Franchise's first World Series title lifts spirits of city still recovering from Hurricane Harvey
By Mark Newman
LOS ANGELES -- Ron DeNoville of Atascocita, Texas, is 85, and he is still displaced by Hurricane Harvey's flood destruction from late August. On Wednesday night, he watched the Astros' 5-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 7 on TV, but he was represented at Dodger Stadium by his daughter Diane Loughran and her friend Jennifer Jozwiak, who made the decision to come here during the day on Monday.
"It's like a movie," Loughran said as they stood behind the Astros' dugout and watched George Springer accept his Most Valuable Player Award just feet away. "After Harvey, to have to go down to Florida and play, and then the mayor calls them up and says, 'Will you please come back? We need you.' I had been working at my dad's house for days and days because his house was flooded. I went to the stadium and I'm just sitting there crying -- it was so stressful, to do a normal thing and watch the Astros, and have a little normalcy.
"My dad lives in the Atascocita area near Lake Houston. There was massive flooding that hasn't been seen in over 500 years in the area. It's very slow going with his house. They just started putting drywall back up. He's 85 and they're living someplace else, and we're constantly going there to help him. It's just stressful. He's 85 and he lost everything.
"I'm a season-ticket holder, and I sold my tickets and then sat in other spots so I could take my dad to the playoffs and World Series. My dad said he never thought he would be able to see a World Series game. He was just so thrilled."
This was everything Houston fans could have dreamed up in those days when the region was a fact of life on The Weather Channel and CNN. Roughly a half-million homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by the flood. Dodger Stadium's blue motif was punctuated throughout the last two games by orange shirts, as Astros fans felt they had to be here.
"It means everything," said Jason Heckt of The Woodlands, who works for a pipeline services company. "We've waited over 40 years to be a part of this -- all the ups and downs. It took a lot to get here, but it was worth every second of it. We didn't even work everything out until this morning. We made it here and what a blessing.
"I'm so happy for Houston, especially in this day and age, with all the challenges across the country. And then for the team to come out here and play the way they did, to put their heart and soul on the line, and to bring it home to Houston, it's all coming together. We're one big family and it's time to celebrate."
Heckt looked out over the celebration scene, breathing it all in, still in disbelief after all that had just happened over the past two-plus months. This is one reason he loves the game.
"Baseball is a game of fun, get away from politics, get away from all the heartache in life, and just to come and watch these guys, the fun and chemistry they have," Heckt said. "We're so thankful."
Jesse Peyton and Catherine Nguyn of Houston were here, and Peyton was asked what it meant to be here for this moment. He had the floor, and he had something to say. Peyton was loud, and he was proud. Dozens of people surrounding him listened and nodded and smiled as he bellowed:
"This is unbelievable. This is having a dream, waking up, and it's still real. This is 37 years of pain, 37 years of agony, 37 years of one World Series berth and getting swept. This is our first World Series win, this is history, this is for Hurricane Harvey, and this is for Houston, baby! We did it, we earned it, and we deserve it. Houston, Texas, baby!"
Gregory Compean and Frances Elizondo of Houston heard Astros manager A.J. Hinch say to the large gathering of fans: "The Houston Astros are World [Series] champions." It sunk in and it felt good. There was so much joy, they didn't want to leave.
"It's an awesome feeling after that storm. It's been a long time since we've had a championship in any sport," Compean said. "It's a great feeling, for the city of Houston, after everything we've been through. We would have liked to have won it at home, but to come here, it was a great series and a great team."
Ray Redding was eager to tell his story, but he said he had to catch a red-eye flight and was going to have to rush out of the celebration scene.
"I got married in California in June," Redding said. "To be here for Game 7 with the World Series champions, this is the best year of my life. No question about it."
The best year. In late August and early September, it might have seemed an odd thought. But years from now, folks in Houston will remember it not only for the agony, but also for the thrilling relief and unity that the Astros brought to all of them.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him on Twitter @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.