It’s baseball season and that means the weather is bound to start warming up soon in Houston. We’ll quickly move into an endless summer as we hit the streets with our wayfarers on and evidently lack reservations. Baseball season is where we shake any lingering winter weariness and spend time with the people we want to be around. So, take me out to a ball game and don’t forget the 7th inning stretch…
Gordon Moore was a kind and gentle man; a skilled physician, who generously would provide respite care for my mother through his appointment as my Godfather. Less “organizational” ties than the Mario Puzo book turned movie, but just as much fun. We would go to local arcades (Chuck E. Cheese’s or Celebration Station) where I would run around with a sugar rush so excited and focused on the video games and where he would regularly lose at during the multiplayer options with the exception of skeeball. My hand eye coordination was decent, but I just wasn’t tall enough to underhand launch. So, basically, I was pitching the rock hard spheres, hoping to earn a central resting location. It was basically a dangerous variation of beer pong without the beer or triangle shape. We would collect the tickets and claim a prize before he brought me back to the house until the next time we saw one another.
Gordon was also a first call when I had a scare of appendicitis and had to be rushed into urgent care. While it turned out to not be my appendix nearly exploding, I still think that a phone in from a physician might have helped the facility triage me into an exam room quickly. What I recently found out is that Gordon not only called the ER, but took over all billing for the visit.
Around the holidays, Gordon would take me shopping for gifts for family, also probably providing my mother time to shop on her own. This was before the era of Amazon and “click and forget” shopping. I remember seeing a Norelco Electric Razor commercial as a kid and thinking that an electric razor was the epitome of manly gifts. We bought a beard trimmer for my father that Christmas from a Sears located in Midtown, partly because my father may have been sporting a beard around that time but also almost certainly because there was a 5 song CD sampler with some 90’s “Jock Jams” style hits included with purchase.
I don’t even know if my dad even ever used the trimmer, (or the music) though now he has kept a mustache instead of a full beard. For the record, I still think shaving products are pretty manly. Maybe this is a sign that the marketing worked.
Gordon did take me to Astros games as a kid, usually a midweek game where the opponent wasn’t as much of a highly sought after ticket. We would watch the game and talk between popcorn or cotton candy inside the Astrodome. I brought my leather baseball glove, even if I never actually caught a fly ball. One game, as we were leaving the stadium, Gordon and I stopped by one of the many souvenir stands. There was a baseball that was covered in what appeared to be signatures of that year’s team encapsulated in a spherical plastic display.
At the time, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio were playing for the team, so I *had* to have it. Bagwell was by far my favorite player, and for very little to do with the sport. What I remember was that Jeff had a really unique batting style that would contort his body as he connected with the pitch before he then would sprint for first base at record speed. I also remember that Bagwell was one of the first to adopt a personal style of super reflective sport sunglasses, now known to us as Oakleys. Before pro athletes were clamoring for the endorsement of wireless headphones, it seemed like everyone wanted to sport Oakleys.
I owned (and subsequently lost, as is the habit I usually find with expensive pieces of plastic) 2 pairs of Oakleys as a kid. 1 authentic, one “Faux-kley” that I picked up in a border town market on a youth mission trip. The real pair, a metallic candy red color with mirror coated lenses set me back about $160, which is a big deal when you are a teenager. Let’s be real, $160 doesn’t sound like a walk in the park now for something to easily misplace when I am now nearly double the age I was at the time I bought the glasses, but I digress.
Where I appreciated the history of players like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Nolan Ryan, Bagwell spoke to being a player I had the opportunity to see on multiple occasions sporting a jersey of the town I love.
In 2000, the team announced moving to a new stadium near Downtown. What we now know as Minute Maid Park, or “The Juicebox”, was once Enron Field. I’m not even going to attempt to tackle Enron in this post, but the move was bittersweet for many. The Astrodome, home of Astroturf, a robust green and rough carpet like cloth material was closing. After the games, the Astros organization would host an event for kids to run on an area of the turf. One gets to experience how gigantic the vast arena was, imagining the color blocked metal seats filled with spectators watching to see you step to the plate. Orbit, the Astros Mascot, arrived at one of my birthday parties as a kid. I also saw him this year at Valentine’s Day at my workplace because I heard he was making the rounds for special valentines who helped him with gas money for his space shuttle.
The new stadium had a retractable roof, so the building once coined “The 8th Wonder of the World” was deemed a relic from another time that to this day stands without a decision of how to handle it. A bill was once proposed to convert the area into one of a few designs that might be useful to tourism and the City. Yet, since no one could agree to a plan, all of them fell flat. Since, there have been limited access opportunities to the Astrodome, but for anyone reading this, I am interested in the next available public access event. The City even had a sale of some of those stadium seats a few years back, which I wasn’t able to attend. However, I might also be very interested in securing one of those sets for a future mancave, if they aren’t all gone.
The “We Love Houston” sign was once on display in a lot near Silver Street Studios before moving to the feeder of I-10 near TC Jester then to it’s current location outside of 8th Wonder. As it stood on the Feeder road, a small iron fence surrounded the piece so as to prevent people from climbing the work. Within that fencing however, someone had affixed the word “ASTROS” centrally to the sculpture. So, when selecting a shot for the week of our home opener, I remembered this work and took a chance. While the addition of the team name was later scrapped, you can see outlines of the word if you are close enough.
Houston hasn’t always been considered a leader among major metropolitan areas. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and D.C. usually get that attention. By my estimate, most Houstonians I know are fine with not being heralded. Houston is filled with communities of people all trying to work towards success; individually and shared. We have long been called a Melting Pot because of the diversity of our City, but also maybe because someone has had vinyl seats in their car Mid August. Houston is hot and humid, but that’s not the only reason we stick together. Part of what makes Houston awesome outside of people happy to be here is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. If there is a job to be done, we pull together to handle it.
I think that mindset can also create a winning team. That attitude is part of what I think makes the current Astros organization successful. Even as the face of the team changes from the players listed in Polish Pete’s Polka ode, the roster brings fresh faces looking to accomplish something and have a great time along the way.
On the flip side of the featured 45, readily available at Cactus Music or Sig’s Lagoon (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), is the Altuve Polka dedicated to second baseman Jose Altuve. I wanted to feature a song that focused on more than just one player, but both songs are pretty rockin’. What I notice about the team overall these days when I watch are their genuine smiles. They took the club all the way in 2017, after a pretty horrendous year for the City. I wasn’t able to be off of work with enough time in the day to attend the World Series Championship festivities Downtown in person, but I was able to watch alongside near the suburbs via a local news outlet. Schools were out, many businesses shut down even if early so we could celebrate.
I am sure you might have seen the teamwork of fans throwing a lost hat up nearly 5 stories of a parking garage to return it to the owner. That’s the Houston I know and fell in love with long before hashtags like #HoustonStrong. If I learned anything from the storm that hit the City in 2017, was that all eyes began to focus on Houston as we scraped together what we had to help one another after a tragedy. But while a hurricane may have showcased that behavior, we were doing those kinds of things (maybe not to that exact rebuilding degree) before any storm.
Gordon passed away when I was in my early teens. Before he passed, he gifted me a small silver cross that was inspiration for a large tattoo on my back. Any time he went out of the country he would come back with something small; a coin or two to remind me he thought of us. While I didn’t fully understand his wishes at the time, he did not want me to visit him towards the end of his life; to see him as anything other than happy and healthy. As such I was able to remember him as he stood proud, always happy to see us. The silver charm he gifted broke off of the chain it was on as I was trying to get quotes for the inked piece, though luckily, I had a photocopy for reference. Gordon had a beautiful memorial service at Trinity Episcopal Church in Midtown, filled with the many lives that he touched with his calm and friendly spirit. He was always good at bringing a smile to people’s faces, yet I remember wearing a pair of sunglasses that day to hide my tears.
I don’t think that baseball was ever his passion, but he cared about the people around him and was a real light while he was with us. As we have started this baseball season, Gordon has been on my mind quite a bit recently. I don’t know if it’s just that this year marks 20 years since he passed, or if it has just taken me this long to recognize what he was doing that was spectacular. Either way I am left, much like all opening day festivities, respectfully saying while honoring his legacy “Take me out to the ball game.”
Let’s do great things for one another, and appreciate all that we are given.