My Biggest Astros Homer, All Time

Chris Burke, 10/09/05:Erasing Agony, Embracing Ecstasy.

Of all the big home runs in major league history, every club has at least one that stands alone among all others. Although we could argue that fans of a team like the New York Yankees might have more trouble than most deciding which home run truly stands alone as their club’s finest long ball moment. After all, Babe Ruth to Bucky Dent to Aaron Boone covers a lot of arguable territory.

For this Astros fan, the pick was pretty simple. With no disrespect intended for my good friend Jimmy Wynn, or for Jeff Bagwell, Roman Mejiias, Billy Hatcher, Lance Berkman, Brad Ausmus, or others, I  had to go with the big home run by the little man who almost wasn’t there – and who wasn’t there for long while he was there, and who likely never will be there again – with the Astros or any other big league club.

I’m talking about Chris Burke, the little 2005 second baseman for the Astros who hit that solo home run in the bottom of the 18th at Minute Maid Park to give Houston a 7-6 series-deciding win over Atlanta in the NLDS finale, a victory that ultimately propelled the club to its first and only World Series appearance.

When “Little Chris” Burke lifted that fly ball into the Crawford Boxes in left field, the emotionally and physically exhausted home crowd momentarily had to rally against the forces of incredulity that oh so briefly halted the roar of relief that then followed. It was simply hard for us Astros fans to believe that the day that once had seemed so lost had now been so decisively delivered in the name of victory.

But it happened. It really did. And the man whose name we shall always remember in association with that moment of joy is Burke – Chris Burke.

Five years later, Chris Burke is now little more than an after-thought among professional ball players. After a poor offensive season in 2007, the Astros dealt Burke to Arizona, where there, and then at San Diego, he continued to struggle and fall into minor league play. Burke signed a minor league contract with the Reds in the winter of 2009, but then broke a finger came along and took away the 2010 season.

We wish Chris Burke well in whatever he does from here with this thought in mind up front: Whatever happens next, Chris, Astros fans will never forget what you did for the club back on October 9, 2005.

For me, even if others care to argue differently, your bottom of the 18th home run to defeat the Atlanta Braves in the 2005 NLDS was the singularly biggest home run moment in the history of the Houston Astros MLB franchise.

 

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6 Responses to “My Biggest Astros Homer, All Time”

  1. Mark Wernick Says:

    Totally agree.

  2. Tom K. Says:

    Chris Burke will always be special to Astros fans, though we also should acknowledge that we would not have made it to extra innings without Berkman’s grand slam in the 8th and Ausmus’s HR in the 9th. Clutch hits, all.

    That said, I think you should add a second category: Most Memorable Home Run in Astros’ History. I regret to say that the runaway winner in that category would be Pujols’ HR in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the 2005 NL Championship Series. There we were, one out from our first World Series, a chance for all of us loyal Astro fans to celebrate together, and then, as in 1980 and 1986, it all suddenly fell apart: a single to Eckstein, a walk to Edmonds, and then the hardest hit HR I think most of us will ever see. I didn’t say it is a pleasurable moment but, when it comes to homers, Pujol’s earth-shaking blast will always be the most memorable.

  3. larry joe miggns Says:

    In the early 70’s I was a member of the Astro buddy’s Club and Doug Rader was my Astro buddy. He got up in the bottom of ninth with the bases losded and a chance to win the game. Sitting next to me brother John, I told him that if Doug Rader didn’t hit a Grand Slam I would tear up my Astro Buddy card with his picture on it. I think it was 1971 but long story short, Doug hit a grand slam to win the game and put him in Hall of Fame status with me. The Old” Red Rooster” came thru in the clutch as if he had heard me way up there in the stands. Gives me a chill up my back today just thinking about it. Burke’s homer was one of the biggest in Astro history and I hope it brought back other great Astro homers to all of your readers. Thanks for the memories. longball

  4. Mark Wernick Says:

    I totally agree with Tom K. also. I was there that night, also with Bill Gilbert, and I couldn’t stay after that homerun, I think to Bill’s bewilderment. Not only were we one out from the World Series, but we were one strike from it with two strikes on Eckstein. You expected Eckstein to manage something like that – they don’t call him “The Pest” for nothing. And I doubt there was a soul in the ballpark who wasn’t cognizant of what Pujols could do. But the electric joy in the house seemed to generate a sense of destiny. It was as if if the collective will of the crowd would propel Lidge to vanquish Pujols.

    Nevertheless, one fellow overcame the collective will of a roaring 46,000, and, as Tom noted, that homerun was struck with such monstrous power, its height and distance was so otherworldly, that the sudden ensuing vacuum of silence was possibly even more deafening than the collective roar that preceded it. Wrong destiny.

    It definitely is my most memorable homerun, of the wrong kind. Probably Mazeroski’s will remain history’s most memorable, due to the circumstances, and I heard it on my transistor radio. But I was there physically for this one by Pujols, and all the sensations of the moment are about as fresh now as they were then. I doubt they’ll ever fade as long as I have my faculties.

  5. Wayne Roberts Says:

    The day following the Pujols’ shot I left for St. Louis for Game 6. Prior to the game my companion, a dang Cardinals fan, and I walked around to see the how the new stadium was coming along. I forget exactly how the stadiums were configured against each other because they intertwined. Much of Busch III was completed except for this portion of the outfield that was buttressed up against Busch II. There in the third level of seats waiting for completion some construction wag had painted a bullseye and “Pujols HR landed here”. I laughed, took a photo, and made my way to some seats the Houston Bud distributor got us…front row behind the Cards dugout. I was the only Astros fan in the section, I guarantee. As Oswalt worked his wonders and the Astros lead expanded I began to get quiet, not really believing what was taking place. Somewhere around the 6th inning (I need to verify the inning), Biggio singled, rounds 1st and comes back to the bag. The stadium was getting real quiet and I yell “Way to go Bige!” Biggio turns to me, grins and gives me the thumbs up sign. Pujols looks over and then, I couldn’t believe it, LaRussa steps out to see who the hell was cheering for the Astros behind their dugout, sacred Cardinals territory. I grinned at him, he went back into the dugout, and the game moved on. In the 8th and 9th I was real quiet. When that last out was made, I teared up…Astros in the World Series. If only my father and father-in-law had been alive to see it. I was there for the last game at Busch and it wasn’t a win for the home team. I felt a lot better leaving that game than the Cards fans did in Houston leaving after the Pujols shot. I later got Oswalt to sign the program, date it, add the score, and scrawl “Last game at Busch Stadium”. You bet I remember that Pujols dinger; it gave me my favorite Astro moment.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Wayne:

      In behalf of Astros fans everywhere, thanks for sharing that wonderful memory. You just allowed all of us to both tighten our bonds with Biggio and Oswalt, but to also share in your dissonant voice of joy in the middle of Cardinal despair. Had it not been for Mr. Pujols, we would all have been denied the pleasure of seeing Roy Oswalt win the last two games ever played in Busch II.

      You just helped us all put an even more personal memory on that starry, starry night in 2005.

      Bill McCurdy

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