17,000 watch from home ballpark as Astros win first title
By Ben DuBose
Special to MLB.com |
HOUSTON -- Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles was the official site of history for the Astros, who clinched their first World Series title with a 5-1 win in Game 7 on Wednesday night. But for thousands of fans, the best place to celebrate was at Minute Maid Park.
As with all postseason road games, the Astros' home ballpark was open to the public for Game 7, and fans watched the game for free on "El Grande" -- the 54-foot-tall, 124-foot-wide high-definition screen inside the stadium. The euphoric crowd erupted for all the key moments, with the decibel level at its highest when Series MVP George Springer blasted a two-run home run with two outs in the second inning, giving Houston a commanding 5-0 lead.
And when the Astros made history at 10:59 p.m. CT by securing the first World Series championship in the history of the franchise, which debuted as the Colt .45s in 1962, there was no better place for fans to party than with thousands of other Houstonians in the ballpark where so much magic had already happened this postseason -- including an 8-1 home record and the wild 13-12 victory in Game 5.
"This very well may be the very greatest Houston sporting moment in the history of this city," said 38-year-old David Weiner, who attended the watch party with his wife, Stacy, and son, Michael. "I would say this probably goes above the Rockets' two championships, and I say that as a die-hard Rockets fan. Especially when you consider everything else that's happened this year."
"How 'bout them Astros?" said Michael, age 8. "This is the best night of my life!"
Like so many other Houstonians, the Weiner family has been displaced since late August, when their Meyerland-area home flooded during Hurricane Harvey and they were rescued by the Houston Fire Department from the second floor of their home. But for both parents and especially their son, the Astros' postseason run has provided a much-needed diversion, thus helping to keep spirits high.
"He's really gotten into this Astros run," David said of his son. "It's something that has helped take his mind off of everything going on, and it's really given our entire family something to rally around. We're [temporarily] living with my parents, and we can go upstairs and he can watch the game with his grandpa. It's been a very nice and very welcome diversion."
For the elder Weiner, his intense Houston sports fandom began when the Rockets won their two NBA titles in his childhood, and he believes this experience could be similarly impactful for his son and an entire generation around Houston.
"The Rockets won those two titles when I was in high school, and that cemented it for me," he said. "They will forever be my No. 1. This might be similarly formative for [Michael] with the Astros."
With a World Series title on the line, the Game 6 and Game 7 parties "sold out" with more than 40,000 vouchers distributed, and fans present on all four stadium levels.
"After the win in Game 2, we decided if this got to a Game 7, we had to be here," Weiner said. "We wanted to be with the fans. It was an experience like no other."
Robert Wagner, a 26-year-old from Texas City, made it to all nine postseason watch parties despite the 45-mile commute each way. Before heading to the ballpark on Oct. 16 to watch Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, he rang the bell at a nearby medical facility to celebrate the end of his successful treatment for lymphoma.
Later that same day, Wagner was back at Minute Maid Park -- and by the end of that week, the Astros had clinched the AL pennant. Now, nearly two weeks later, Wagner is healthy, feeling better than ever, and basking in the glory of the franchise's long-awaited triumph.
"It's a lifelong dream fulfilled," Wagner said. "This is a dream come true, man. I just can't believe that it finally came true."
Ben DuBose is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.