R.I.P., Houston Buffs

Houston Buffs: Born 1896; Died 1962; Died Again 2012; but they will live on forever in the hearts of a few old fans like yours truly.

All my realistic friends told me that it wasn’t going to happen, but I’m old now. And hope rises in the strangest ways. Thank you, Mr. Jim Crane, for a week of false hope that the Houston Buffs were coming home for a major league reincarnation. It just wasn’t meant to be. The name that so dominated the consciousness of our baseball identity in the late 19th and early to middle 20th centuries is not coming back for a 21st century reprise.

I get it. I don’t like it. But I can live with it.

If you include this past season as worthy of account, our National League club has played baseball the past 47 consecutive seasons (1965-2011) as the “Houston Astros.” Had I been a new-to-Houston season ticket-holder or a six-year-old kid back in 1965, I would undoubtedly feel some of the same strong attachment that those folks who are still around still have for the name “Astros.”

I just don’t have it for the “Astros” name.

To me, “Astros” will always first be the marketing ploy name that Judge Roy Hofheinz slapped upon us after first executing the hope that many of us had that our “Houston Buffalos” would make it to the big leagues as our ongoing identity. Hofheinz did it by renaming the new big league club the “Houston Colt .45s” in 1962 without first working out the naming rights legalities with the famous gun company that made that iconic pistol. Rather than share revenues produced under the gun name, the Judge simply changed the name of the team with the opening of the new domed stadium and the introduction of the club’s new space theme.

“What kind of team plays baseball in an Astrodome? – Why, those would be the Houston Astros, of course?”

“Astros? – What’s an Astro?”

“Don’t ask me, but I think it may be one of those large rocks that hurdles through time and space, going nowhere in particular, but always getting there in a hurry.”

“Can an Astro land in a World Series?”

“Not likely. Hurdling through space, the odds against an Astro hitting earth, let alone landing in a World Series, are infinitesimally discouraging.”

Enough. Enough. We all got used to the name. Some people, the ones who wrote Mr. Crane this week in favor of keeping it, even bonded with the brand. And I must admit, if we were not going into the American League in 2013, there would not be another good time to change our history. We all bled together as a fan base when the “Astros” lost the NL pennants of 1980 and 1986 to the Phillies and Mets. – And we all felt the sting as “Astros fans” when Sir Albert Pujols stung us that night in 2005 with a home run that caused an extra playoff game and messed up our pitching rotation for our only World Series appearance. Going into the American League was the only open door for landmark change.

It just didn’t happen.

Today the name “Astros” has a life of its own – one that goes beyond space rocks, astronauts, or artificial turf. It is the iconic name of Houston’s major league brand – whether we all prefer it or not. It’s time to end this bump-pause in history and move on.

Rest In Peace, Houston Buffs.

Rest In Peace, Houston Buffs. The door just closed forever on your last chance to rumble the herd roughshod over the plains of major league baseball, but don’t worry. Some of us down here will continue to do all we can to make sure that you are both remembered for all time and also celebrated correctly for your important role in Houston baseball history.

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4 Responses to “R.I.P., Houston Buffs”

  1. Bob Hulsey Says:

    How ironic since I wanted to see the Astros name that I love rest in peace with the National League. I didn’t care if they were the Houston Taco Vendors or the Houston Vasectomy Surgeons in the American League. I just wanted them to not besmirch the name of a once-great franchise.

    Looks like both our dreams are broken.

    A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote that “Baseball is designed to break our hearts”. Frankly, I think that truism is more fitting to women than to baseball, but why should that matter? This is like realizing the beautiful actress you once admired is now reduced to doing porn.

    “Astros” in the American League. Damn.

  2. Tom Kleinworth Says:

    I agree completely with both Bill and Bob. The only possible good that could have come out of being forced against our will into the American League would have been to change the team name, and now we can’t even have that. I wasn’t fond of the name “Astros” in 1965, if for no other reason than it brought to mind the dog on “The Jetsons.” And now, not only is Houston no longer “Space City,” and no longer do we play in the “Astro”dome, but in fact we play in a stadium next to a 1911 train station and we even prominently display an old train pulling pumpkins. What does any of that have to do with the exploration of space? So the Chronicle’s so-called sportswriters all came out against the name change, and the few people who still read the Chronicle said they agreed with the sportswriters, and now we’re stuck with the name, even though the team we’ve followed since 1962 will die when they move to the American League. So be it. My thanks to Bud Selig, MLB and Mr. Crane for making it even easier to walk away from a team I have supported since the beginning. I am done.

  3. Michael McCroskey Says:

    Having attended one of the Astro hosted events for season ticket holders, I found Mr. Crane very genuine in his survey of what the fans want. He said any decision to change the name would have to be made by April, but could not be announced until the end of the season. There was an overwhelming sentiment against changing the name by those present, so I would look at this as a fan victory. (I was initially against a name change, but the more I thought about it; the more ambivalient I became.)

    As for the Astro name, I had the good fortune to sit with Mary Hofheintz, the second wife widow of the Judge, at a Texas Baseball Hall of Fame dinner a few years ago when the Judge was being honored. She related to me a story of how the Judge orginally wanted to call the team the Astronauts. He was concerned that this might cause some confusion with the then infant space program, so he called none other than Alan Shephard to ask his opinion if the Astronaut name would confuse and/or distract with the advancement of the Space Program. Shephard told him he thought it would; and, thus, the name was shortened to Astros. I guess he did learn a little from the Colt .45 conflict.

    I was impressed with the other things I heard at the meeting, also.
    So looking forward to an Astro resurgence and a new era.

    Mike

  4. John Watkins Says:

    To Bill, Bob, and Tom, I simply say “Amen.”

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