The 1986 Astros reunion: celebrating good times and great baseball memories.

Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan

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.

Group shot (and special thanks to Chronicle photographer Karen Warren for allowing us to piggy back on her photo session).

TRISTAR show: Alan Ashby.

TRISTAR show: Kevin Bass.

TRISTAR show: Jose Cruuuuuuuz and fans.

TRISTAR show: Phil Garner.

Reception: Kevin Bass, Terry Puhl, Jim Pankovits, Jose Cruz.

Reception: Bill Doran, Jose Cruz, Terry Puhl, Dickie Thon.

Reception: Bill Doran, Dickie Thon, Phil Garner.

Reception: Jim Deshaies, Danny Darwin, Bob Knepper, Billy Hatcher.

Reception: Bob Knepper, Billy Hatcher.

Reception: Alan Ashby, Nolan Ryan, Terry Puhl, Phil Garner, Mike Scott.

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Gosh I love those guys!

Too bad they sold all this great history for a couple of mil. The American League??? Really!?!?!

I wonder if the subject of corked bats or scuffed balls came up?

How nice to see Dickie Thon!

Great memoriea! What are Knepper and Darwin up to these days?

That was a GREAT group of guys! They played hard, and NEVER gave up. Sooooo
good to see Dickie Thon, he was one of my very favorites! That pitching rotation had NO holes in it, they were ALL good! Thanks Alyson, what a treat for us! Becky:)🙂🙂

My favorite Astros lineup! I remember sneaking a radio into the lab so that I could listen to the games that year!

I love this. These were the Astros when I first became a fan. Have followed them in Ma. and now NH. I am probably the only New England Astros fan. Really HATE that they are American League now. Jose Cruz has always been my favorite.

LOL….I work with a guy from Worcester, MA and he and his wife are Red Sox fans, the only ones I know of here on the TX/LA Gulf Coast. I just wish the Astros were back in the National League where they belong instead of Selig’s stupid scheme of putting them in the A.L. West. Selig should have put his lousy Brewers back in the A.L. from whence they came.

Wouldn’t it be great to have Ashby back with the broadcast team!!!! Oh, how I wish!!

I wish I could been there. I watch the playoffs. Just wish the Astros would have won Game 6. I hope they have another Reunion. If they do I want to go, I better started savings. I been a Houstton Colt 45 & Astros since they came in 1962. I have a lot of their baseball cards & some autogragh baseballs. Maybe the next time I can get the 1986 Houston Astros signed one for me.

Loved the photos. The 86 Astros were were incredible…….thanks for the memories. Mary Finger

I attended the All Star Game, Mike Scott’s no-hitter and Game 6! Also, as a kid, I had watched Mike Scott and Juan Barrenguer (Giant’s starting pitcher against Scott in his no hit game) play for the old Jackson Mets of the Texas League. My gretest season ever as a spectator!

Looking at this makes me so sad inside. To think all of this meaningful history got thrown away by Crane and Selig. What horrible, horrible men they are to toss away so much history so they could turn a buck and expand the already-too-long season.

Sickening, just sickening. Seeing this would normally be uplifting and wonderful, but those two horrible people snatched away all that was good and forced the DH abomination on us.

What a team that was. Good human beings too. If only thered been a game 7.

You left out the best part!!!??? the 86 team signed and framed picture! have you hung it up yet?

Still looking for the perfect spot to hang it!

Thanks for the article. These are the Astros I grew up with. My first MLB game was in 1985 in the Astrodome. Got to see Mike Scott pitch. I was a freshman in high school hurrying home to catch the 86 NLCS. Lots of good memories from those guys.

What a year 1986 was. And it was so obvious that we Astros fans had the World Series stolen from us that year due to incredibly bad umpiring calls from an umpire named Fred Brocklander that practically gave the N.L. pennant to the N.Y. Mutts. Also, I agree with those other fans who hate the fact that the Astros have been hijacked into the American League.

Wonderful memories! The comment above re. “good human beings” was so true! I still believe Dickie Thon and Billy Doran might have become one of the greatest SS/2b combos of all time were it not for injuries early in their careers…COMPLETE players (fielding, hitting, running, hustling, etc.).

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