Results tagged ‘ Mike Scott ’

Mike Scott’s no-hitter in ’86 was one for the ages. But it wasn’t the only great playoff-clinching moment in Astros history.

One Sunday morning, several years ago, Brandon Backe sat at his locker doing what young players normally do in the hours before gametime. Hanging out. Saying very little. Doing nothing to draw attention to himself.

This was 2004, arguably the most significant (at that time) of Backe’s Major League career. He spent that season up and down between the minors to the big leagues, mostly as a reliever. Inconsistency and one bout of fatigue-related issues prevented him from gaining any real staying power in the rotation.

But Backe showed enough to merit multiple opportunities with the Astros that year. He had spunk. He had moxie. He had, quite frankly, an attitude. That type of demeanor, paired with hard work, usually buys a kid some extra time while he tries to put the pitching side of things together.

This particular Sunday in 2004 wasn’t like the other Sundays. No, this was the final Sunday of the season, the final game of the season, and the National League Wild Card was on the line. Win the game, go to the playoffs. It was that simple.

The team liked its chances, what, with Roger Clemens scheduled to start and the Astros having enjoyed a streak of 35 wins against 10 losses that catapulted them right into the thick of a hotly-contested Wild Card race.

An hour before gametime, however, things changed. Instead of suiting up for the game, Clemens was laying on a table in the training room, IVs inserted in his arm, trying to fast-forward through a stomach flu that left him sapped of his energy.

Clemens said the right things to the athletic trainers and doctors — “I’m fine, I can pitch” — but his body was saying quite the opposite. As the minutes passed, it was clear it would not be Clemens taking the mound at 1:05 for arguably the most important game of the season.

“Clemens is sick,” manager Phil Garner said to catcher Brad Ausmus, in passing, near the lunch room in the Astros’ clubhouse. “Backe’s pitching.”

Ausmus’ face fell, briefly. Then, perhaps realizing a reporter was watching this exchange, his expression changed. He simply nodded, and walked off.

Inside the locker room, pitching coach Jim Hickey walked up to Backe’s locker and told the 26-year-old righty that he was starting the game. Backe, likely dumbfounded and now with 60 minutes to prepare, nodded silently. Then he headed straight to the bathroom.

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Backe put forth a fabulous effort that day. He struck out six and held the Rockies to two runs five hits with two walks. And, he contributed the first two RBIs with a two-run bloop single in the second frame that put the Astros on the board for the first time. The Astros won by two runs, a sold-out Minute Maid Park erupted, and the party was on.

Brandon Backe didn’t spare any champagne after the Wild Card clincher in 2004.

The Astros have had many exciting playoff-clinching moments. Really, in recent history, the only ho-hum clincher was in 1998, only because the Astros were so good that it negated a true division race. They clinched it with about a week-and-a-half left in the season, creating as much drama and suspense as a rerun of “Laverne and Shirley.”

But other than that 102-win season, the Astros have had many, many nail-biting, down-to-the-wire clinchers that happened on the very last day of the season, or close to it.

They had around four days remaining in ’97 when they clinched, but that one was extra-special, because it was their first NL Central division title and their first division winner in 11 years. In 1999, they won the division title while playing the final regular-season game in the Dome, in front of a jam-packed crowd that included almost every former player who had meant anything to the franchise over three-plus decades of baseball in Houston.

Larry Dierker, the manager of the Astros at that time, called the win, and the celebration of history after, “Baseball heaven.”

The famous shot from the ’97 clincher: Hampton, Biggio, Bagwell. (photo courtesy of Karen Warren, Houston Chronicle)

The 2001 clincher was memorable as well, considering the team they were fighting for the division title was also the team they had to beat on the last day.

The Astros ended the regular season in St. Louis, a week later than originally scheduled because of the tragic events on Sept. 11. They had been in relative cruise control a couple of weeks earlier and looked to be on their way to easily winning the division, but then they spent the better part of one crucial week losing almost every day. So it came down to the last game, and in front of a hostile Busch Stadium crowd, the Astros beat Darryl Kile and the Cardinals, 9-2.

The 2005 Wild Card clincher, like ’04, happened on the final day. The Astros topped the Cubs to finally, and officially, brush away the pesky Phillies, their closest nemesis in the Wild Card race. That push to the finish was even more impressive than the Astros’ 36-10 run from the year before, because this group had to climb out of a 15-30 hole it dug itself into at the start of the season.

Phil Garner and Craig Biggio walk off the field after the 2004 Wild Card clincher.

The most exciting clincher in Astros history, obviously, was Mike Scott’s no-hitter in 1986. The Astros were expected to do very little in the NL West that year, but heading to the final stretch, there they were, at the top of the standings. Two days before Scott’s game, Jim Deshaies threw a two-hitter. Nolan Ryan followed with a one-hitter over eight innings, after which Alan Ashby said to J.D., prophetically, “I have a feeling Scotty’s going to show both of you up tomorrow.”

Scott no-hit the Giants and the Astros clinched the division. To this day, when eye-witnesses reflect back to that game, their speech patterns speed up and their voices get a little screechy.

Manager Hal Lanier and Mike Scott after Scott’s no-no in ’86.

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Given the historic nature of Scott’s no-hitter, it would be silly to think any other playoff-clincher could possibly trump that one. Polling fans on this one would be just plain silly.

Too bad — we’re doing it anyway! But don’t just cast your vote. I want to know what you remember best from those clinching games. Perhaps you were at the 2004 Backe game. Or maybe you were watching from home, wearing your baseball cap positioned just so atop of your head, the same way you had worn it for all 36 games of the Astros’ 36-10 run that year. Or maybe you were just a kid when the Dome opened and found yourself back there, in person, when it closed down in ’99.

Whatever the memory, please share with us here. We’ve provided plenty of nostalgia for you as we celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary. Now it’s your turn to provide a walk down memory lane.

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Links we like:

First, Brett Myers was compared to Charles Dickens. Now, in his latest blog entry, Astros radio announcer Dave Raymond finds parallels between the Astros’ nearly four-hour game with the Dodgers Saturday night and the Chevy Chase classic, “Fletch.” (Personally, I’m skeptical. Chevy Chase makes me laugh, yet the only emotion I felt during the game Saturday was an overwhelming urge to gouge my eyes out).

Dave also gives us some cool Astros-by-the-numbers info. For those of you who haven’t figured it out by now, our affable radio announcer is also a bit of a stat nerd.

In The Crawfish Boxes “Mondays Three Astros Things,” David Coleman discusses why the Astros appear to have come out ahead on the Jobduan Morales-Justin Ruggiano trade. He also focuses on everyone’s favorite topic — Altuve, Altuve and Altuve.

Sure, Altuve is the leading candidate to be an All-Star, but there are others on this roster too, no?

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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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Celebrating 45 years of Astros memories. On the docket: Mike Scott bobbleheads.

0215_scott.JPG

Being a baseball history fanatic, I’m glad this season will be one of those milestone years for the Astros. Season-long celebrations keep things interesting, and they bring back a lot of the old players, either in person or in the form of cool promotional giveaways.

The Astros are celebrating their 45th birthday this year, and you can expect a lot of fun days at Minute Maid Park that will include a reintroduction of players from the past and a few turn-back-the-clock activities.

I was 11 years away from arriving to my adopted hometown of Houston in ’86 when Mike Scott threw his division-clinching no-hitter, but I’ve heard so many accounts of that game from people who were there — Jim Deshaies, Milo Hamilton, Bill Brown, Larry Dierker, and on and on — that I almost feel like I do remember it, even though I wasn’t there, wasn’t listening on the radio and didn’t even read about it in the paper the next day.

The first (and only) time I met Scott was in ’04 when he flew to Houston from California to participate in some of the All-Star festivities at the convention center and the ballpark. He was exactly how J.D. described him — laid-back, California-cool, wearing flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt and a half-grin that gave the vibe of someone who enjoys the occasional appearance asked of former players by their former teams, but also of someone who’s happily enjoying retirement, away from the game.

(Side note — In the media dining room at Shea Stadium many years ago, Keith Hernandez, now a Mets broadcaster, spotted Alan Ashby, then an Astros broadcaster, and said, “Come on, Ash, just fess up. Scotty was scuffing the ball, wasn’t he?” Ashby chuckled, but said nothing. J.D., sitting nearby, cracked up.)

Scott will be one of several past Astros legends immortalized in Bobbleland when his likeness will be handed out to the first 10,000 lucky fans on July 10. Other nostalgic bobbleheads on the docket: Jose Cruuuuuuuz (April 24), Jimmy Wynn (June 5) and Nolan Ryan (June 19).

On May 22, the Astros will give away a bobblehead featuring modern-day fan favorite and Gold Glover Michael Bourn.

A sampling of this season’s promotional items was revealed on Monday, when the Astros announced that regular-season individual tickets will go on sale Friday, Feb. 19 at 9 a.m. CT. The first of seven giveaways in April arrives on Opening Day (April 5), with a schedule magnet going to the first 40,000 fans.

The 45th Anniversary celebration begins April 9, when a special, 45th Anniversary Astros cap will be handed out to the first 10,000 fans. The next night (April 10), the first 10,000 fans will receive a commemorative 1965 Astros jersey.

In May, the Astros again will be helping to create awareness about Breast Cancer with a week-long ‘Pink In The Park‘ promotion, which will include a pink cap for the first 10,000 fans on May 7 and a Pink Tote Bag for the first 10,000 fans on May 8 (Mother’s Day). A trendy, Astros laptop computer sleeve will be given for the first time to the first 10,000 fans on May 20.

On Father’s Day (June 20), the first 10,000 men age 15 and older will receive an Astros necktie. On July 28, the Astros will continue in the celebration of the 45th Anniversary with an orange retro cap giveaway for the first 10,000 fans. On August 15, the first 10,000 kids aged 14 and under will receive a school backpack designed with the look of a catcher’s chest protector.

Friday Night Fireworks also return in 2010 as each Friday night home game will be followed by a fireworks display (weather permitting). A full listing of the Astros 2010 promotional schedule will be available online at astros.com when regular season tickets go on sale Friday, and, of course, additional promotional items will be added to the schedule throughout the season.

Other stuff:

* On Feb. 16 and 17, the Astros are offering all full-season and 27-game plan ticket holders the opportunity to purchase individual game tickets online as part of their season-ticket benefits.

*On Feb. 18, all registered users of astros.com will have the opportunity to also purchase individual game tickets online. There is still time for fans to purchase season tickets or register on the website to take advantage of this limited opportunity.

* For the past several seasons, Opening Day has been a quick sellout, and this season figures to be no different. To guarantee a seat for Opening Day right now, fans can purchase a full-season ticket package or the Opening Day 14-Game Flex Plan, which includes tickets to the home opener and home finale as well as 12 games of the purchaser’s choosing, plus an additional bonus game for free. Opening Day tickets can also be purchased now through either the Hunter’s Lodge or All You Can Eat 6-Game Flex Plans.

* Every Sunday home game is a Price Matters Day, where fans can purchase a View Deck II ticket, hot dog, chips and soda for just $10. The All You Can Eat promotion, which has been expanded to include all home games, gives fan the opportunity to enjoy all of their favorite ballpark fare for just $25 per ticket. The You Pick’Em 6-Game Plan, which starts as low as $42 and gives the fans their choice of games (excluding Opening Day), is one of several reasonably-priced flex plans available.

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