Dome’s Silver Anniversary Team Comes Together 

Larry Dierker

ORIGINAL TITLE: Dome’s Silver Anniversary Team brings generations together 

PUBLICATION: Houston Chronicle 
SECTION: SPORTS

DATE: FEBRUARY 8, 1990 
EDITION: 2 STAR 

SUBMISSION TO THE PECAN PARK EAGLE BY: DARRELL PITTMAN, Classic Newspaper Research, with full credit and appreciation to the original source, The Houston Chronicle, for making these materials available for this kind of historical research and reporting.

By LARRY DIERKER   

I was walking to my car in the Astrodome parking lot after a game last summer when I saw a man hurrying toward me, dragging a little boy by the hand. “Hey, Larry, I used to be your Astros Buddy,” he said. “My dad used to take me out to see you pitch. Now, I bring my sons. Could I get you to sign my hat?’ As I was signing the hat, I got the rest of the story. “My dad is over there,” he said, pointing to the area near the Astrodome loading dock where players sometimes sign autographs after a game.

“He’s got my other boy with him. They’re hoping Glenn Davis and Gerald Young will sign tonight. This one,” he said, nodding at his son, “he likes G-Man, but the little one over there lives and dies with the `Bopper’.’ “Three generations, huh?’ “Yeah, we’re all out here. It’s the one thing we all like to do together.” “Thanks for coming out tonight,” I said, as I got into my car. “Come back and see us.” As I was driving home that night, my mind wandered back through the mists of Astros past – just as it did last night, when I joined 26 of the best ballplayers I have known on the Astrodome’s Silver Anniversary Team.

Three generations of ball fans: the grandfathers, who were young and strong when Bob Aspromonte and the Colt .45s rode into town; their sons, like my friend in the parking lot; and the youngsters of today – Jim Deshaies’ Astros Buddies.

Perhaps it’s the reverence with which baseball treats its ancestors that makes it so special – the way the lore of a team is passed along like an heirloom.

And now, the Astros are old enough to pass along.

Former General Manager Paul Richards was the first of the ancestors to go. He died in his hometown of Waxahachie in 1986. Richards’ eyes were narrow and keen, and he had the spirit of a wildcatter. He made his reputation as a shrewd judge of baseball talent, and he was right here in Houston when he struck the big gusher.

Between 1963 and ’66, Richards brought eight of the 25 players on the Astros’ Silver Anniversary team to the big leagues.

Harry Craft, who managed the Colt .45s to an eighth-place finish (in a 10-team league) in their inaugural year, 1962, is still going strong at age 74. Harry was at the baseball card show last weekend and the dinner last night. And I reckon he’ll be at most of the home games this year.

I know Harry wasn’t dreaming of the World Series in ’62. In fact, he should be mighty proud to have finished ahead of the Cubs that year.

By 1969, things had taken a turn for the better. The Astros hit the .500 mark for the first time and had as many good young players as any team around – Jimmy Wynn, Joe Morgan, myself, Don Wilson, Bob Watson and Doug Rader, to name just a few.

After that, the talent flow trickled to a drip. Among the 25 Astros honored last night, only Cesar Cedeno and J.R. Richard broke into the big leagues in the early 1970s. By 1975, the team had fallen into disrepute and financial distress. Folks stopped coming to the ballpark. I suppose some of them got lost in a generation gap.

Some of them seem to be coming back now. And why not? The decade of the ’80s was a good one for the Astros – the best they’ve had so far. Sixteen of the 25 Silver Stars played on division-winning Astros teams in the ’80s.

Bill Virdon should get some credit here. He led the young, brash Astros to their first championship in 1980. And under Virdon’s stern tutelage, the Astros developed the aggressive, heads-up style that would characterize their play through most of the decade.

Perhaps some of the wayward sons and daughters who drifted off in the frustration of the ’70s have not yet returned to the fold. Maybe Ken Caminiti and Craig Biggio will bring them back again in the ’90s. It could happen. For as long as there is a stream of young talent flowing, there will be the excitement of growth and the possibility of that first dream season.

Until that year comes, there still will be fond memories. Like when (Doug) Rader golfed the first home run into the upper deck. And the day (Don) Wilson struck out Henry Aaron for his 15th strikeout and the last out of his first no-hitter.

I remember Joe Morgan going 6-for-6 in Milwaukee in 1965. And the sight of Cesar Cedeno galloping across center field so hard that if he had kicked up AstroTurf, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

I remember seeing Joe Niekro transformed from a grim veteran to a frolicsome child in the space of one afternoon at Dodger Stadium when he led the Astros to the Western Division title in 1980.

And Cheo Cruz. I can still see him prancing out to left field and hear his name echoing in the Astrodome. I can see him cutting and slashing his way to almost every Astros hitting record. And I still see him sitting alone on the dugout bench, silently weeping after the Mets stole the Astros’ flag away in 1986.

I can recall the craziness of ’86, too. Yogi and the coneheads. Scotty (Mike Scott) toasting the town with a no-hit clincher and then turning the powerful Mets into whining brats.

And (Craig) Reynolds and (Terry) Puhl. Ever present, ever ready and ever together. After two weeks with the team in 1988, Casey Candaele recognized their cohesive quality when he asked Puhl, “If you drink a glass of water, can Craig talk?’ My boy is almost 5 now. He knows the names of the players and is already picking favorites. This will be his first year in T-ball, so he still doesn’t know the way to first base. But somewhere down the line, I suppose, he will have Eric Anthony, Darryl Kile or maybe even Andujar Cedeno (you heard me right) for his Astros Buddy.

Myself, I’m getting a little impatient for a World Series, like most of the folks who have been around these 28 years. But thinking about this Silver Anniversary Astrodome team sure has made me feel good – made me appreciate the times we’ve had. I hope my boy will feel this way when we hit the golden year.

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

1-bb-neal.jpg

Casey McCurdy, St. Cecilia’s, 1992. (Yeah, I know. He needed a better batting coach, but I wouldn’t trade him for anybody else in the world ~ then, now, or, ever.)

EDITORIAL NOTE TO LARRY DIERKER ~

Thank you, Larry Dierker, for providing this beautiful perspective on the Astros Player and Fan perspective from nearly three decades ago. Since 1990, a few more of us have had that walk into the sunset of our own now grown offspring’s childhoods since you wrote these prophetic words. Now I know we share that life-crossing even more closely than I ever knew. ~ In 1990, my son also was 5 until late in the year.

I’m struck to note the time spacing on this re-publication of your column:

1962: Houston breathed its first breath in the NL as the Colt .45s;

1965: The club moved into the Astrodome and became the Houston Astros;

1990: 25 years later, you wrote this column as an homage to the Silver Anniversary of the Astros and to the kind of generational bond that baseball provided to so many of us.

2019: 29 years later, your article is re-printed in The Pecan Park Eagle as a reflection of what has now changed, what is now ironic, what goes on forever, and also, how much the Houston Astros have become even more deeply rooted into the heart of our Houston sports culture.

In 2017, of course, the “dream season” finally came. Houston finally won the World Series, coming out of the first time with the talent, heart, and appetite for more.

In 2019, however, it is ironic that the once revered “Eighth Wonder of the World” struggles for survival in a world filled with those who would just as soon see it paved into additional parking space ~ in spite of all its official historic building designations. In the end, it will be the presence or absence of money that opens the door or breaks the key in the lock on serious plans to preserve and display the site as one of the world’s great contributions to architecture.

From here to eternity ~ and for what goes on forever ~ it is our need to consciously remember that what was important to our generation may not be important to the next. We need to try to show them what we think is important and then let them make their own decisions, based on our best efforts to convey what we think is at stake. ~ If all we show is “use and trash”, our legacy will be a sad and, most unfortunately, a deservedly sad one.

Another irony rings with pleasantness. Houston has long held this reputation for being a “build, trash, and burn” kind of real estate town. Now it’s becoming well known for its presentation of the classic performing and visual arts ~ and for becoming one of the finest museum cities in America. Not surprisingly, that change has come about congruently with the birth and growth and active voice of support for a wide variety of historical places that previously would have simply gone away without protest through most of the 20th century.

Everything that Houston entities do to increase the voice of preservation is, of course, supported by the success of a Houston accomplishment in any area of significant achievement. The 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros have now rolled that ball into permanent play ~ And they are getting ready with their 2019 Opening of the Houston Astros Hall of Fame to join the list of Houston museums. Several of the people mentioned in Larry Dierker’s 1990 piece, including Mr. Dierker himself, will be going into the Astros Hall of Fame at Minute Maid Park this inaugural year.

The Astros Hall of Fame. ~ It’s got to be first class. ~ It will be first class. ~ This is Houston. ~ And these are the Astros. ~ There is no second class.

~ Bill McCurdy, Editor, The Pecan Park Eagle

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

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4 Responses to “Dome’s Silver Anniversary Team Comes Together ”

  1. Coke Matthews Says:

    Bill — anyone in Houston still have ir display memorabilia from the old Dixie Series?

    Coke Matthews
    Birmingham

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Coke ~ There are a few Buff Stadium metal buffalo medallions that were part of the ballpark from 1928 forward gloating around ~ but I know of no formal collections of items from any of the Dixie Series years that included Houston.

  2. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Wayne Chandler e-mailed this response to me, but it really belongs here ~ for all to read:

    “Bill, that Larry Dierker 1990 piece says so much about him and his concern for the fan. At that stage a lot of good baseball players just walked by their best fans. (Rusty Staub was great. He’d stay until the last fan got a signature).

    “With Larry’s many qualities he’d make a good Commissioner of Baseball.”

    ~ Wayne Chandler

  3. Mark Wernick Says:

    Just read this column. Larry wrote: “Myself, I’m getting a little impatient for a World Series, like most of the folks who have been around these 28 years.” Little did he know he would have to double the length of his wait from that day. 28 more years!

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