Connor: Reflecting on the Astros World Series Run

November 1, 2017 

I will never forget that day. Our city will never forget that day. A day that had it all. From nerves, to excitement, to fear, to joy, to celebration and tears. It was a day that so many of us never thought would come.

 

I live an incredible life. I know how lucky I am to have the opportunities this job brings me. It has allowed me to travel the country and experience things that so many are not able to do. Flat out, I am blessed. It took a lot to get these opportunities. There have been many peeks. There have been many valleys. Through it all, I would not change any of it. I have to pinch myself daily to remind myself that it is all real.

September 20, 1990

The day I was born in this beautiful city. The day my love for the Houston Astros began. I might not have known it for the first few years of my life, but that truly was the day my love for that team and baseball began. 

Like so many of us, I spent my childhood dreaming that one day I would wear that Astros uniform and bring home the first World Series title to our city. I tried as long and as hard as I could to keep that dream alive. But in life, moments appear where you know that some things are never meant to be. 

For me, that day happened when I was 13. Something just clicked in my brain and told me that the dream would never become real. It was not a sad day however. Turns out, it was the start of a journey that lead me being inside Dodger Stadium on that glorious day of November 1, 2017.

 

My dream changed when I was 13. It changed because I found this world of sports radio. The craziest part about it is that when I found it, it was 790 that got me hooked. I would rush home everyday from school to catch as much of Charlie Pallilo as I could, always hoping it would be nothing but Astros talk each day and at that time it was. They were good and just a couple of years away from their first run at winning a World Series. 

My love for baseball started well before the age of 13. From the moment I could walk, you could not find me without something baseball being worn or without a bat or ball in my hand. As I grew up, I collected baseball cards like a crazy person. I cannot even start to think about all the money my parents spent on them. I would sit in my room for hours, studying every single one of them. Memorizing everything about them I could. 

When I was not reading the baseball cards, I was reading the sports page of the Houston Chronicle. Each morning, before school or on weekends, I read the sports page cover to cover,  insuring that I always knew what was going on with my favorite teams. 

So many people along the way molded my love for this game and the team. My Dad would sit with me every Saturday morning at the kitchen table, watching me sit there reading that sports page cover to cover. I would sit there oblivious to the world around me as I read that sports page while shoveling powdered donuts in face from Shipley Do-Nuts, washing it down with chocolate milk. To this day, that is still my Dad's favorite story to tell about me. When I would finish reading the sports page, he would quiz me on it. It was very rare that I did not have the correct answer for one of his questions. 

My Mom put up with so much in my early years when it came to my love for the Astros. Every year, she made sure I had new Astros gear to wear to school. She took me to so many of my own baseball games, as well as so many of the Astros. She always knew when the Astros were playing a day game during the week, because on those days she would get a call from the school nurse saying that I was not feeling well and wanted to go home. Most parents would have just told the nurse to send me back to class, but that's not what she would do. I think she always knew that somehow, someway, my life would always revolve around that team. We laugh about all of those days I would get 'sick', to this day.

The Astros molded so many special relationships in my life outside of my parents. The two that stick out the most were with my Grandmother and the father of my best friend as a child, Jerry Wallace.

My Grandmother, or as we called her, Mimi, loved baseball. She grew up in Houston listening to it on the radio every night before games on television became a thing. She loved the Astros as much as I did. For years, she and I would talk on the phone multiple times a night during the games. We would get mad together, we would laugh together, we would be sad together over the Astros for so many special years. Our family lost the most loyal, dedicated, caring and loving woman we all knew on October 21, 2015. Watching games since has not been the same. But I know she is still watching with me. 

 

The Astros beat the Yankees on the two year anniversary of her passing. I watched George Springer catch the final out of game seven of the ALCS with her on my mind. As soon as he made the catch, I had to walk out of the press seating. I could not hold my the tears as I thought of how excited she would have been. I think about her every single day, and more so on the days that the Astros play. 

The last person I want to mention is Jerry Wallace. He was the father of my best friend growing up, Marcus. Jerry had four sons, Marcus being the youngest. He and I, and our families did everything together when I was young. Jerry passed suddenly on June 27, 2004. Like my grandmother, there is not a game that the Astros play that I don't think of him. He had four season tickets, two rows behind the Astros dugout for years. I cannot even begin to think about how many games he took me, my brother and Marcus to. Jerry treated me like I was one of his own. He was one of the most caring people to ever walk this earth. He would always take the aisle seat and when I was with him, nobody else was allowed to sit next to him. He knew everything about the Astros. He loved the team and the game of baseball more than I ever could. Jerry always sat me next to him because he knew I loved the Astros and just wanted to talk about them the entire game. My brother and Marcus were like most kids, goofing off, not paying attention to game, while Jerry and I would sit and talk baseball and make predictions on what each batter was going to do. My love for the Astros and the game of baseball would not be what it is without him.

Those are just a few people that molded my love for the game of baseball and the Houston Astros. As I sit here typing this I think of so many more. Those people know who they are, I'm not forgetting any of you. Next year, I will get to so many more of you.

Opening Day will always be my favorite day of the year. Hope springs eternal, correct? There is nothing quiet like that feeling of Opening Day where every fan of every team throws away their rational thoughts on their team and believes that this year is their year. 

That was me every single year as a kid. I would go to school with a brand new Astros shirt or jersey on with my chest puffed out. Until 2017, that Opening Day hope was just that. Hope. Hope that it was our year. 

I remember the 98 season vividly. The first season I can really say that about. I remember where I was when I found out they traded for Randy Johnson. I remember where I was when the Padres defeated what many thought was the greatest team in the history of the franchise. 

2004 still feels like a dream. I lost my mind when I found out they signed Andy Pettitte, only to lose it even more when they brought Roger Clemens home as well. Clemens was unreal that year, and really his entire run as an Astro. I was so excited when I finally was able to go see him pitch in person. My cousin Charles took me to the game. Clemens was 9-0 to start the season with the hated Cubs in town with Mark Prior on the mound. Clemens threw his first dud of the season while Prior tossed 5 scoreless in the Cubs 7-2 win. They were sluggish overall until they landed Carlos Beltran. What Beltran did the rest of the season and in the postseason was something we had not seen in this city. It felt like all he had to do was just touch the ball with the bat and it was leaving the yard. 

Jeff Kent's walk-off bomb in game five of the NLCS still gives me goosebumps to this day. I threw the remote to the television when he hit it, smashing it to pieces. My mom was not happy with me. It was not the first or last time I had ruined a remote during a sporting event. It still kills me to think they could not win one of the two games in St. Louis that year to advance to their first World Series.

We know that changed a year later. A team that so often could not hit a baseball, that started the season 15-30, finally did it. We finally had a chance. We finally thought it was happening. That 2005 World Series was so deflating. Chances to win each game. The stupid rain and cold in Chicago causing Clemens hammy to tighten up. From the Scott Posednik walk-off homer in game one, to Joe Crede playing like he was Brooks Robinson at third, to a former fan favorite Geoff Blum hitting the winning home run in the 14th inning of game three, to the series ending in a sweep with a 1-0 final in game four, the dream felt so close, yet so far away still.

We know what happened from there. Years of average baseball before the needed ownership change that put us through our lowest of lows as Astros fans. I was one of the few that had CSN Houston during the leanest of lean years. I was one of the fewer few that still kept watching. Even when we could not see the light at the end of the tunnel, I could not bring myself to quit on the team I love the most.

In 2015 they shocked us all, as well as the baseball world. They were not supposed to be a contender just yet. They made baseball fun again. Lead by a still very unknown manager that had failed in his brief first shot as a manager with the Arizona Diamondbacks, they made a connection with all of us. Young budding stars that we had waited so long to see in Houston doing things they should not be doing so quickly. When they won the wild card game in New York, you knew this was not the same old Astros that could not get over the hump under baseballs brightest lights of the postseason. They were six outs away from playing in the ALCS. Game four against the Royals still makes me a little sick to my stomach. Even though the end was so painful that year, the hope of what was still ahead outweighed that hurt.

2016 was a humbling experience for the players, the men that make the decisions and us as fans. While they won more than they lost, not making the postseason brought back that deflated feeling. But that season changed so much and little did we know that we were about to go on the most incredible season of our lives as Astros fans. 

They needed a veteran presence for their young core and Luhnow went to work, trading for Brian McCann and signing Josh Reddick on the same day. He topped that off by bringing Carlos Beltran. The man we loved to boo after he darted off for the Mets after that incredible ride he took us on in 2004. You probably know this already, but I was beyond excited. 14 year old Michael was able to finally stop being mad for him leaving so long ago. 

Again, I am stupid lucky. Like it is silly to me thinking about what I get to do and where I get to go. For the second straight year I boarded a plane and was off to Florida for Spring Training. The year before I made my first ever Spring Training trip. Oh and I was able to do that one as a guest of Jim Crane. I got on the dudes plane and flew to Kissimmee with the owner and went to dinner with him and talked baseball at the bar with him after dinner for about two hours. How is this real life? My life is stupid. 

So back to 2017, I get to West Palm Beach and you felt it from the moment you walked in the clubhouse. Something was just different. They were still the fun young Astros, but they had this new swagger, confidence and maturity thanks to in influx of veterans in the room. 

When they broke camp and came home to start the season, the thought still would not leave my head. This year was going to be different. Springer leading off the season with a dinger, the Memorial Day Massacre in Minneapolis...there are literally too many moments like those to list. 

And then there was the July non-waivers trade deadline. They needed a starter in the worst way. They did not get one. A lot of people were pissed and decided they were now done. They made the doubters look like they might be right in the month of August. Hell. That is the only way you can describe that month. Yes the baseball was just that, but it was Hurricane Harvey makes me think of that word to describe the month.

The Astros started that year doing things we had not seen before from them. Harvey was unlike any storm we had seen before. So many people lost so much, while the team continued to lose so many games that month. But we are a city that cannot be defeated. When we get knocked down, we get right back up. Harvey brought out so much good in a time that was just so bad. We forgot our differences and united together to work through so much devastation. 

The sun started to shine again after Harvey moved on and before we knew it, it was shining on the Astros again. That started minutes before the waivers deadline on the 31st, pulling off what might be the greatest trade in Houston sports history, landing Justin Verlander from the Tigers. You know that story by now and what Verlander did in the five starts in September. That move and rebound in the month of September after that trade brought back the feeling again that this year was going to be different. 

The Red Sox were no match. You knew it in the first inning of game one when Altuve dropped three bombs. They were tested yes, but like the entire season, there was no situation too big for them, finishing it off in comeback fashion in game four at Fenway.

The Yankees loomed. They were not supposed to be there. The Astros were. Verlander and Keuchel mowed them down as they squeaked out the first two in Houston. Nobody thought the series would be coming back to Houston at that point. 

Again, my life reminded me how lucky I am. For the first time in my life I was heading to the Big Apple. All my Astros gear on, I walked around that city for a day and half strutting ahead of game three. 

 

I was trying to land a modeling deal with Aquafina in that picture tbh.

It was amazing to go to New York for the first time in my life. I saw as much as I could in the little amount of spare time we had and I was able to avoid being hit by a cab or being mauled by a subway rat. The baseball was forgettable. It was crushing, brutal...all the swear words. I got back on the plane and thought they were done. That it was just going to be the same old deflating ending once again.

I don't know why, but when I walked into MMP after doing the pregame show for game 6, I was calm again. I can remember telling Ross that I was not nervous at all. That they were going to win the next two games. So of course, that is exactly what they did. On to the World Series to take on the team everybody said was the greatest team ever assembled. 

They were really really good...just not as great as the national media wanted you to believe. 

I stayed in Houston for games one and two. I like most of us did not expect a game one win so I took it as that. Down two in the eighth of game two, the this is not happening feeling was creeping back in. I kicked over a chair when Marwin tied it in the ninth. I screamed so loud after the back-to-back jacks from Altuve and Correa that I was worried I would have no voice for the postgame show. We talk about game five so much, but game two took just as many years off my life as game five did. Come back home, split the first two, still feeling good. Again, I do not know how we survived game five. 

I decided that night during the pregame show that I was going to watch game five from home and do the 10th Inning Show there because I had a 6am flight to Los Angeles the next morning. I think we finally got on the air around 12:45 in the morning and stayed on until 3:30. I took a 30 minute nap after and went to the airport. I was in a fog like I have never felt before. And I loved it. I did not sleep until we got to our hotel in LA. One of these days I will find a way to sleep on a plane. 

Game six was what it was, the ride that the 2017 season was deserved a game seven. There was no other way. Like ALCS, I really had no worry of them losing game seven. They owned Darvish and there was no way that was about to change. About 5 seconds before Springer hit the two run shot, I hit Chris Gordy with an elbow to his side and told him George was about to take the next pitch deep. It was done before that, but that was the final nail in the coffin. 

Gordy and I waited just behind home plate during the 9th inning to get on the field with the media when it ended. As soon as that ball was in Yuli's glove they let us out on the field with the new champs. Here I am standing there watching the team that I thought I would play for as a kid, celebrate the first title in the history of the franchise. I'm literally in the middle of it. While I did not have that uniform on and had to stay calm and not celebrate, on the inside I was going nuts. I was on the field the second the Astros did it. Once again I wondered if all of this is real. 

 

LOOK AT THIS!!! HOW? HOW? THIS STILL DOES NOT FEEL REAL.

I do not do the selfie thing. It's just weird to me. But rules have to be broken occasionally. 

 

The night was a blur. I stayed out there as long as I could before I needed to head back up to celebrate with y'all on the radio. Gordy and I stayed on the air until 4am Houston time, 2am out west. We were the last people left in the seats outside of the guys using leaf blowers to deal with all of the trash people left behind. We walked out of there and it felt like I was floating on a cloud. There were no media shuttles still around to take us to our car that was about a half mile down the hill from the ballpark. We didn't care. We walked back to our rental car and laughed about what we just experienced the entire time. 

That team did something so many of us worried would never come. They won the whole freaking thing. I will never forget the details of the season like I still do of all of those baseball cards I studied as a kid. The highs and the lows. The joys and the fears. Every second of that long marathon of a season was everything we could have dreamed of plus a little more. I cannot wait to do it again one day with this team that we all love. 

That's it. Thank you for clicking and reading through the journey it was for me. That team doing it means the world to me. It always will. Sharing that journey with all of you here and on the radio that year was the most fun I have ever had in my life. I never got into radio for the recognition of being on the radio or all the little perks. I got into this world because of my love for our teams in this city. I pinch myself anytime I talk Astros with any of you. That you guys trust me to cover our team. I am one lucky dude. I know it. Here's to celebrating another World Series Champion in 2019.


-Michael Connor


Here's one more picture of my goofy looking self. 

 
Sean Salisbury

Sean Salisbury

Sean Salisbury is a longtime sportscaster who has covered the Houston market for many years talking Texans, Astros, Rockets & much more. He has worked as an TV analyst for ESPN shows like NFL Live & SportsCenter, and served as both an NFL & CFL... Read more

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