Leonard Zwelling

I’ve been going to baseball games since I was ten, in 1958. That first game was a 10 nothing beat down by the Yankees on some hapless American League foe with Bob Turley on the mound. Since then I saw Mickey Mantle walk off the Indians in the 11th inning at Yankee Stadium with a mammoth home run and attended the 21-inning affair as the second game of a double header at Shea Stadium on Memorial Day Sunday when the Giants beat the Mets on Jim Davenport’s hit. My friends and I had school the next day, so left in about the 14th inning and took the train home only to watch the final run score in black and white at the Long Island Rail Road station in Bellmore while we were waiting to be picked up to get home. (No drivers’ licenses in New York until age 17).

I’ve seen games in Oakland, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Chavez Ravine, but I had never attended a MLB play-off game until last night. I had saved my pennies for NCAA basketball March Madness tournaments in Houston and San Antonio, but this year’s Astros are something special and I have been following their run to the Series very closely.

I may as well stop trying to top the game on Saturday. There will never be one better!

It looked great for the Astros when Gurriel hit the three-run homer in the first inning. But the chess match aka heavyweight bout between managers Hinch (Astros) and Boone (Yankees) had just begun as both teams elected to use an array of pitchers to give their aces sufficient rest for a possible seventh game and the World Series to follow. The Yankees kept inching back. First it was 3-1. Then 3-2. Then the Astros scored another, 4-2. Osuna came in to finish the Yankees off in the ninth. He didn’t. DJ LeMahieu hit an opposite field two-run shot over the right field wall just above the glove of George Springer to tie the game. The hissing sound you heard was all the air coming out of the balloon that was the anticipatory spirits of the Astros fans in Minute Maid Park.

Then—came Altuve. In the chess match he was king. In the boxing match he’s the heavyweight champ and 2017 MVP.

With a relatively weak-hitting Jake Maresnick in for defensive purposes sitting in the on deck circle behind Altuve, Aroldis Chapman, the Yankee closer, dished what my son called a “meat ball” that Jose Altuve sent into the left field seats and walked-off the Yankees in a playoff game for the first time since Bill Mazeroski did it in the 1960 World Series.

This was the greatest game I have ever attended. It was a remarkable achievement for an Astros team that simply would not quit and for the little man who embodies everything that Houston stands for—perseverance, quality and humility. There can be no better symbol of Houstonian excellence than Jose Altuve who fought through a lot of injuries this year to storm back and now lead his team into the World Series.

I always think that Houston needs to remind the rest of the country how great it really is—especially New York. New Yorkers just don’t seem to be able to get Houston for some reason, but they certainly do now.

Jose Altuve could probably run for mayor and win in a landslide.

It was a privilege to be there to watch this and I am not at all sure buying the exorbitantly priced World Series tickets would give me a greater thrill than watching this game. Since the next few games are likely to be pitchers’ duels, best appreciated on TV, I think I’ll watch at home. But this game was the best of the best. Glad I was there!

And, oh yes, I guess I am glad they lost Friday to set up the victory at home. Double sweet!

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