The 1986 Astros reunion: celebrating good times and great baseball memories.
Who doesn’t love a good “Where Are They Now” story?
Under normal circumstances, finding out Where They Are Now takes quite a bit of digging. But for a few hours over the weekend, there was no need to search far and wide for such information on the 1986 National League West champion Houston Astros.
Where Are They Now? On Saturday, many of the ’86 Astros were all together, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the old Astrodome.
The annual TRISTAR Houston Collectors Show brought together 18 members of that ’86 team, a group that lives in Houston baseball history as one of the most beloved, ever. The characters of that team are as well-remembered as the heart-stopping moments that defined that season. TRISTAR hosted an ’86 Astros reunion as part of their two-day show at Reliant Arena, and also on the agenda was a reception that brought the team back together for a 90-minute question and answer session between paying patrons and the former Astros players.
The lot of 18 included manager Hal Lanier, Jose Cruz, Bill Doran, Jim Pankovits, Billy Hatcher, Nolan Ryan, Dickie Thon, Alan Ashby, Kevin Bass, Phil Garner, Bob Knepper, Glenn Davis, Danny Darwin, Jim Deshaies, Terry Puhl, Mike Scott, Jeff Calhoun and Craig Reynolds.
The group gathered in the lobby of the hotel before the formal program began, and like any class reunion, it was a happy scene. Many of the players from that team are still in baseball, and still more live in Houston. But in terms of getting together and catching up on old times, such occasions rarely, if ever, take place. That makes events like this special, and fun to watch from the sidelines. It also served as a nice precursor for the season-long celebration the Astros are planning to commemorate their 50th anniversary in 2012.
Emceed by SportsRadio 610’s Rich Lord, the Q&A session sparked laughter and reflection. Lanier was grilled on why he lifted Knepper from Game 6 of the NLCS, and Ryan, asked what his favorite moment was in his 27-year career, cited the 1969 World Series with the Mets, “Because it was the only time I played for a World Series title.”
The Astrodome, unsurprisingly, came up in conversation more than once. “I drove by the Dome today and thought, “Man. I wish there was something we could do to preserve it,” Doran said. “It’s a special place.”
The whereabouts of a few of the ’86 Astros are more well-known than others. Following a long run as a radio announcer for the Astros, Ashby moved on to work in the same capacity for the Blue Jays. Garner is mostly retired, but is working on a part-time basis with his original team, the Oakland A’s, and will be with them during Spring Training. Cruz is still with the Astros as a special assistant.
Hatcher and Doran are both with the Cincinnati Reds, Hatcher as a coach and Doran as a special assistant. Pankovits managed the Astros’ Short Season A TriCity team to a New York-Penn League championship in 2010 and is now a coach in the Mariners’ system. Davis is active in the hotel business and children’s ministries in Georgia, and Puhl is a local businessman and baseball coach for the University of Houston-Victoria. Bass is also locally based, working in real estate. Thon coaches in Puerto Rico; Lanier does the same in the Independent Leagues. Reynolds is a pastor at Second Baptist Church in Houston.
And Ryan? “I’m just out signing Japanese ballplayers,” the Rangers owner said to a chorus of laughs.
Scott? “I travel, golf, and babysit my granddaughter.”
Deshaies: “I say clever things like, ‘That’s right, Brownie,’ and dream of being like Mike Scott.”
Simply put, this was a great night.