As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, let’s not forget about the lovable old catcher. (No, not Ausmus.)

One of the more enjoyable parts of Spring Training has nothing to do with watching hitters knock the cobwebs off their bats or pitchers shake off the rust as they get back into the groove after a nice restful offseason.

No, one of my favorite parts of Spring Training occurs when I pass by the equipment manager’s office and see a robust 40-something, graying-around-the-temples ex-catcher who never misses an opportunity to visit old Astros friends.

It’s hard to not notice former catcher Tony Eusebio these days, partly because of his healthy girth and partly because of his booming voice, both of which are easily identifiable when he makes his yearly visit to the Astros’ spring complex in Kissimmee. He settled in Kissimmee after he retired, as did a few other former Astros, so it’s easy for Eusebio, one of the team’s most well-liked players in the 1990s, to pop in.

If I'm writing about Eusebio, why am I posting a picture of Adam Everett and Scott Servias, you ask? Look closer, far right. And thus concludes the presentation of my entire vast collection of Tony Eusebio photos.

Admittedly, I don’t think a lot about Eusebio, affectionately nicknamed “Soobie,” or, even more appropriately, “Wheels,” during the forty-some weeks that I do not spend in glorious Kissimmee every year. But recently, the old catcher (and by old, I actually mean ageless — literally. A running joke back in the day was that Soobie actually got younger in the media guide every year) came back to the forefront when we posed the question on Twitter a couple of weeks ago: Who would you like to see throw out of ceremonial first pitch next year during the Astros’ season-long celebration of their 50th anniversary?

We were flooded with responses. The poll is unscientific, putting it mildly, but I think I can safely say that anyone who had any sort of impact on this team in the last 50 years — from Denny Walling to Willy Taveras — was mentioned by one or more Tweeps.

I don’t want to say that he generated more responses than Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio — that would be silly, and disingenuous — but clearly, you haven’t forgotten about Tony Eusebio. At the very minimum, every third or fourth response included a Soobie reference of some kind.

And why not? Tough Tony was the perfect backup backstop during his time in Houston from 1994-2001, a great teammate who was as reliable as your dad’s slippers. As a part-time player in 2000, he strung together a then club-record 24-game hitting streak that took nearly as long, in days, as Joe DiMaggio needed to set the all-time record of 56 games in 1941.

In 1997, Eusebio pulled off the improbable by stealing a base during the Division Series. In 296 career Major League games before then, Eusebio had exactly zero stolen bases.

Asked about it after the game, he shrugged and said simply, “Soobie likes to run.”

We’re still in the planning stages of our 50th anniversary celebration, but it’s never too early to hear from you on this topic. So I ask you: Who would you most like to see throw out a ceremonial first pitch next year?

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20 Comments

It’d be nice to see Ensberg back in Houston throwing out a first pitch. I know he’s got the radio show but it could work.

Gene Elston should throw out the first pitch

Adam Everett’s parents live in the Heights, here in Houston. They gave my a priceless treasure, a signed baseball from Adam. I like pitchers, but my favorite players are the position guys…..i.e. Matt Downs, Hunter Pence, and my VERY favorite of all time Adam Everett! I’d LOVE to see him throw out a pitch, next year!
BUT….since Jim Crane is going to move the Astros to the AL, I won’t watch anymore
Astros games, or go to the ball park to see them play. I think we can thank Drayton McLane for selling this team to such a greedy creep. Greed is an evil thing.

I SUGGEST YOU MAKE A SPECIAL BOOK HONORING THE TEAM I’VE LOVED THE MOST-HOUSTON ASTROS.THAT WOULD BE A COLLCETOR’S ITEM FOR SURE.MY FIRST SPORTIN EVENT WAS AN ASTROS GAME.AT THE YOUNG AGE OF 5, YEAR 1985-IM ONLY 30.

Becky, I’m not excited about. Jim Crane as an owner, but moving to the AL is not his doing. It’s Bud Selig’s “master plan.” Selig has made it plainly obvious that he won’t appprove the sale unless Crane agrees to switch leagues. It makes me sick to my stomach and I want to cry just thinking about it. I hate Bud Selig and his lousy ideas. I hate interleague play. I hate the All Star game “counting.” I hate adding mote wild card teams, and mostly i hate the idea of the Astros being in the AL. I hate Bud Selig. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him.

‘Soobie likes to run!’… Could we follow up that absolutely unforgettable line by giving him a chance to ceremonially run the bases? After all, we’d still have 80 other home games for ceremonial first pitches. Heck, Houston could even start a new baseball tradition: once a season, the most loved and yet slowest running former player gets to come start a game by running the bases…. imagine the chance to see a 60 year old Prince Fielder losing to the Bratwurst in the Milwaukee Sausage race…

Oh, and if we could get either Billy Wagner or Brad Lidge back to throw the last pitch instead of the first…. yeah. That would be good.

“Soobie likes to run” is almost as funny as Hunter Pence’s “Houston has to eat” after he hit the “fowl” pole the first time. Really would hate to have the Astros in the AL; I thought the Diamondbacks were OK with moving, so why force the Astros? Stupid Selig! Should have chosen Bob Costas as Commissioner. OK, so who’d I like to see throwing out the first pitch? Toughie, but it definitely should be someone from that first team. I know many of today’s fans don’t know them, but that would be fitting. If not, how about Jose Cruz? Or, looking for longevity, how about Strech Suba?

In my opinion, one of the greatest moments in Astros history was when Jeff Kent hit the home run in the LCS in 2004 that sent us back to St. Louis. Forget the fact that we lost the series. What a way to kick off our next 50 years than by remembering a great Astro moment from the past. Let Kent throw out the first pitch! And replay that moment on the big screen!

Would be good to see Glenn Davis again but when it comes to anything ceremonial a Charlie Kerfeld or Larry Anderson appearance always makes for good times

I think it would only be right to have the wives or children of some famous former Astros players and owners to throw out first pitches so that greats like Don Wilson and Joe Niekro aren’t forgotten.

I would love to see Dickie Thon throw out one of the first pitches next season. I also agree with most everyone else here and say that I too have been an Astros fan since the mid 60′s and think that it’s a really stupid idea to have a team that’s been in the NL for 50 years, be forced to move to the AL. Why not just take the Brewers back to where they came from, move KC back to the AL West and be done with it or as someone else suggested, let the D’Backs go, since they seem to be OK with it. Just my $.02 worth.

How about Jason Lane?

Marv-I like your $.02 worth!! I *LOVED* Dickie Thon!! I think he’s a coach now.

Morgan Ensberg.

It’s a no-brainer – Gene Elston. It would be a good idea to invite Loel Passe’ son Loel Passe Jr. too.

Mark Lemongello, just because I love his name!

Bill DORAN!!! :)

Jim Bouton, who wrote one of the top 100 non-fiction books of the 20th century as determined by Time Magazine. I first read Ball Four at the age of 15 when it was published in 1970, reveling in the humor, the ’60s irreverence and the baseball stories. As I have grown older (and re-read it about every 5 years) I have discovered that baseball is only the vehicle, the story is actually about life. Bouton pitched briefly for the Astros, ’70-’71, but he is a very important part of our history. And, I was in attendance at his famous pennant race game in ’69, a crushing 10-inning 2-1 loss to the Pirates.

I’d love to see Bill Spiers.

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