A Problem Facing the Astros Culture

Houston Astros Manager Lum Harris
In Company of Astronauts
Gus Grissom and John Young
Opening Day, April 12, 1965

Lexington (KY) Leader, April 9, 1965:

Destiny  and Fate

Destiny is the weight we attach to the eventual fulfillment of our fondest aspirations. Fate is what we get along the way when we do not, or cannot, control the intervening events, conditions and factors, large and small, that determine the time-measurable success or failure of human endeavor.

“My goal as the new Houston manager of the Houston Astros is to win 15 more games than the Colt .45s did in 1964,” said Luman Harris 19th in a special pre-season managerial series of articles for NEA that went to print on April 9, 1965 in the Lexington (KY) Leader.

As things would turn out, the 1965 name and stadium-new Astros would be fated to winning one less game in 1965 than they had in 1964, in spite of their new future-oriented space identity, and regardless of their new and only-one-of-its-kind digs in the world’s only indoor-covered and air-conditioned baseball park.

In keeping with the hoped-for progress goal for 1965, Manager Harris’s expressed number, had it been achieved, would’ve propelled the Astros to 81-81, their first non-losing season, and a good shot at a first division NL finish. As fate dealt it out, however, the ’65 Astros would finish with one less win in 1965. At 65-97, the Astros were good enough only for a 9th place spot above the last place New York Mets at 50-112.

Elements of a Baseball Franchise Culture

1) an ownership that truly embraces the idea that winning the World Series is their shared destiny with the community;

2) an ownership that puts its money where its mouth is, but does not use the threat of leaving to get what they want from the community;

2) a fan base that can both afford and will support an occasionally unreasonable attempt at securing destiny;

3) a baseball community that interfaces the owners and fans with the realty that they must work together;

4) bright minds who plan franchise growth through player development and free agent signings;

5) positive support from local government entities;

6) the presence of “winning” on the field in some early brief form, even if its flag is borne by the successful play of only one or two signature players, or the discernible presence of a team’s ongoing strong element, like pitching or defense;

7) a sense of fan pride or emotional attachment to the club’s mascot identity or ballpark facility;

8) a commitment by the team to giving back to the community in areas of ongoing or crisis need;

9) some kind of annual program that opens the door for the team and its fans to get together and celebrate their commitment to each other and the community at large;

10) a range of flexibility on the acceptance of fan cost increase as an expected result of destiny achievement and the salaries that will be required to keep success churning on the field;

11) a change in the franchise’s external image to other talented ballplayers who now see the first time and most recent World Series winners as potential destiny stops for them as well.

And the element list could go on and on, covering even larger and smaller points. In the ongoing, always shifting process, as the franchise’s baseball culture is put in motion, for better or worse, in service to the destiny of the game in that club’s area of concern.

So, what is culture, anyway?

Culture is the social system we learn from. It’s like the way we once grew up so differently, depending upon the lessons of our own little neighborhoods. Not all the elements we’ve referenced here are going to fit into the particular caricature of our own big league club culture – nor will they appear in a specific order.

Destiny Attained Opens Door to Destiny Defended

What we do see in the featured newspaper article that appears atop this column are the aspirant wishes of a new manager for greater winning, stronger hitting, and better defense. Understandably too. We went through all those early years with him and all other managers from our Astros’ earliest times. Better players. More wins. Ah, yes. We remember it well.

Now that destiny has been achieved, the goal simply expands to destiny-defend,

Our Houston Baseball Culture Grew

Unlike earlier ownerships in Florida and Arizona, Houston did not “buy” their way to a World Series trophy that could not be defended on a long-time basis by the same expensive talent. But now the Houston baseball culture has to deal with the fact that property values around Minute Maid Park are driving the cost of parking to games of the World Series Champion Houston Astros through the roof.

A Present Challenge to the Houston Baseball Culture

Two problems were ignored when Harris County, the City of Houston, and the Houston Astros made the decision in the late 20th century to build a new covered ballpark downtown that was just for baseball:

1) There was no long term plan put into place for the Astrodome; and,

2) There was no attempt to secure and control pricing of other commercial properties around the new ballpark that would keep independent property owners from using the club’s downtown success as an opportunity for profiteering at levels that could make the cost of a downtown game something that only the wealthiest fans could afford.

Now it’s 2018. The Houston Astros are the World Series Champions. And finding ways to curtail independent property owners around the downtown ballpark from making the family of four game trip cost too expensive for the average income dedicated Astros fans should be a priority problem to solve.

 

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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3 Responses to “A Problem Facing the Astros Culture”

  1. Larry Dierker Says:

    Simply stated, there are two kinds of fans. Fans of a sport, and fans of winning. The Astros entertained many of the latter last year. The key to Houston becoming a “baseball town” is converting the latter into the former after a championship. It will probably take more than one title — hopefully without a hurricane — to do it. Good luck. We’re almost there.

    • Fred Soland Says:

      I agree with Larry’s thoughts and expand on that by saying “fair weather” fans are not going to get it done. The “hard core” fans that support during both the good times and the bad are the bedrock we need. Championships will certainly tend to expand that base, but if/when we hit hard times again, we will see what kind of fan base we really have.

  2. Mark W. Says:

    What helps a lot is when kids are a part of winning a title. They are more likely to form the core of a future fan base with such memories than with memories of losing 111 games.

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