Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Houston Tristar Post 2 of 2

Alright, I've put it off long enough... feeling better and I have more than 15-20 minutes to post...

So, as you all have been informed, my wife and parents teamed up to get my an all-access pass to the 2012 Tristar Show, which got me in the gates early as well as got me autographs from all 18 Astros present at the 1986 NL West Division Champ Houston Astros Reunion! Pretty remarkable considering that 2 member have already passed from the 25 man roster... getting 17 (plus the manger) out of 23 remaining together in one weekend (and at one point, in one room) is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion in my opinion. Well without delay, here are some pictures!
Before the Astros got started, that's the legendary Jim Brown signing a football. While I wasn't able to get up close and personal with many of the non-Astros guys, we were always within camera shot.
First up is Craig Reynolds. He was a platoon SS-3B for the Astros for much of the 80's, and is a Houston area product as well. He is now a minister at Second Baptist Church in Houston.
Another legend as we were waiting in line, multi-Olympic Gold Medalist Carl Lewis, again a Houston native and not-so-great singer.
The highlight of the autograph session for me, Nolan Ryan. My wife snapped all the pictures, and she got a nice little candid one while we were waiting in line and he was signing for someone else.
Here Nolan is signing his card for me. I was a blubbering idiot at this point, couldn't get a sentence out right without fumbling over words.
So the flash didn't go off... but still, Nolan would sign about 30 autographs, then stand up and do pictures for anyone who wanted them, then return to more autographs. He seems to be a bit crotchety in his older age... but when you have 30 year olds mumbling/stumbling over words trying to say "Congrats on the consecutive World Series" which comes out as "a;lsdhg;laksh; ; lkjf;alskjsd Thank you!" then I can understand some annoyance!

I hadn't had this post up for 15 minutes, and Derek over at Tomahawk Chopping sent this over... dang I love the blogging community!
Thanks Derek! You're the man! On a side note, everyone head over and help him with this contest!
Next up was Phil "Scrap Iron" Garner, the 3B on that 1986 team and only manager to ever take the Astros to the promised land, only to get swept by the White Sox, but heck HE GOT US THERE!!! VERY nice guy, funny and was a hoot at the VIP reception later that evening.
Kevin Bass had his career year in 1986. A justifiable threat in the lineup and a solid defensive outfielder. He was also the guy to strike out to end game 6 of the NLCS. He does a lot of radio work in Houston while running his real estate investments. Another great guy and very nice.
Jose Cruz Sr was always one of my favorites, and one of the names my wife recognizes right off the bad. I think all Houston fans who ever went to a game at the dome remember, "Now batting, number 25, Jose CRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUZZ!" In fact, someone did that right before I walked up, and I asked "Ever get tired of that?" And he smiles REALLY big and says "No way, I love it!" He's the only guy from that 1986 team currently employeed with the Astros, and has been for a long while now. He's survived multiple manager changes and now is a special assistant to the GM. I'm a big fan.
I'll start this off by saying that Tristar did a great job of providing a variety of pens for the guys to sign with. Since I was getting all the guys to sign 1987 Topps Tiffany cards, I wanted them all in black Sharpie. All the guys listened really well to my request, except for this guy: Alan Ashby. He just looked at me, kept the blue sharpie in his hand and kept signing. Now I have 17 black and 1 blue autograph. Thanks a lot Alan! Back to you Milo! (Astros fans who remember Ashby on the radio will know what I mean there...) Alan was a catcher for the Astros through most of the 80's as well. He caught Nolan's no-hitter in 81 as well as Mike Scott's no-hitter in 86 to clinch the NL West. If memory serves me right, he also caught Ken Forch's no-no as well. Anyways, a decent catcher for many years, Alan is now in the radio booth for the Blue Jays after being removed from the Astros booth a few years ago.
That's Arian Foster. He's pretty awesome and was taking pictures with anyone with a camera. Super nice guy, but I couldn't get close enough to ask him for a shot, so we zoomed in and got one. By far, the two biggest crowds that I saw at this show were for Arian and Brian Cushing. When they announced Cushing, it was like when they open the doors for Black Friday at a Wal-Mart in East Texas, people were crashing in as though it was the last Cushing signing ever. Houston is a football town. Jim Crane: challenge leveled, get people passionate about the Astros again.
I'll give you 1,000 guess who this guy is (without looking at the roster) and I doubt anyone, even Astros fans, would get it. To say he was an obscure reliever would be nice, it doesn't help that he was in the 1987 Topps Traded set as a Phillie, so his days in Houston didn't last long. But Jeff Calhoun was a reliever on the team in 1986 and if I remember correctly, gave up the losing run to the Mets in Game 6. Super nice guy, reminds me WAY too much of my own dad. When I put his card down on the table, he said "Wow, I'm old, who's this guy on the card!?" He works with Craig at Second Baptist Houston nowadays.
Here starts the pictures of day 2 of the show. This is Dr. Death himself, Danny Darwin. A stud reliever and spot started on the 1986 team and one who came via trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. I was the first in line, and I think he was ready to get things moving right along, didn't have much time for chit chat.
Next up is Hal Lanier, the manager of the team in 1986. Talk about your nice guys who you wish you could add as a step-grandfather. He conversed freely with whoever would talk and genuinely seemed grateful that he was asked to be there and that the fans appreciated the team. Would have loved to have time to sit with him and hear his stories. He joked at the reception Saturday night that he was working on a book, I REALLY hope that wasn't a joke, I'm sure he's got a lot of great stories to tell!
This is Glenn Davis. Most Baltimore fans know him as the bad side of a trade that netted the Astros a few guys by the name of Steve Finley, Curt Schilling and Pete Harnish. But to us Astros fans of the mid-80's, this guy was our Jeff Bagwell. He was the 4-hole hitter with some power to the gaps and he was the anchor of that line-up that nearly went to the World Series. Again, talk about your great guys, Glenn is super active in the community of Columbus, Georgia. At the reception he talked at length about the foster children he helps with his charity as well as those he's personally brought into his home. I think he's one who realizes how greatly he was blessed with baseball and has really put his life back into helping others in a meaningful way. And he was one of the few who made a point to stop signing and pose for a picture.
Billy Hatcher is now a coach for the Reds and has been for quite a while. He won a ring with them in 1990 and I'm glad he did. I remember him as a great hitter and speedy defensive CF.
Before there was Biggio, we had Bill Doran at 2B for the Astros. In little league, I modeled my play after Bill Doran. He sacrificed his body big time on the astroturf at the Dome. You can tell he still misses the Dome as well, he mentioned at the reception that he hates seeing it in the condition it's in because it was such an amazing place to play ball and hopes something nice is done to it soon.
Jim Pankovits was a utility guy and one of those guys you need off the bench in the NL. Tough, dependable and able to get a clutch hit when needed.
Jim Deshaies is one of the funniest guys I've ever met. Great personality and I love his work on the Astros TV broadcasts. Great non-sequiter comments and telling insight when needed.
Dickie Thon, quite possibly could have been a HOF'er depending on who you talk to, before he was beaned in the face in 1984. It took him a while to get back on the field with confidence and even then he wasn't what he once was. However, he was on the 1986 team and he contributed handily. His son is now in the minors and Dickie does a lot of work with baseball in Puerto Rico.
Terry Puhl is now the baseball coach at University of Houston-Victoria and stays active in the Houston area as well. An outfielder who played almost his entire career in Houston, he was a defensive presence and was another guy who was good off the bench against righties.
This was the guy I was most shocked and surprised to get to talk to... Bob Knepper. He was always a bit of a loose cannon, and at the reception it was no different. He joked and gave off-the-wall answers to any direct questions. He looked a bit like a mountain man but was just hilarious. He never said what he's doing these days, just that he's still "in the zone".
Here's Dickie, Glenn and Danny having a chat. There were a lot of occasions where the guys would huddle together and just chat about old times. I would love to be a wall flower in the room where these guys actually got together and talked about the old days.
Finally I saved the best for last. My autograph shot with Mike Scott. After the reception I interrupted a chat he and Alan Ashby were having about their golf swings to get a photo with them. Again, an overall nice guy and in my mind, a legend for that No-No in 86. Many have accused him of cheating by scuffing the ball, and supposedly Roger Craig taught him that pitch, so it's ironic that it was against Craig's squad in 86 that Scott threw the no-hitter to clinch the pennant. They also talked at the reception about how the Mets openly stated that they HAD to win game 6, because they knew there was NO WAY they could beat Mike Scott in a winner-take-all game 7. Game 6 was an elimination game for them.

1986 conjures up conversation of possibly the greatest postseason in baseball history. For all intents in purposes, I would have to be on the side of that argument saying it was the greatest. The drama of the Mets-Astros was met with equal drama in the Boston-Angels ALCS and then of course we all know what happened in the World Series. I do have to wonder though, as a tortured Astros fan, just how well the Astros would have done against Boston in that World Series. Somehow, I think the Astros would have won it all in 86 if they had gotten by the Mets, but we'll never know.

It was great to get the chance to meet all those players, but even better was just spending the weekend with the wife, and getting to reminisce about baseball in the mid-80's... with a guys like Nolan, Scott and Knepper on the pitching staff, and Davis, Cruz and Doran at the plate. I don't know if I'll ever match the experience at a card show again. Here's the pictures of the autographs, in all their 1987 Topps Tiffany glory!

 Tell me that's not awesome!

Haha! I hope everyone had a great weekend, and that this week treats you alright!

9 comments:

  1. Wow,thats brings back memories for me,i lived in New Orleans during the 80's when those guys were there.Used to listen to Milo on the radio and went to many caravan's(i think thats what they called it)and got many auto's from alot of those guys on postcards.

    Nothing like that and no Ryan....i would have been doing the same words as you,always been my favorite player.

    Doran and Hatcher were the guys in 86 and was glad they got a ring w/Reds in 90(I think Doran was there too)

    Thanks for sharing another great memory.

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  2. Great stuff!

    Nolan Ryan? Damn I'm jealous.

    Kevin Bass is unrecognizable without the mustache!

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  3. What an awesome gift. Once in a lifetime opportunity right there. Love the scans to close it out.

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  4. The cards look great. Hope you're going to display them.

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  5. Sweet! Glad you had a great time Sam!

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  6. Wow, that is an incredible day! Nice choice on the cards to get signed too!

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  7. That is awesome Sam! Congrats on meeting so many of the guys. Especially Nolan and Mike Scott.

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  8. Awesome stuff man. The Tiffany set looks awesome all signed like that.

    PS: Sox fans don't talk about '86. We never talk about '86. We buried it deep down and only talk about it when we're 3-sheets to the wind... or in therapy.

    BFD.

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  9. Wow... that autographed 1987 Tiffany team set is pretty cool.

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