Teams. He was 73rd on The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players and actually ranked higher, 67th, on the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players.

4. Lance Alworth, wide receiver, San Diego Chargers, 1962-70. The 1st great San Diego-based major league athlete, he was a 7-time All-Star, he was named American Football League Player of the Year in 1963, leading the San Diego Chargers to the AFL Championship -- the only time a San Diego team has ever gone as far as it could go at the major league level.

He caught 542 passes for 10,266 yards, huge numbers before the 1978 rule change regulating bump-and-run coverage. The Chargers made his Number 19 the 1st they retired (and kept retired, see the entry for Ron Mix), and he was elected to their team Hall of Fame. The University of Arkansas graduate was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, and was the 1st player whose career was mainly in the AFL to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He was also named to the NFL 75th Anniversary Team and the AFL All-Time Team. He was 31st on The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players and 38th on the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players.

Some people have suggested that trading "Bambi" (nicknamed because he "ran like a deer" to the Dallas Cowboys after the 1970 season led to The Curse of Bambi, dooming all San Diego teams.

Here's what's happened since: Alworth won Super Bowl VI with the Cowboys his 1st season in Dallas, the Chargers only reached the Super Bowl once in the ensuing 46 seasons and finally moved, the Padres have won only 2 Pennants and exactly 1 World Series game, while the NBA's Clippers, the ABA's Conquistadors/Sails, and the WHA's Mariners all moved, with the city not getting another major league basketball or hockey team since. Only the Padres are left, and they nearly moved to Washington in 1974, and probably would've moved if voters hadn't approved a bond issue for Petco Park following the team's 1998 Pennant.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson, running back, San Diego Chargers, 2001-09. A 5-time Pro Bowler, he was named NFL Most Valuable Player in 2006, when he set records for most rushing touchdowns (28), most overall touchdowns from scrimmage (31) and most consecutive games with a touchdown (eventually reaching 18 to tie a record).

Of his 13,684 rushing yards, 12,490 were for San Diego. Of his 624 catches and 4,772 receiving yards, 530 and 3,955 were for the Chargers. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team, and the Chargers elected him to their team Hall of Fame and retired his Number 21.

2. Trevor Hoffman, pitcher, San Diego Padres, 1993-2008. Formerly baseball's all-time leader in saves, he still holds the National League record with 601. In the 1998 season, he led the Padres to the Pennant every bit as much as Tony Gwynn did.

Coming in to the tune of AC/DC's "Hell's Bells," "Trevor Time" became the most intimidating time in the League, especially in the postseason, when 64,000 fans would pack Jack Murphy Stadium, waving their white towels. Of course, he had to pitch to Scott Brosius in the World Series...

His career ERA+ was a whopping 141, his WHIP a nasty 1.058. He is a new inductee into the Bsaeball Hall of Fame. Maybe he was never better than Mariano Rivera, who broke his record, but he was better than just about every other reliever of the 1990s and 2000s.

The only bad thing I can say about him is that he bears a striking resemblance to my ex-brother-in-law, whom I'm not crazy about, and not just because he (the ex-brother-in-law, not Hoffman) is a Philadelphia Flyers fan.

1. Tony Gwynn, right field, San Diego Padres, 1982-2001. He started slowly, started in center field, and there was an interregnum in 1981 when the team had neither Winfield nor Gwynn, but someone must have had an appreciation for right field in Mission Valley: From the 2nd term of Richard Nixon to the 1st term of George W. Bush, there was nearly always a Hall-of-Famer playing right field for the Padres.

Gwynn helped them win their only 2 Pennants, in 1984 and 1998. His .394 batting average in the strike-shortened 1994 season remains the highest in MLB since 1941. It was 1 of 8 National League batting titles he won, tying Honus Wagner for the most in NL history. He collected 3,141 hits, leading the NL in the category 7 times, with a lifetime batting average of .338, the highest of any player whose career began after Ted Williams' in 1939.

The Padres retired his Number 19, and they dedicated a statue to him outside Petco Park. As well they should have: If not for his heroics in leading the team to the 1998 Pennant, that ballpark might not be in San Diego, and even the Padres might not be. He's not just Mr. Padre, he's the man who saved the Padres, and maybe major league sports in San Diego at all.

Sac Flies and Didi Give Yanks Win Over Halos

In pretty much any season since 2010 -- the year after the last World Championship season thus far -- including last season, the Yankees would have lost last night's game. After all, they trailed late, on the road, against a team that's given them a lot of trouble over the years, the team currently named the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Maybe there's something different about this 2018 Yankee team. (UPDATE: As it turned out, there wasn't.)

Luis Severino started at Angel Stadium (formerly Anaheim Stadium and Edison International Field), and pitched fairly well: 7 innings, 3 runs, 5 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts. He could have pitched longer, but he threw 96 pitches, and that's 1 more than Brian Cashman's magic number. (I used to say it was Joe Girardi's benchmark, but since Aaron Boone still uses it, clearly, Girardi wasn't the problem: Whoever the manager is, he's under Cashman's orders.)

I can't question removing Severino after 7, though. First, because Cashman manager actually allowed him to pitch the 7th, thus possibly saving an inning for a reliever. Second, because it led to the desired result.

But 1 of the runs Severino allowed was a 2nd inning solo home run by the man who, along with Giancarlo Stanton, everyone is watching this season, Japanese pitcher and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani. Sacrifice flies by Aaron Hicks in the 5th and Neil Walker in the 6th made it 2-1 Yankees, but an Andrelton Simmons triple in the 7th made it 3-2 Angels.

Jonathan Holder pitched a perfect 8th inning, but the Yankees needed a run in the top of the 9th. Cliche alert: Walks can kill you, especially leadoff ones. Gary Sanchez led the inning off with a walk. Walker did not live up to his name, striking out. Miguel Andujar doubled to left, but Sanchez could only get to 3rd. Gleyber Torres got his 1st major league intentional walk, as the Angels set up the double play.

Boone gambled, sending Brett Gardner up to pinch-hit for Ronald Torreyes. It worked: Gardy hit a sac fly to left, and Sanchez scored the tying run. The Yankees now had 3 runs, all on sac flies. David Robertson a perfect bottom of the 9th, and it was off to extra innings.

Aaron Judge flied out to start the top of the 10th. Didi Gregorius was up next. Boom. Home run to right field. He later blamed Judge for telling him to take a curtain call on the road, but it worked, as there were a lot of Yankee fans on hand to cheer him.

Aroldis Chapman slammed the door in the bottom of the 10th. Yankees 4, Angels 3. WP: Robertson (1-1). SV: Chapman (5). LP: B. Parker (1-1).

The Yankees have now won 7 straight, and have closed to within 3 games of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.

The series continues tonight, with Masahiro Tanaka starting against Garrett Richards.

Friday, April 27, 2018

San Diego's 10 Greatest Teams

This weekend, the Mets play a series in San Diego against the Padres, the city's last remaining major league team. For the moment: While they're not in danger of moving, there could eventually be a replacement team in another sport.

San Diego's 10 Greatest Teams

Honorable Mention to the San Diego Sockers. The city's former pro soccer team had a dumb name, but frequently had smart play. They won division titles in 1978, 1981 and 1984, the last season of the old North American Soccer League. But they truly excelled in the hybrid game of indoor soccer, winning the title in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) 10 times in 11 years from 1981 to 1992, missing only in 1987.

10. 1968-69 San Diego Rockets. The city's 1st NBA team lasted only 4 seasons before moving to Houston in 1971, never had a winning record, and only made the Playoffs in their 2nd. They did, however, take the Atlanta Hawks to 6 games in their series. They needed another 6 years to get back to the Playoffs, and it wasn't for San Diego.

The Buffalo Braves moved to become the San Diego Clippers in 1978, but lasted only 6 seasons, and never made the Playoffs. In a reverse of the Rockets, they did have a winning season, their 1st, 1978-79, but missed the Playoffs. In 1984, they moved up the Coast, and became the Los Angeles Clippers.

9. 1972-74 San Diego Conquistadors. "The Q's" lasted just 4 seasons in the American Basketball Association, the last as the San Diego Sails. They made the Playoffs in their 1st season, 1972-73, but got swept by the Utah Stars. Then they signed Wilt Chamberlain as player-coach, but an injunction prevented him from playing for them, ruling that he was still under contract to the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers. He got them to the 1974 ABA Playoffs, but they lost to the Stars again.

Wilt then retired, and never held another job with an NBA team, not that he needed it. The locals never really took to this team. Two more seasons without the Playoffs, and it was over.

8. 1974-77 San Diego Mariners. Show me another team that made the Playoffs in every season of its existence. Most didn't make it 3 years, but the Mariners did. Formerly the New York Raiders and the Jersey Knights, Padres owner and McDonald's boss Ray Kroc bought them in 1974 and moved them to San Diego.

In 1975 they beat the Toronto Toros in the World Hockey Association Quarterfinals, then lost to the Houston Aeros in the Semifinals. In 1976, they beat the Phoenix Roadrunners, before losing to the Aeros again. In 1977, they made it, but lost to the Winnipeg Jets. They were 119-106-14 all-time, above .500.

But the San Diego Sports Arena (now the Valley View Casino Center) was far from downtown, wasn't very good, and they couldn't fill it any more than did the Rockets or the Conquistadors -- or, as it turned out, the Clippers.

Unable to get a new arena, Kroc made a tentative deal to sell them to a guy who wanted to move them to Miami, but the deal for a lease on an arena there failed, negating the sale. Kroc tried this 3 times, but none of the prospective Miami buyers could get it done. So they just plain folded. San Diego has had minor-league teams since, but never an NHL team.

7. 2004-09 San Diego Chargers. They won 5 AFC Western Division titles in 6 years, but the closest they got to a Super Bowl was a hard-fought loss to the New England Patriots in Foxboro in the 2007 AFC Championship Game.

6. 1984 San Diego Padres. They won 92 games to take the franchise's 1st National League Western Division title, then came back from a 2-0 deficit in the NL Championship Series to beat the Chicago Cubs in 5 games. But the "Cub-busters" lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers, in a Series whose Game 2 remains the only Series game they've ever won. They were unable to follow it up.

5. 2005-07 San Diego Padres. The team's only back-to-back postseason years, and it was 3 straight, sort of. They won the NL West in both 2005 and '06, but lost the NL Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals both times. In 2007, they finished in a tie for the NL Wild Card, but lost to the Colorado Rockies on a controversial game-ending play at the plate. They've only had 1 winning season since, 2010, winning 90 games but missing the Playoffs.

4. 1992-95 San Diego Chargers. They made 3 Playoffs in 4 seasons, and in 1994 won the team's only AFC Championship since the 1970 merger, beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh in the title game. But they got throttled by the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX.

3. 1979-82 San Diego Chargers. Coach Don Coryell's "Air Coryell" attack was exciting, but not well-balanced enough to get over the hump. They won 3 straight AFC Western Division titles and made the Playoffs 4 straight seasons. They won thrilling Playoff games against the Buffalo Bills in the 1980-81 season, the Dolphins in "The Epic in Miami" in 1981-82, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1982-83.

But they lost AFC Championship Games to the Oakland Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Chargers were used to heat at home, but not humidity like in Miami, and overcame that only to go into "The Freezer Bowl" in Cincinnati.

2. 1996-98 San Diego Padres. They won the Division in 1996, but got swept in the NLDS by the Cardinals. They tailed off in 1997, but won 98 in 1998, still a franchise record. They beat the Houston Astros and then the Atlanta Braves to take their 2nd Pennant. They got swept by the Yankees in the World Series, although only Game 2 was a blowout. Then, as in '84, they fell apart thereafter.

But that 1998 season saved the city as a major league outpost: Had they not won the Pennant, Proposition C, which provided money for building Petco Park, would not have passed, and, today, San Diego might have no major league teams, unless the threat of that had convinced the city government to cave in to the Chargers' demands. But with the Padres in San Diego for the near future, the city told Dean Spanos to get lost, and he did.

1. 1960-65 San Diego Chargers. Okay, the 1st of those seasons was in Los Angeles. But the Bolts won the AFL Western Division, and made the AFL Championship Game, in 5 of the League's 1st 6 seasons, missing only in 1962.

They lost the title game to the Houston Oilers in 1960 and '61, and to the Buffalo Bills in '64 and '65. Imagine that: Losing a championship game to the Bills. And the Oilers. And then, in each case, doing it again the next year!

Now, imagine beating the Patriots in a championship game. The Philadelphia Eagles just did it . The New York Giants did it twice in 5 years. In 1963 -- or, more accurately, on January 5, 1964, at Balboa Stadium, in Balboa Park just outside downtown San Diego -- the Chargers walloped the team then known as the Boston Patriots, 51-10. It was the most points scored in either an NFL or an AFL Championship Game, under any name, between the 1957 and 1989 seasons. The Pats were so badly beaten, they didn't make the Playoffs again for 13 years.
Paul Lowe and Tobin Rote

But the Chargers of the early and mid-'60s were not only a championship team, they were also an exciting team. With a great passing attack designed by head coach Sid Gillman, a good running game, and the AFL's 1st great defense -- their line was known as the Fearsome Foursome before that of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams was -- they were the 1st AFL team that could be taken seriously.

Indeed, of the 6 AFL Champions that didn't get the chance to play the NFL Champions in the Super Bowl, the Chargers probably stood the best chance of beating the older league's titlists, as that season's Chicago Bears, while excellent, were not overwhelming like the decade's Green Bay Packers.

The 1963 Chargers remain the only San Diego major league team, in any sport, to go as far as the rules of the time allowed them to go. It wasn't a "World Championship," but it's the best they've ever done. And it was sustained excellence for a few years. So, unless the Padres go on a good run in the 2020s, or the city gets a team in another sport that can do so, this is the greatest San Diego team of them all.

El Gary's Walkoff Finishes Yankee 4-Game Sweep of Twins

With my new job, I don't have nearly as much time as I used to. As a result, I had to do an entire 4-game series' worth of recaps in 1 post.

The Yankees began a 4-game home series with the Minnesota Twins on Monday night. Cliche alert: Walks can kill you, especially leadoff walks. Brett Gardner began the Yankee side of the game by drawing a walk off Jake Odorizzi, then stealing 2nd. Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius both struck out, but Giancarlo Stanton, shocking everybody, drew a walk. And then came a double by Gary Sanchez and a single by Aaron Hicks.

This gave Masahiro Tanaka a 3-0 cushion, and he cruised through the 1st 4 innings. He allowed a run in the 5th, but got out of a jam. Home runs by Miguel Andujar in the 3rd and Giancarlo Stanton in the 5th made it 5-1 Yankees.

The Yankees piled on in the 7th. Judge led off with a double. Gregorius popped up, but Stanton singled Judge home. After a Sanchez fly out, Hicks walked, and Tyler Austin doubled them home. 8-1.

Super Prospect Gleyber Torres started his major league career 0-for-7, and I was waiting for somebody to tell me that Willie Mays went 0-for-his-1st-12, and he turned out all right. Well, Torres finally got his 1st hit, a leadoff single up the middle in the 8th.

That's when the ceiling fell in on the Twins. Probably from the Yankees jumping on the roof. Again, walks can kill you, and Gardner and Judge walked to load the bases with nobody out. And Didi crushed a ball to right-center, for a grand slam.

It wasn't over: Stanton singled. Finally, an out, as Sanchez grounded into a force play that eliminated Stanton. Hicks popped up. Then Austin crushed a home run, putting a 6 in the Yankee run column for that inning alone.

Yankees 14, Twins 1. WP: Tanaka (3-2). No  save. LP: Odorizzi (1-2).


CC Sabathia started the Tuesday night game, and was his old self, going 6 innings, allowing 1 run, unearned, 2 hits and 1 walk.

But this series was The Gary Sanchez Show. He hit 2 homers on the day, a solo shot in the 2nd and a 2-run job in the 7th. Didi hit another, and Judge hit one as well.

Dellin Betances was shaky in the 7th inning, and had to be bailed out by David Robertson. Chasen Shreve allowed a run in the 8th, but Jonathan Holder finished the game with a perfect 9th. Yankees 8, Twins 3. WP: Sabathia (1-0). No save. LP: Jose Berrios (2-2).


The Wednesday night game did not start well, as Miguel Sano gave the Twins a 2-0 lead with a home run off Sonny Gray in the 1st inning. But the Yankees started their half of the inning with 3 straight singles, by Gardner, Judge and Gregorius, to close to within 2-1. Gregorius and Austin hit home runs in the 3rd, and that made it 5-2 Yanks. Sacrifice flies by Judge in the 4th and Stanton in the 8th added runs for the Yankees.

Gray didn't make it out of the 5th, needing 1 more out to qualify for the win, so, even though the Yankees were up 6-3 at the time, he didn't get it. Chad Green finished the 5th and pitched a scoreless 6th, but allowed a run in the 7th. Shreve, Robertson and Chapman allowed only 1 baserunner between them the rest of the way.

Yankees 7, Twins 4. WP: Green (2-0). SV: Chapman (4 -- despite the sweep, this was the only save in the 4 games). LP: Lance Lynn (0-2).


Then yesterday was a getaway day, so it was a day game. Jordan Montgomery started for the Pinstripes, but after 5 innings, was trailing 2-0 and had already thrown 98 pitches. Domingo allowed another run in the 6th, and Kyle Gibson had a 1-hit, 10-strikeout shutout through 6. It looked like Minnesota would salvage the series.

Then Twins manager Paul Molitor made a Girardi-esque mistake: He saw that Gibson had thrown 95 pitches, and brought in Addison Reed to pitch the 7th. A Stanton double, a wild pitch getting him to 3rd, and a Hicks sac fly made it 3-1.

Molitor continued to Girardi the game, bringing a new pitcher in for the 8th, Duke. He allowed a single to Torres, who got to 2nd on an error, but Duke stranded him. Then Dellin Betances struck out the side in the top of the 9th, and Molitor brought in another pitcher for the bottom of the 9th, Fernando Rodney. As you may have noticed, Fernando Rodney is not a good relief pitcher.

Didi grounded to 3rd, and Sano made his 2nd error of the game. Stanton singled. And then game El Gary, who crushed one deep to left field. It was the 1st walkoff home run of his career.

Yankees 4, Twins 3. WP: Betances (1-1). No save. LP: Rodney (1-2).

Home runs on the year: Gregorius 9, Judge 7, Sanchez 6, Stanton 5, Austin 5, Andujar 3.


So now the Yankees go out on a tough Western roadtrip, 3 in Anaheim and 4 in Houston. They are 15-9, 4 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League Eastern Division, and, if the current standings were to hold, would get the 2nd Wild Card slot.

If they can get 4 out of the 7, they'll be in pretty good shape going into May. Come on you Bombers!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Minnesota's 10 Greatest Athletes

Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew

The Yankees are currently playing a series against the Minnesota Twins.

Minnesota's 10 Greatest Athletes

Honorable Mention to Twin Cities-area natives who played for the Twins, but not long enough to be counted as Twins Hall-of-Famers: Dave Winfield, Jack Morris and Paul Molitor. Joe Mauer could also one day fit this category. Terry Steinbach was a decent catcher, but not enough of a hitter to be sent to Cooperstown.

Honorable Mention to Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, both of whom starred for the Twins in the 1960s, and should have been elected to the Hall of Fame by now.

Honorable Mention to Bert Blyleven, who pitched for the Twins at the beginning of his career, reaching the Playoffs in 1970; and near the end, winning the World Series in 1987. He also won a Series with the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. Had he spent his entire career with the Twins, where he went 149-138 of his 287-250, he would be in this Top 10. He is, however, in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Honorable Mention to Minnesota Vikings in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who did not otherwise make this list: Mick Tinglehoff, Carl Eller, Ron Yary, Paul Krause, Chris Coleman, Gary Zimmerman, Randall McDaniel, Cris Carter and John Randle.

No Minnesota Wild players have yet been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, only former head coach and general manager Jacques Lemaire -- and he was elected on the basis of his play with the Montreal Canadiens.

10. Dino Ciccarelli, right wing, Minnesota North Stars, 1980-89. There were 6 members of the Hockey Hall of Fame who played for the Gopher State version of the Stars. Leo Boivin, Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy each played only 1 season. Gump Worsley played 5 at the end of his career. Mike Modano played the 1st 4 seasons of his career in Minnesota, before moving with the team to Dallas. That leaves Ciccarelli.

He made 4 All-Star Games, 3 with the North Stars. In their run to the 1981 Stanley Cup Finals, he set Playoff records for most assists (14) and points (21) by a rookie. Twice, in 1982 and 1987, he scored at least 50 goals for the Stars. He ended up scoring 608 goals in his career, 332 of them for Minnesota.

9. Randy Moss, receiver, Minnesota Vikings, 1998-2004, with a brief return in 2010. He may have been the most talented receiver in football history, even more than Jerry Rice. Certainly, he got some results: 982 career receptions, over 15,000 receiving yards, 156 receiving touchdowns. He set records for receiving touchdowns by a rookie (17 in 1998) and any player (23 in 2007). He was NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1998, made 6 Pro Bowls, and was named to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team. (Of course, only about half of all that was with the Vikings.)

But he was an egomaniac and a disciplinary problem. And he never won a title. He got to the 1998 NFC Championship Game with the Vikings, and Super Bowl XLII with the New England Patriots, and his teams' losses in those games were hardly his fault: Their opponents' good defenses shut more than him down.

He is now a studio analyst for ESPN. The NFL Network listed him 65th on their 2010 list of the 100 Greatest Players, and he has just been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

8. Kirby Puckett, center field, Minnesota Twins, 1984-95. For a generation, as Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew had been before him, he was the Minnesota Twins. He helped them with the 1987 World Series, and in Game 6 of the 1991 Series, he saved the Twins with a great catch and a walkoff homer in the bottom of the 11th, leading to their Game 7 win. He reached 10 All-Star Games, won the 1989 AL batting title (a rare feat for a righthanded hitter), and led the AL in hits 4 times.

He was so admired in Minnesota that the address of the Metrodome was changed to 34 Kirby Puckett Place, the Twins retired his Number 34, and they dedicated a statue of him outside their new ballpark, Target Field.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite playing only 12 seasons, with a .318 lifetime batting average, a 124 OPS+, 2,304 hits and 207 home runs. The Sporting News ranked him 86th on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999.

Regrettably, glaucoma ended his career when he was just 36 years old. Things went from bad to worse. His weight ballooned, and his health suffered. He was arrested on a morals charge, and, though acquitted, his reputation was forever stained by a Sports Illustrated article which seemed intent on convicting him in the court of public opinion -- written by Frank Deford, who should have accepted the jury's verdict and not risked his own fine reputation.

Kirby suffered a stroke and died in 2006, age 45 -- aside from Lou Gehrig, the youngest Hall-of-Famer ever to die, not counting those who died young and were elected to the Hall later, such as Roberto Clemente.

7. Harmon Killebrew, 3rd base & 1st base, Minnesota Twins, 1961-74. Due to his name, they called him "The Killer." Fortunately, like his contemporary, Frank "The Monster" Howard, he was a nice guy in real life.

He couldn't field, and was tried in the outfield and 3rd base before being moved to 1st base, until the American League finally brought in the designated hitter. He couldn't run, and he couldn't hit for average. He was a one-dimensional player.

But that one dimension! He hit 573 home runs, which is still more than any righthanded hitter in AL history. He led the AL in home runs 6 times, they weren't cheap home runs, either: He won the 1st of those crowns while playing for the Washington Senators, playing home games in Griffith Stadium with its faraway fences, before the team moved to become the Minnesota Twins with its hitter-friendly Metropolitan Stadium, where he hit the longest home run in both stadium and franchise history.

He led the AL in RBIs 3 times, won the Most Valuable Player award in 1969, made 13 All-Star Teams, and got the Twins to the 1965 Pennant and the 1969 and '70 AL Western Division titles.

He is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and The Sporting News ranked him 69th on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999. The Twins named him to their team Hall of Fame, retired his Number 3, and named a street outside the old Met Stadium (the street is still there, at the Mall of America, though the stadium is not) and a gate at their new home, Target Field, after him.

He is also believed to be the inspiration for the Major League Baseball logo, as Jerry West is for the NBA logo. He also broadcast for the Twins, and also for the A's, alongside the aforementioned fellow Idahoan Wayne Walker.

6. Paul Krause, safety, Minnesota Vikings, 1968-79. A 9-time All-Pro, twice with the Washington Redskins and 7 times with the Vikings, he led the NFL in interceptions as a rookie. He helped the Vikings win the 1969 NFL Championship and reach 4 Super Bowls. Although he is the only player ever to both intercept a pass in a Super Bowl (IV) and recover a fumble in another (IX), the Vikings lost all 4.

He is the NFL's all-time leader in interceptions, with 81. He also recovered 19 fumbles. Think about that: He personally had a turnover ratio of +100. He was named to the 70 Greatest Redskins, the Vikings Ring of Honor, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But not, as it turned out, The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, or the NFL Network's 2010 list of the 100 Greatest Players. That's a travesty.

5. Alan Page, defensive tackle, Minnesota Vikings, 1967-78. Perhaps the only candidate to dispute Fran Tarkenton's title as greatest player in Vikings history, he made 9 Pro Bowls, and was the 1st defensive player to be awarded the NFL's Most Valuable Player award, in 1971. (The award was started in 1957. Only 1 other has achieved the honor, Lawrence Taylor.)

He was with the Vikings on all 4 Super Bowl teams. They retired his Number 88, and named him to their Ring of Honor. He was named to the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame and the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team. The Sporting News ranked him 34th on their list of the 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, and the NFL Network ranked him 43rd on their 100 Greatest Players in 2010.

He earned a law degree, was appointed an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota, and was the 1st black person appointed to the State's Supreme Court, serving 22 years until the State Constitution's mandatory retirement age of 70.

4. Kevin Garnett, forward, Minnesota Timberwolves, 1995-2007, with a return for 1 last season before retiring, in 2015-16. He was a 15-time All-Star, 10 of those times in Minnesota. He was named NBA Most Valuable Player after leading the T-Wolves to their 1st Division title and their 1st trip to the Western Conference Finals -- in each case, still their only one. Of course, his only title was with the 2008 Boston Celtics, his 1st season after leaving Minnesota.

He is not yet eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame, but he will almost certainly make it. Presumably, the T-Wolves will then retire his Number 21. And if the NBA does a 75th Anniversary 75 Greatest Players, as it chose 50 for its 50th, he will be there.

3. Rod Carew, 2nd base and 1st base, Minnesota Twins, 1967-78. He should have been a Twin for his entire career, but team owner Calvin Griffith was both a bigot and a cheapskate, and Gene Autry of the team then known as the California Angels was neither.

Carew won the AL's Rookie of the Year in 1967 and its MVP in 1977, when he batted .388, the 6th of 7 batting titles he won, all with the Twins. He made 18 All-Star Games, 12 of them with the Twins. Of his 3,053 career hits, 2,085 were with the Twins.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His Number 29 was retired by both the Twins and the Angels. The Sporting News ranked him 61st on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999.

2. Fran Tarkenton, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings. 1961-66 and 1972-78. He was the Vikes' 1st starting quarterback, but couldn't get it done, and they traded him to the Giants. After 5 seasons away, the Vikings brought him back, and he guided them through their best years, making 9 Pro Bowls, and being named NFL MVP in 1975.

By the time he retired, he held most of the major NFL passing records, including most passes, most completions, most passing yards, and most touchdown passes. But he couldn't win the big one: He helped the Vikings win the NFC Championship in 1973, 1974 and 1976, but they lost all 3 Super Bowls.

The Vikings retired his Number 10, and named him to their Ring of Honor. He was elected to the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, and was named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999 (59th) and the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010 (91st).

1. George Mikan, center, Minneapolis Lakers, 1948-56. It's been 62 years since he last strode the hardwood in a game that counted, but he is still responsible for 5 of the 7 World Championships that Minnesota teams have won.

He won National Basketball league titles with the 1947 Chicago American Gears and the 1948 Lakers. The Lakers then went into the nascent NBA, and he led them to the title in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954. That's 7 league titles in 8 seasons.

He was NBL Most Valuable Player in 1948, a 5-time scoring champion (twice in the NBL, 3 times in the NBA), and played in the NBA's 1st 4 All-Star Games (1951-54). He was bigger than the league: A game against the Knicks had the marquee at the old Madison Square Garden not mention the Lakers, just him: "GEO MIKAN v/s KNICKS."
That's a legend, but it's no myth, and it's no joke.

Oddly, the now-Los Angeles Lakers have never retired his number, even though 99 is a number rarely seen in the NBA. (They do have a banner honoring their Minneapolis-era Hall-of-Famers.) He was named the greatest basketball player of the half-century by the Associated Press, and was named to the NBA's 25th Anniversary Team and its 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players. He lived long enough to receive all of these honors.

Honorable Mention to his Minneapolis Lakers teammates who made the Basketball Hall of Fame: Jim Pollard, forward, 1948-55; Vern Mikkelsen, forward, 1949-59; Slater Martin, guard, 1949-56; and Clyde Lovellette, forward, 1953-57.

Minnesota's 10 Greatest Teams

The Yankees are currently playing a series against the Minnesota Twins.

Minnesota's 10 Greatest Teams

Honorable Mention to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. In football, they've won 18 Conference Championships (but none since 1967, and none outright since 1941) and 7 National Championships: 1904, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, 1941, and 1960. (This last one is highly dubious: The last polls were then done before the bowl games, and they lost the 1961 Rose Bowl.)

Their basketball team was retroactively awarded National Championships in 1902, 1903 and 1919. Their only Final Four was in 1997, and they were stripped of it after violations were discovered. But they are best known for the hockey team, winning 5 National Championships and reaching 21 Frozen Fours. Herb Brooks coached them to the National Championship in 1974, 1976, and 1979, and that last team provided some of the players he used to lead the U.S. team to the Gold Medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Don Lucia coached them to the National Championship in 2002 and 2003.

Honorable Mention to the Minnesota Lynx, who won the WNBA Championship in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 -- becoming the San Francisco Giants of odd-numbered years. They also reached the Finals in 2012 and 2016.

Minnesota United are now in their 2nd season in MLS, and did not make the Playoffs in their 1st.

Honorable Mention to the 1967-73 Minnesota North Stars. Coming into the NHL with the Great Expansion of 1967, they reached the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals in 5 of their 1st 6 seasons, including the Semifinals in 1968 and 1971.

10. 1988-92 Minnesota North Stars. They made the Playoffs 4 straight times, and in 1991 they got into the Playoffs as the 16th and last seed, but stunned the Chicago Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues, and the remnant of the Edmonton Oiler dynasty to make the Stanley Cup Finals. They managed 2 wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that was the closest the North Stars ever got to the Cup in Minnesota. This did not boost their attendance much, and, just 2 years later, they were gone.

9. 1996-2004 Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves were expanded into existence in 1989, and needed 8 seasons to make the NBA Playoffs. Then they made it 8 seasons in a row, culminating in 2004, in which they won their 1st Division title (they were then in the Midwest Division), and beat the Denver Nuggets and the Sacramento Kings in the Playoffs, before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

Then they missed the Playoffs 13 straight seasons. Until they made it this season, no NBA team had gone longer without making it. From 2005-06 to 2016-17, they didn't even have a single winning season.

8. 2002-08 Minnesota Wild. In 2002-03, only their 3rd season, Jacques Lemaire came close to matching his success with the 1995 New Jersey Devils. Although the Wild were only 3rd in the Northwest Division, they gutted out 7-game Playoff wins against the Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks, before getting swept by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the NHL Western Conference Finals.

They missed the Playoffs the next 2 seasons, but made them the next 2 after that, and won the Division in 2008. That remains their only Division title.

7. 1979-86 Minnesota North Stars. A run of 7 straight Playoff seasons included Norris Division titles in 1982 and 1984 -- the only 1st place finishes the team would have until they were the 1997 Dallas Stars -- Semifinal berths in 1980, '81 and '84; and their 1st Stanley Cup Finals in 1981. But they only won 1 game against the New York Islanders.

6. 2002-10 Minnesota Twins. Winning 6 American League Central Division titles in 9 years is impressive. This included 2006, when they made a mad dash, coupled with a Detroit Tigers meltdown, to win the title on the last day of the season.

But postseason success eluded them. They beat the Oakland Athletics in the 2002 AL Division Series, and have never won another postseason round. Indeed, since 2004, they have never won another postseason game. Their postseason record since October 8, 2002 is 2-20; since October 5, 2004, 0-13.

Included in that is ALDS losses to the Yankees in 2003, '04, '09 (including the last baseball game at the Metrodome) and '10 (including the 1st postseason game at Target Field); an AL Wild Card Game loss to the Yankees in 2017; and the only postseason series win by the A's since 1990, in the 2006 ALDS. The only postseason loss inflicted by a team built by Billy Beane: Now that's embarrassing.

5. 1962-70 Minnesota Twins. In 1961, their 1st season since moving from being the original Washington Senators, they lost 90 games. But then they won 91 in each of the next 2 seasons. In 1965, they won the AL Pennant, but lost the World Series in 7 games -- the 2-0 shutout by Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers being the only home World Series game the Twins have ever lost. They are 11-1 at home, and 0-9 on the road.

They lost the 1967 Pennant on the last day of the season, then won the 1st 2 AL Western Division titles, but got swept in the AL Championship Series by the Baltimore Orioles both times. They fell apart in 1971, and didn't get back to respectability for a few years.

4. 1968-71 Minnesota Vikings. Like the T-Wolves, the Vikes needed 8 seasons to make the Playoffs for the 1st time, but they became one of the best teams in the NFL, winning the NFL or NFC Central Division the next 4 seasons, 10 of the next 11, and 12 out of 14.

In 1969, they won the NFL Championship, the last one awarded before the merger. But they lost Super Bowl IV to the Kansas City Chiefs, and began a legacy of underachieving. There have been more pathetic franchises in the NFL -- the Chicago/St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals come to mind, as do the Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite each having won a Super Bowl -- but none has been a more stunning underachiever.

3. 1973-78 Minnesota Vikings. "The Purple People Eaters" won 6 straight NFC Central Division titles. From 1973 to 1976, they went 45-10-1. In the 1973, '74 and '76 seasons, they won the NFC Championship. But they lost all 3 Super Bowls, making them 0-4 in the Roman numeral game.

Since Super Bowl XI on January 9, 1977, the Vikings have played 41 seasons, made the Playoffs 21 times, won 12 NFC Central or North Division titles, won 11 Playoff games, and reached the NFC Championship Game 6 times... and lost them all. This includes 2 overtime losses (1 at home after going 15-1 in 1998), a 41-0 pounding by the Giants at the Meadowlands in the 2000 season, and the 38-7 beatdown they just got from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Maybe, as in the 1958 Number 1 hit novelty song, "purple people" are all that gets eaten at Vikings games. And they're the purple people. But the Baltimore Ravens have won 2 Super Bowls, so why can't the Vikings?

2. 1987-91 Minnesota Twins. In 1987, they didn't quite go "worst-to-first," going from 6th place an dlosing 91 games to winning 85, enough to win the AL West, then shocking the Tigers in the ALCS and upsetting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, using their dome-field advantage.

They actually won more games in 1988, 91, but the Oakland quasi-dynasty got in the way until 1991, the only AL West title the A's didn't win between 1988 and 1992. The Twins did it again, this time going worst-to-first, 7th with 88 losses to 95 wins. They beat the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, and then mirrored the '87 Fall Classic by losing all 3 games in Atlanta and beating the Braves in all 4 in the Metrodome, including the great Game 6 won by Kirby Puckett's catch and 11th inning walkoff home run, and Jack Morris pitching 10 shutout innings in Game 7.

That 1991 World Series has been called the best ever, and it began a run where the Metrodome, in a span of just 6 months, hosted a World Series, a Super Bowl, and an NCAA men's basketball Final Four. No other facility has ever hosted all 3, let alone so close together. But that '91 Series also remains Minnesota's last World Championship, in any sport.

1. 1947-54 Minneapolis Lakers. John Kundla's team, led by the NBA's 1st great big man, George Mikan, won the National Basketball League title in 1948, then 5 of the next 6 NBA titles. The installation of the 24-second shot clock for the 1954-55 season changed the game and ended their dominance.

But in just 13 seasons before moving to Los Angeles in 1960, they produced 6 Hall-of-Famers (7 if you count Kundla), reached 6 NBA Finals, and won 5 of the 7 World Championships won by major league sports teams from Minnesota. Though a resident of the Land of 10,000 Lakes would have to be at least 70 years old to remember a championship basketball team in his home State, the old Lakers are still the Twin Cities' defining team.

Or, to put it another way: For all their success and glory, the Los Angeles Lakers didn't match their Minneapolis forebears in titles until 1987.

How to Be a Yankee Fan In Houston -- 2018 Edition

Next Monday, the Yankees travel to Houston to start a series with the Astros, who have knocked them out of the postseason in 2015 and 2017, and are the defending World Champions.

The Astros have long been an iconic franchise, despite not having ever won a World Series, or even a World Series game, until last season. They were 0-7 in postseason series until 2004, took until 2005 (44 seasons) to win their 1st Pennant, and got swept in the World Series by the Chicago White Sox, but finally pulled it all together last season.

They are iconic for good reasons, as the team of such legendary players as Rusty Staub, Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. And as the hosts of The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training. And as participants in some storied series, including the 1980, 1986 and 2005 National League Championship Series. And as having tied in with Houston's aerospace industry.

And, to their credit, while, upon their debut in 1962, they publicized themselves as the 1st Major League Baseball team in the South, they did not encourage racism, Confederate battle flags, the playing of "Dixie" or "rebel yells." They did lay the Texas-themed stuff on a bit thick, though, with the cowboy hats and the gun images, due to their original 1962-64 name, the Houston Colt .45's.

They are also iconic for bad reasons, as the 1st team to build a dome, as the 1st to install artificial turf, and for their garish 1970s "Rainbow Brite" uniforms. But they are remembered. Unlike certain other teams, who tend to drop out of the spotlight when they're no longer good, and make you forget that they exist (the other MLB team in Texas comes to mind), the Astros have stayed in the baseball fan's consciousness.

It still seems strange to me to see the Houston Astros in the American League, just as it's strange to see the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League. But, that's the way it is now.

Before You Go. Weather in "The Bayou City" can be bad, which is why the Aatrodome and now the retractable-roof Minute Maid Park were built. Heat and humidity. It shouldn't be too bad this week, though, The Houston Chronicle is predicting low 80s for the afternoons, low 70s for the evenings, and no precipitation.

Houston is in the Central Time Zone, so you'll be an hour behind New York time. Although Texas was a Confederate State, you won't need to bring your passport or change your money.

Tickets. The Astros averaged 29,674 fans per game last season, up about 1,400 from last season. But then, even at their all-time peak, in 2006 and 2007, in the wake of the preceding 2 seasons being the 1st one in which they ever won a postseason series and the first one in which they ever won a Pennant, they topped out at 37,000 seats, leaving them nearly 5,000 short of the park's current listed capacity of 42,060 seats. Getting tickets should not be a problem.

In spite of using "Dynamic Pricing," due to it being the Yankees in town, tickets are considerably cheaper than we're used to in New York. Forget the Dugout Boxes, but Field Boxes Are $85, Mezzanine seats are $47, upper "View Deck I" seats are $32, and there is a special "Outfield Deck" section, well above each foul pole, where seats go for only $20.

Getting There. It's 1,629 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Houston, and 1,637 miles from Yankee Stadium to Minute Maid Park. You're probably thinking that you should be flying.

Flying to Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (that's named for the father, not the son) can be done for as little as $800. Considering how far it is, that is relatively cheap. Bus 102 will get you from the airport to downtown in an hour and 20 minutes.

There are 2 ways to get there by train. One is to change trains in Chicago, and then change to a bus in Longview, Texas. The other is to take Amtrak's Crescent out of Penn Station in New York at 2:15 PM Eastern Time 2 days before you want to arrive, arrive at Union Station in New Orleans at 7:32 PM Central Time the day before you want to arrive, stay in New Orleans overnight, and then transfer to the Sunset Limited at 9:00 AM, and arrive in Houston at 6:18 PM. (In other words, about 50 minutes before first pitch.) And it would cost you $462 round-trip.

And don't be fooled by the fact that Houston's Union Station and the ballpark are next-door to each other, because Amtrak uses a different station a mile away. So let's just forget Amtrak, and move on.

Greyhound allows you to leave Port Authority Bus Terminal at 8:15 PM tonight, and arrive at Houston at 1:25 on Tuesday, a trip of 42 hours and 10 minutes. But that would require changing buses in Richmond (an hour and 5-minute layover), Atlanta (also 1:05) and New Orleans (45 minutes). It also includes layovers of 25 minutes in Raleigh, 1:10 in Charlotte, and then there's Alabama, with half an hour in Montgomery and an hour and 10 minutes in Mobile. Then 20 minutes in Baton Rouge.

It's $498 round-trip, but it can drop to as low as $329 with advanced purchase. You're better off spending a little extra and flying. The Houston Greyhound station is at 2121 Main Street, a mile and a half from the ballpark.

If you actually think it's worth it to drive, get someone to go with you so you'll have someone to talk to and one of you can drive while the other sleeps. You'll be taking Interstate 78 across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania to Harrisburg, where you'll pick up Interstate 81 and take that through the narrow panhandles of Maryland and West Virginia, down the Appalachian spine of Virginia and into Tennessee, where you'll pick up Interstate 40, stay on that briefly until you reach Interstate 75, and take that until you reach Interstate 59, which will take you into Georgia briefly and then across Alabama and Mississippi, and into Louisiana, where you take Interstate 12 west outside New Orleans. Take that until you reach Interstate 10. Once in Texas, Exit 770 will get you to downtown Houston.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 3 hours in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in Maryland, half an hour in West Virginia, 5 and a half hours in Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Tennessee, half an hour in Georgia, 4 hours in Alabama, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Mississippi, 4 hours and 30 minutes in Louisiana and 2 hours in Texas. Including rest stops, and accounting for traffic, we're talking about a 40-hour trip.

Even if you're only going for one game, no matter how you got there, get a hotel and spend a night. You'll be exhausted otherwise. Trust me, I know: Trains and buses are not good ways to get sleep.

Once In the City. Houston was founded in 1836 as Allen's Landing, and was renamed for Sam Houston, "the Father of Texas." There are 2.3 million people in the city proper (about the size of Queens), making it the 4th-largest in America, and 6.5 million in the metropolitan area, making it 5th.

The weather in Houston is so bad! (How bad is it?) A "bayou" (BYE-yoo) is a body of water, typically found in a flat, low-lying area, and can be either an extremely slow-moving stream or river, often with a poorly-defined shoreline, or a marshy lake or wetland. And Houston is known as the Bayou City.

When people talk about "the bayou," they usually mean Louisiana. But Southeast Texas is also bayou country, and it frequently leaves Houston hot, humid and muggy. It's a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The Astrodome had to be built not just to promote Houston, or to protect people from the heat, but to protect them from the bugs. Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers said, "Some of those mosquitoes are twin-engine jobs."

Fortunately, just as there's an overhead walkway system in Minneapolis, and an "Underground City" in Montreal, in their cases to protect pedestrians from their cities' notoriously cold Winter, there is a "Houston Tunnel System," begun in the 1930s, and inspired by New York itself, by the system under Rockefeller Center. Regardless of how much this may help, remember to stay hydrated.

The sales tax in the State of Texas is 6.25 percent, but in the City of Houston it goes up to 8.25 percent. The city doesn't appear to have a "centerpoint," where the address numbers start at 1, but there is a Main Street, running northeast/southwest. ZIP Codes in the Houston area start with the digits 77. The Area Codes are 713, with 281, 346 and 832 as overlays.
Houston has not 1, not 2, but 3 beltways: Interstate 610, a.k.a. the Inner Loop; Beltway 8, a.k.a. the Sam Houston Tollway; and State Highway 99, a.k.a. the Grand Parkway.

Like most Texas cities now, Houston has a Hispanic plurality, if not yet a majority: 44 percent. It's about 26 percent white, 24 percent black, and 6 percent Asian. It's mostly white on the west side; mostly black on the south, northwest and northeast sides; and mostly Hispanic on the north, east and southeast sides.
There is a light rail system, called METRORail, but you probably won't need it to get from a downtown hotel to the ballpark. One zone is $1.25, and the price rises to $4.50 for 4 zones, so a daypass is a better bargain at $3.00.
Going In. Minute Maid Park is in Downtown Houston. The mailing address is 501 Crawford Street. Parking is $15. METRORail to Convention District. Crawford Street bounds the left field side, Texas Avenue the 3rd base side, Hamilton Street the 1st base side and Congress Street the right field side. The ballpark points due north, but that won't matter, since its only "open" side, left field, has a window that doesn't face any neat-looking skyscrapers.
Unlike the Astrodome, "the Juice Box" has real grass. Also unlike its infamous predecessor, it is definitely a hitter's park. The left-field pole is just 315 feet from home plate, with the Crawford Boxes (named for the street) above. Left-center is 362, deep left-center is 404, center is 436 (the deepest current fence in MLB), right-center is 373, and the right-field pole is 326.
With roof open

Originally named Enron Field when it opened in 2000, the park was nicknamed Ten Run Field -- before Enron became the largest bankruptcy ever to that point, and Coca-Cola bought the naming rights and stuck the Minute Maid brand name, which it owns, on the stadium.

This change in the stadium name, but not in the propensity for offense, led Yankee broadcaster John Sterling, during an Interleague game there, to tell partner Charlie Steiner, "You know, Charlie, I understand that, at Minute Maid Park, the balls are juiced." To which Steiner said, "Ah, that's just pulp fiction."
With roof closed

Left field features a CITGO sign, but that and the 315-foot distance are the only things that will remind anyone of Fenway Park in Boston. While a rail line does go past Fenway, the Red Sox don't incorporate that into the park. Here, they do, with an old-style steam locomotive chugging past for each Astro home run. It pulls a boxcar loaded with oranges, presumably for Minute Maid production.
The train, with the pre-2017 championship banners

The ballpark's longest home run is a 486-foot drive by Prince Fielder in 2011. There's some dispute as to who hit the longest home run at the Astrodome: Eddie Mathews, Jimmy Wynn, Doug Rader and Mike Piazza have all been credited with it.

Center field features Tal's Hill, an incline in the mode of Cincinnati's old Crosley Field. It's named for Tal Smith, longtime Astro executive. And, like the pre-renovation old Yankee Stadium and Tiger Stadium in Detroit, the flagpole is on the field and in play. Above the Hill is the Phillips 66 Home Run Pump, a mockup of an old-style gasoline pump that displays how many Astro home runs have been hit there since the 2000 opening.

The foul poles have Chick-fil-A cows on them, reading "EAT MOR FOWL," as opposed to the chain's usual "EAT MOR CHIKN." When an Astro hits one of these "fowl poles" on the fly, every fan in attendance gets a coupon for a free chicken sandwich. Hunter Pence, now with the San Francisco Giants, was the first to hit the left-field pole, and former Met Kazuo Matsui was the first to hit the right-field pole.

The Houston College Classic is a baseball tournament that includes hometown schools the University of Houston and Rice University, and other schools, usually Texas schools. The ballpark has also hosted soccer, boxing and concerts.

Food. Being a "Wild West" city, you might expect Houston to have Western-themed stands with "real American food" at its ballpark. Being a Southern State, you might also expect to have barbecue. And you would be right on both counts. They have Tex-Mex food at Goya Latin Cafe and La Cantina at Section 119, El Real Fajita at 131, Kickin' Nachos at 114 and 427, Maverick Smokehouse at 124 and 410, Taqueria and Grille at 216, and Rosa's Cantina at 411 (almost certainly named for the place in the Marty Robbins song "El Paso," even if that is on the other side of the State).

They work the train theme with All Aboard at 109, Union Station at 113, Dining Car Grill at 125, Whistle Stop Libations at 218 and Chew Chew Express at 416.

There's also stands with baseball-themed names: Baseball Bar at 207 and Little Biggs Slider Cart at 111. Chinese food is at Larry's Big Bamboo at 118 and Little Bamboo at 422, and there are 5 Papa John's Pizza stands. And there are several Blue Bell Ice Cream stands.

According to a recent Thrillist article, the best thing to eat at Minute Maid Park is the brisket at Texas Smoke, at 125 and 406. The company's owner, celebrity chef Bryan Caswell, is an Astros fan.

Team History Displays. The Astros, like the Mets, celebrated their 50th Anniversary season in 2012, so they now have plenty of history. However, also like the Mets, it's a very hit-and-miss history.

Stanchions representing their new World Series win, their 2005 Pennant, their NL Western Division titles of 1980 and '86, and their NL Central Division titles of 1997, '98, '99 and 2001 are on the left-field wall, underneath the train.
The newest banner tends to stand out.

The club's retired numbers crown the scoreboard in right field. Officially, there are 9 of them: 32, 1960s pitcher Jim Umbricht, who died of cancer while still a young player; 40, 1970s pitcher Don Wilson, who also died while still active; 24, 1960s-70s outfielder Jimmy Wynn; 25, 1970s outfielder Jose Cruz; 49, 1970s pitcher, 1990s manager, and on-again-off-again broadcaster Larry Dierker; 34, 1980s pitcher Nolan Ryan, a Houston-area native; 33, 1980s pitcher Mike Scott; and the 2 men who got the Astros through their 1990s and 2000s postseason berths, 5, 1st baseman Jeff Bagwell, and 7, 2nd baseman Craig Biggio.
The universally-retired 42 for Jackie Robinson, who was already elected to the Hall of Fame before the Astros ever played a game, is also on that wall. This is somewhat appropriate, seeing as how the Astros were the 1st MLB team to play in a former Confederate State, and putting his number with the Astros' retired numbers is an effective acknowledgment that the arrival of Robinson and other nonwhite players was a good thing.

Not on that wall, and not officially retired, but neither have they been reissued, are the 17 of 2000s 1st baseman Lance Berkman, and the 57 of 1990s pitcher Darryl Kile, who died while with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2002. The Astros do not have a team Hall of Fame.

Statues of Bagwell and Biggio are located in the exterior of the ballpark, in a space known as The Plaza at Minute Maid Park. The Plaza also displays pennants for all Astros division and league championships, as well as several plaques to commemorate notable Astros and their achievements.
Ryan and Roger Clemens, born in Ohio but grew up in the Houston suburbs with Ryan as his hero, were named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999, although Clemens hadn't yet thrown a pitch for the Astros. That same year, they and Joe Morgan were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players. Were that list to be done again, Biggio might make it, while Bagwell would have an outside shot. In 2006, Astro fans chose Ryan for the DHL Hometown Heroes poll.

The Astros started playing the Rangers in the regular season when Interleague Play began in 1997, and have played each other within the American League since 2013. Since 2001, the winner of the season's Lone Star Series has received the Silver Boot. The Rangers lead the all-time series, 103-69, and in seasons 12-5, but the Astros were the 1st of the 2 to win a Pennant, and the 1st to win a World Series.
Stuff. Minute Maid Park has a Team Store in the left field corner of the ballpark, selling standard team-store gear. This being Texas, cowboy-style hats with the team logo are available.

A 50th Anniversary (1962-2012) team video is available, and so is a CD of longtime Astro broadcaster Milo Hamilton (who is probably best known not for any of his Astros' calls but for calling Hank Aaron's 715th home run while with the Braves). And Major League Baseball Projections has released a commemorative DVD series about the 2017 World Championship.

As for books about the team, as you might have guessed, the World Series win, following a nasty hurricane, led to a commemorative book: Joe Holley has written Hurricane Season: The Unforgettable Story of the 2017 Houston Astros and the Resilience of a City. Sara Gilbert (not the Roseanne actress) has published a 50th Anniversary retrospective, with the not-very-imaginative title of The Story of the Houston Astros. Jose De Jesus Ortiz and former Astro catcher Brad Ausmus commemorated the 2005 Pennant season with Houston Astros: Armed and Dangerous.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranked Astro fans 27th -- that is, the 4th most tolerable. Having played 56 seasons before winning a single World Series game has dampened the traditional Texas arrogance: As the article puts it:

Despite being Texans, and thus genetically predisposed to boasting and scorning other people's brisket, the fanbase that supports the Astros evokes many of the same feelings as the -- gasp -- Brewers fans: long suffering, and non-threatening to opposing fans.

It remains to be seen how winning it all changes them. Hopefully, they'll be more like Chicago Cubs fans after 2016 and New Orleans Saints fans after 2010, than Red Sox fans after 2004 and New York Rangers fans after 1994.

If you were wearing Dallas Cowboy gear to a Houston Texans game, or Texas Longhorns gear to a Texas A&M Aggies game (or vice versa), you might be in trouble. But Astro fans aren't especially hostile to New Yorkers, so safety should't be an issue. (Nor would it be if you were wearing Dallas Mavericks or San Antonio Spurs gear to a Houston Rockets game.)

The only promotion the Astros are holding during the series is on Tuesday night: $1 Hot Dog Night, presented by Nolan Ryan Beef. Made from cattle on the Express' ranch, perhaps? They won't have traveled far, which should help with freshness.

Jim Sikorski is the Astros' longtime National Anthem singer. Their mascot is Orbit, a "little green man" alien, tying in with the Astrodome's space-age theme. When the new park opened, he was replaced with Junction Jack, a jackrabbit dressed in an old-time railroad engineer's uniform, tying in with the train theme. But fans wanted Orbit back, and in 2013, he returned and Jack was dumped.
Orbit is not touching Adrian Beltre.

During the 7th inning stretch, after playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," the Astros play that classic Texan song "Deep in the Heart of Texas." Their postgame victory song is "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang.

After the Game. Houston is a comparatively low-crime city, and as long as you behave yourself, they'll probably behave themselves, win or lose.

Across Texas Avenue at Hamilton Street, opposite the home plate entrance, is -- yet another ordinary name -- Home Plate Bar and Grill. As far as I can tell, it's the only bar around the park with a baseball-themed name.

A block down Hamilton, at Franklin Street, is a place with a much better name: Joystix. Sadly (if you're looking to have drinks and fun after the game), this is a place that sells old pinball machines and video games, not a 1980s nostalgia place (which would tie in with the Astros' most successful period until 1997), not a combination 1980s-style mall (or beach boardwalk) arcade and modern bar. It's probably just as well: Can you imagine the combination of Pac-Man and beer (or worse, Missile Command and whiskey)?

Lucky's Pub appears to be the go-to bar for New Yorkers living in the Houston area. It is at 801 St. Emanuel Street at Rusk Street, 5 blocks from Minute Maid Park, adjacent to BBVA Compass Stadium, the new home of MLS' Houston Dynamo and the National Women's Soccer League's Houston Dash. Stadia Sports Grill, supposedly a haven for Jets fans is at 11200 Broadway Street in Pearland, but that's 15 miles south of the ballpark, and not reachable by public transportation.

If your visit to Houston is during the European soccer season (which is approaching its climax), and you want to watch your favorite club play, the best place to do so, because of its early opening, is Bar Munich, 2616 Louisiana Street at Dennis Street, just south of downtown. METRORail to McGowen.

Sidelights. Houston's sports history isn't all wrapped up in the Astrodome. There are other sites worth visiting.

UPDATE: On November 30, 2018, Thrillist published a list of "America's 25 Most Fun Cities," and Houston came in 18th. 

In 1965, the Astrodome opened, and was nicknamed "The Eighth Wonder of the World." It sure didn't seem like an exaggeration at the time: The first roofed sports stadium in the world. (Supposedly, the Romans built stadia with canvas roofs, but that's hardly the same thing.)
The 1st game at the Astrodome was an exhibition game on April 9, 1965, between the Astros and the Yankees, who were about to begin their collapse from their Dynasty, although that wasn't clear yet. President Lyndon B. Johnson and First Lady Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson, both Texans, were on hand, but it was Governor John Connally who threw out the first ball. Mickey Mantle hit the stadium's 1st home run, but the Astros won 2-1 in 10 innings. The Yankees would not play in Houston again until Interleague play, in 2003.

Three days later, on April 12, 1965, the 1st regular-season game was played, and the Astros lost 2-0 to the Philadelphia Phillies, thanks to a home run by Dick Allen (the 1st home run there that counted) and a shutout by Chris Short.
In the beginning, with skylights, real grass,
and the center field scoreboard, huge for its time.

Fielders lost the ball in the Sun due to the roof's skylights. So they were painted over. Then the grass died. So they contacts Monsanto, which had been experimenting with artificial grass. They called it ChemGrass. The Astros called it AstroTurf, installed in on March 19, 1966, and a legend was born.

Once, the Astrodome was flashy enough to be the site of movies like The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training and Murder at the World Series. Both were released in 1977. In the latter, the Astros, who had never yet gotten close to a Pennant, played the Series against the Oakland Athletics, who had just gotten fire-sold by owner Charlie Finley.
In the 1980s, with the famed scoreboard
removed for seating expansion

The Astros played there until 1999, and then moved into Enron Field/Minute Maid Park for the 2000 season. The AFL/NFL's Oilers played at the Astrodome from 1968 (thus becoming the 1st pro football team to play on artificial turf), to 1996, when they moved to Tennessee to become the Titans.
The Astrodome also hosted the legendary 1968 college basketball game between Number 1 UCLA (with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then still Lew Alcindor) and Number 2 University of Houston (whose Elvin Hayes led them to victory, before falling to UCLA in that year's Final Four), the 1971 Final Four (UCLA beating Villanova in the Final), and the cheese-tastic 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, the "Battle of the Sexes."

The Astrodome hosted 3 fights for the Heavyweight Champion of the World, with the defending Champion winning all 3 by knockout: Muhammad Ali over Cleveland Williams on November 14, 1966; Ali over Ernie Terrell on February 6, 1967; and Larry Holmes over Randall "Tex" Cobb on November 26, 1982.

In 1971, Evel Knievel sold the place out on back-to-back nights, jumping his motorcycle over 13 cars both times. He talked about jumping over the Dome itself, but that was one idiotic idea that was never attempted.

The Dome's 1st concert was on December 17, 1965. The Supremes sang. As the opening act. For Judy Garland, who got paid $43,000 for one show -- about $337,000 in today's money. She sang 13 songs in 40 minutes, concluding with, of course, "Over the Rainbow." This was before the Astros adopted the Rainbow Brite uniforms.

Elvis Presley sang there on February 27, 28 and March 1, 1970 and on March 3, 1974. It hosted Selena's last big concert before her murder in 1995, and when Jennifer Lopez starred in the film Selena, it was used for the re-creation of that concert.

In 2004, the same year NRG (then Reliant) Stadium hosted the Super Bowl (which was won by... Janet Jackson, I think), the Astrodome was used to film a high school football playoff for the film version of Friday Night Lights, and the old Astros 1980 and 1986 division title banners can be clearly seen.

In 2002, the new NFL team, the Houston Texans, began play next-door to the Astrodome, at NRG Stadium, which, like Minute Maid Park, has a retractable roof. Suddenly, the mostly-vacant Astrodome seemed, as one writer put it, like a relic of a future that never came to be. (This same writer said the same thing of Shea Stadium and, across Roosevelt Avenue, the surviving structures of the 1964 World's Fair.)

Today, though, the Astrodome seems, like the Republican Party that held a ridiculously bigoted Convention there in 1992, stuck in the past, and not just because they renominated failed President George H.W. Bush. The former Eighth Wonder of the World is now nicknamed the Lonely Landmark, and while it served as a shelter for people displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, since 2008, when it was hit with numerous code violations, only maintenance workers and security guards have been allowed to enter.

This past February 13, the Harris County Commissioners, the Dome's overseers, approved the Astrodome Revitalization Project, which will raise the stadium's floor and use the space underneath as a huge parking garage. Construction is expected to be completed sometime in 2020.
NRG Stadium hosted the Final Four in 2011 (Connecticut beating Butler in the Final), and in 2016 (Villanova beating North Carolina). In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and rendered the Superdome unusable for that season, it hosted the Bayou Classic, the annual Thanksgiving Saturday football game and battle of the bands between Louisiana's Grambling State and Southern University.

It hosted Super Bowl LI in 2017, when the New England Patriots launched by far the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and cheated their way past the Atlanta Falcons for a 5th illegitimate title. It will host the 2023-24 College Football National Championship Game.

UPDATE: It has been selected by the U.S. Soccer Federation as a finalist to be one of the host venues for the 2026 World Cup.

It was built roughly on the site of Colt Stadium, which was the baseball team's home in their 1st 3 seasons, 1962, '63 and '64, when they were known as the Houston Colt .45's (spelled with the apostrophe), before moving into the dome and changing the name of the team. The climate-controlled stadium was necessary because of not just the heat and the humidity, but because of the mosquitoes.
Later, seeing the artificial turf that was laid in the Astrodome for 1966 after the grass died in the first season, due to the skylights in the dome having to be painted due to the players losing the ball in the sun, Koufax, he of the mosquito quip, said, "I was one of those guys who pitched without a cup. I wouldn't do it on this stuff." And Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies, looking at the first artificial field in baseball history, said, "If a horse can't eat it, I don't want to play on it."

The Astrodome hosted a 1988 match between the national soccer teams of the U.S. and Ecuador, which Ecuador won. NRG Stadium has hosted 3 such matches, a 2008 draw with Mexico, a 2011 win over Panama, and a 2016 loss to Argentina in the Copa America. The Mexico team has made it a home-away-from-home, playing several matches there.

The NRG complex, including the Astrodome, is at 8400 Kirby Drive at NRG Parkway. METRORail to Stadium Park/Astrodome station.

The NBA's Houston Rockets played at the Summit, later known as the Compaq Center, from 1975 to 2003. Elvis sang at The Summit on August 28, 1976. It's been converted into the Lakewood Church Central Campus, a megachurch presided over by Dr. Joel Osteen. 3700 Southwest Freeway at Timmons Lane. Number 25 bus.

The Houston Aeros, with Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty, won the World Hockey Association championships of 1974 and 1975, while playing at the Sam Houston Coliseum, before moving into the Summit in 1975 and folding in 1978. Elvis sang there on October 13, 1956, and the Beatles played there on August 19, 1965. It was built in 1937 and demolished in 1998.

It replaced Sam Houston Hall, where the 1928 Democratic Convention nominated Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York, who thus became the 1st Catholic nominated for President by a major party. The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is now on the site. 801 Bagby Street, at Rusk Street, downtown. METRORail to Theater District station.

The nearest NHL team to Houston is the Dallas Stars, 242 miles away. If Houston had an NHL team, its metropolitan area would rank 10th in population in the NHL.

The Houston Oilers played at Jeppesen Stadium from 1960 to 1964. They won the 1960 AFL Championship Game there, won the 1961 title game on the road, and lost the 1962 title game there -- and, as the Oilers and the Tennessee Titans, haven't gone as far as the rules allowed them to since 1961.

Built in 1942, it became Robertson Stadium, and was the former home of the University of Houston football team and the former home of MLS' Houston Dynamo. The new UH football facility, TDECU Stadium, has been built at the site. 3874 Holman Street at Cullen Blvd. METRORail to Robertson Stadium/UH/TSU station.

The Dynamo have moved to BBVA Compass Stadium, at 2200 Texas Avenue at Dowling Street. Within walking distance of downtown. On January 29, 2013, it hosted its 1st U.S. national team match, a draw with Canada. The U.S. women's team beat Mexico 6-2 there on April 8, 2018.

The Oilers played the 1965, '66 and '67 seasons at Rice Stadium, home of Rice University. Although built in 1950 and probably already obsolete, it seated a lot more people than did the Astrodome, and so Super Bowl VIII was played there instead of the Astrodome in January 1974, and the Miami Dolphins won it -- and haven't won a Super Bowl since. It has been significantly renovated, and Rice still uses it. University Blvd. at Greenbriar Street, although the mailing address is 6100 S. Main Street. Number 700 bus.

Before there were the Astros, or even the Colt .45's, there were the Houston Buffaloes. The Buffs played at Buffalo Stadium, a.k.a. Buff Stadium, for most of their history, from 1928 to 1961, when the Colt .45's made them obsolete.
They were a farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals, and as a result, in its last years Buff Stadium was renamed Busch Stadium. The Cardinal teams of the 1930s that would be known as the "Gashouse Gang" first came together in Houston, with Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Joe Medwick, Pepper Martin and Enos Slaughter. Later Buff stars included Cleveland Indians 3rd baseman Al Rosen, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell, Negro League legend Willard Brown, Cardinal MVP Ken Boyer, and Phillies shortstop Ruben Amaro Sr. (father of later GM Ruben Amaro Jr.).

Wanting to lure in more customers, but also to beat the infamous Houston heat, lights were installed in 1930, 5 years before any major league park had them. The Buffs won 8 Texas League Pennants: 1928, 1931, 1940, 1947, 1951, 1954, 1956 and 1957. A martial arts school is on the site now. 1600 Cullen Blvd., at Leeland Street, about 2 1/2 miles southeast of downtown. Number 20 bus.

There's another notable sports site in Houston: The U.S. Military Entry Processing Station, in the Customs House, where Muhammad Ali, then living and training in Houston, had to report to fulfill his draft obligation. He did report there, on April 28, 1967, and refused to be drafted. (To be fair, they did call his birth name, Cassius Clay, not his legal name, Muhammad Ali.) Ali was convicted of draft evasion and stripped of the Heavyweight Title. He stayed out of prison on appeal, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which overturned the conviction.

The Customs House is still standing, and still used in part by the U.S. Department of Defense. 701 San Jacinto Street. Central Station on METRORail.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at Hofheinz Pavilion on November 12, 1971; and June 4 and 5, 1975. He also sang at the City Auditorium on October 8, 1955 and April 21, 1956. It's better known as the venue where R&B singer Johnny Ace mistakenly shot himself before a show on Christmas Day, December 25, 1954. The Jones Hall for the Performing Arts replaced it in 1966. 615 Louisiana Street at Capitol Street, downtown.

Also, early in his career, Elvis sang in Houston at the Paladium Club (8100 S. Main Street, near the Astrocomplex) on November 26, 27 and 28, 1954; Cook's Hoedown (603 Capitol Street, around the corner from Jones Hall) on November 27 and December 28, 1954, and April 24 and August 7, 1955; Magnolia Gardens (12044 Riverside Street, no public transit) on April 24, May 22, June 19 and August 7, 1955; and Eagles Hall at 2204 Louisiana Street on January 1 and March 19, 1955 (2204 Louisiana Street, downtown). All of these have since been demolished.

Elvis sang near the University of Texas campus in Austin, 160 miles to the northwest, at Dessau Hall on March 17, 1955, the Sportscenter on August 25, 1955, the Skyline Club on January 18, 1956, and the Municipal Auditorium on March 28, 1977. And he sang near the Texas A&M campus, 100 miles to the northwest, at the Rodeo Grounds in Bryan on August 23, 1955 and the G. Rolle White Coliseum in College Station on October 3, 1955;

Elvis also sang in South Texas at the City Auditorium in Beaumont, 85 miles to the northeast, on June 20 and 21, 1955 and January 17, 1956; at the football stadium at Conroe High School, 40 miles to the north, on August 24, 1955; in Corpus Christi, 200 miles to the southwest, at the Hoedown Club on July 3, 1955 and the Memorial Coliseum on April 16, 1956; in Galveston, 50 miles to the southeast, at the City Auditorium on January 16, 1956; at the baseball field in Gonzales, 130 miles to the west, on August 26, 1955; at Woodrow Wilson High School in Port Arthur, 90 miles to the east on November 25, 1955; and at Southwest Texas State University (LBJ's alma mater, now "Texas State"), 165 miles to the west, on October 6, 1955.

There are other places that might be considered "South Texas" where he sang, I include them with "West Texas" when I do this for the San Antonio Spurs.

The tallest building in Houston, and in all of Texas, is the JPMorgan Chase Tower, formerly the Texas Commerce Tower. It was built in 1982 at 600 Travis Street at Texas Avenue, downtown, and stands 1,002 feet tall, rising 75 stories above the concrete over the bayou. It is the tallest 5-sided building in the world.

Houston's version of New York's American Museum of Natural History is the Houston Museum of Natural Science, in Hermann Park, at Main Street and Hermann Park Drive. The Houston Museum of Fine Arts is at 1001 Bissonnet Street, just 5 blocks away. Both can be reached by METRORail via the Museum District station.

Of course, the name "Houston" is most connected with two things: Its namesake, the legendary Senator, Governor and war hero Sam Houston, and the Johnson Space Center, the NASA control center named after President Lyndon B. Johnson, who, as Senate Majority Leader, wrote the bill creating NASA and the Space Center, because he thought it would bring a lot of jobs and money to Houston (and he was right).

Most historic sites relating to Sam, however, are not in the city that bears his name. As for reaching the Johnson Space Center, it's at 2101 NASA Parkway and Saturn Lane. The Number 249 bus goes there, so if you don't have a car, Houston, you won't have a problem.

George H.W. Bush, at nearly 94 the oldest former President ever, lives in Houston. His wife, Barbara Bush, died last week, and has been buried at her husband's Presidential Library, at Texas A&M University, 100 miles away in College Station. When the 41st President dies, he will be buried alongside her. I don't know his address, and, in the interest of privacy, I wouldn't print it here if I did.

UPDATE: George H.W. Bush died later in 2018, and was also buried at the Library at TAMU. As a former baseball player, Bush is the only President so far who had his Library designed by HOK, designer of several sports facilities including our own MetLife Stadium.

The Alley Theatre, downtown at 615 Texas Avenue, opened in 1968, and in 1976 hosted the Vice Presidential debate between Senators Walter Mondale and Bob Dole. This is where Dole named World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars as "all Democrat wars" -- forgetting that the Republicans wanted America to get into all but World War II, and didn't want that one because they liked the Nazis' anti-union status; and that it was actually the Republicans who got us into Vietnam.

There have been a few TV shows set in Houston, but the only one that lasted was Reba, starring country singer Reba McIntire. But it was filmed in Los Angeles, so if you're a fan, you won't find the house in Houston.

Congressman Matthew Santos, a Houston native played by Jimmy Smits, was inaugurated as President on the last episode of The West Wing. Of interest to me was Outlaws, in which a sheriff tried to capture his former gang, but all 5 of them were transported from 1899 to 1986. Realizing they needed each other, they teamed up, and, with the gold that was transported with them, they bought what they needed and formed a private detective agency. It lasted just 1 season.

Films set in Houston, in addition to the sports-themed ones, include Brewster McCloud (which also used the Astrodome), Logan's Run (which used the Houston Hyatt Regency for some scenes),
Telefon (set there but filmed in California), Terms of EndearmentReality Bites, and, perhaps most iconically, Urban Cowboy.


Houston can be hot, but it's a good sports town, and, best of all, it's not Dallas. So there can be a good old time in the hot town tonight.