We Dared to Go: The Astros' Last Home Game of a Godawful 2012, and the End of Several Eras
Check out our slideshow of Milo Hamilton saying goodbye and more during the Astros' final 2012 home game.
Photo By Craig Hlavaty
Astros fans probably knew back in April that they would have a hard row to hoe this year, but even still, every April brings out a sense of optimism in fans, and the unspoken concept that maybe just maybe something great could happen.
The sale of the team to Jim Crane the previous November already had us fans on shaky but oddly optimistic ground. After our first experience with a 100+ loss season, we were ready for anything.
Nearly six months of hand-wringing from fans and journalists would soon ensue, as the team would embark on a monstrously unsuccessful losing season with record-low attendance.
The home team came into the last home game of the 2012 sitting at 50-105, and an astounding 43.5 games back in the division. The season thankfully ends this weekend with a road trip to see the Milwaukee Brewers. (And they've announced their new manager for 2012: Washington Nationals third-base coach Bo Porter.)
But the 'Stros managed to pull out a 2-0 shutout on Thursday night against the St. Louis Cardinals and pitcher Chris Carpenter, which included a Jose Altuve homer. Pitcher Bud Norris stayed in the game until the 8th inning before getting pulled.
Lots of those things are changing before the 'Stros start their 2013 season. Longtime announcer Milo Hamilton closed his 65-year broadcasting career last night, mascot Junction Jack is getting replaced, we're getting new colors and uniforms, and last but not least, we're moving into the American League.
Thursday night's door prizes for the first 10,000 included a nifty J.R. Richard bobblehead and a 2012 Astros team poster, the latter tantamount to the White Star Line sending official crew portraits to the families of the Titanic's deceased.
Fans were attacking the team stores and kiosks around Minute Maid, taking advantage of slashed prices on Astros memorabilia. I picked up a decent enough cap for $10, and got a miniature bat (the kind you would beat younger siblings with) for $3.
It's hard to imagine the Astros in anything not brick red, black, and sand-colored, but then again I still miss the midnight blue and metallic gold crap from 1994.
The biggest crowds were found around the game-worn gear kiosk, with vintage jerseys, helmets, bats, and balls going for hundreds of dollars. Surprisingly, they didn't smell too bad. Not that I was taking long, luxurious whiffs into the armpits of a Sean Berry jersey until a MMP staffer escorted me away from the rack or anything
Houston's heavy Cardinals fan population was out in full force to see their Redbirds, and they were extremely vocal. Transplanted Yankees and Red Sox fans will no doubt be fighting Astros supporters all over the '13 season.
The conductor of the train high above the outfield took time to tip his hat and do a funny dance for the MMP crowd too. His job and train may be gone by opening day next April, depending on Crane's market research this off-season.
During the seventh inning Hamilton helped the crowd sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" while throwing bags of peanuts to children below his broadcast booth.
All told, the Astros managed to pull in a healthy crowd of 18,712 last night -- which is a sight better than the 13,516 that came a few nights back. That was the lowest crowd in the history of Minute Maid Park, as you all know from giggly tweets.
The Astros ended up giving Hamilton a winning send-off, sold a ton more merch than ever, and still managed to have massive swatches of empty seats in the outfield, but hey, at least a few lucky couples got some free Paul McCartney tickets.
What next year will hold is anyone's guess, but at least this year is almost over and we'll have new crap to buy soon.