MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Heart of city: Astros feel love in celebration

Former players, city officials turn out to honor World Series champs

Heart of city: Astros feel love in celebration

HOUSTON -- Through the city streets, the Houston Astros rode on Friday afternoon with their World Series trophy and fans standing a dozen deep to cheer them, releasing joy and tears, laughter and screams.

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Little by little, the Astros are beginning to understand the magnitude of what they've done.

There were Astros legends Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, both Hall of Famers, speaking of the affection and admiration they have for these current players.

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Enos Cabell, another of the franchise's greatest players, wept when he attempted to put this team winning a World Series into words. Astros president Reid Ryan also broke down as he spoke of what the franchise had meant in his life, and he brought his Hall of Fame father, Nolan, probably the most popular Astros player of them all, along for the parade, a moment they will never forget.

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Harris County Judge Ed Emmett probably spoke for every single person who cares about this team when he reflected on his ride along the parade route.

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"What I saw were people who had hungered for this day for 50-something years," Emmett said, "and all of us have somebody we remember that we wish could be here."

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There it is. That's the thing that connects a baseball team with its city. It's fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, best friends and others connected to one another by their baseball team.

And there was this ...

"I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Judge Roy Hofheinz," Emmett said. "He would have loved this day."

To mention this remarkable man on this day seemed appropriate. Hofheinz founded the Astros in 1962, built the Astrodome and came to symbolize a city that prided itself on dreaming about big things and then doing them.

In the way that Hofheinz inspired generations of Houstonians, Emmett said these Astros of Jose Altuve and George Springer and Carlos Correa would surely do the same.

Houston celebrates championship

"We looked out and saw kids, children, that were inspired," Emmett said. "These guys have inspired future generations -- Puerto Rico and Venezuela, and all the countries [the Astros represent]."

This is a day the Astros will remember forever. That's the one thing they're able to grasp so far. Even if they win the World Series three years in a row, nothing can top this first one.

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This was a release for fans who've waited 56 seasons, for fathers and sons and best friends and co-workers, and thousands and thousands of others who've talked about this day, dreamed about it, wondered if it would ever really happen.

As for the Astros, they will tell you they're still trying to get their collective minds around all of it. They were greeted by hundreds when their plane touched down on Thursday after winning Game 7 of the World Series against the Dodgers a day earlier.

Some of them turned onto their streets to find impromptu street parties, and almost all of them have been approached by fans who wanted, more than autographs or photos or any of that stuff, an opportunity to say thank you.

And so the city of Houston, the city that bonded so closely with this baseball team the last few months, threw the Astros a proper party on Friday. Hundreds of thousands cheered as the team made a loop around the city.

When they arrived at City Hall, they listened as politicians offered proclamations and allowed the music and ovations to wash over them one final time before escaping into the offseason.

Keuchel fires up paradegoers

"Guys, we love you," pitcher Dallas Keuchel told the crowd. "We won this World Series together."

Indeed, that's part of the story.

"When the city needed a pickup, when the city needed someone to elevate us to another level," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, "the Houston Astros stepped in."

The Astros and the city of Houston became intertwined more than ever before in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in August. The Astros wore "Houston Strong" patches and said it was more than simply a slogan.

"Hey, Houston, we did it," manager A.J. Hinch told the crowd. "These guys did it. Let me tell you something, did you guys ever step up for our team, and our team stepped up for you and our city.

"We're going to be forever linked as a championship city. Don't forget where you were when we made that last out."

Reddick channels Flair for fans

On a day of NASA jets flying overhead and marching bands and fans escaping the muggy weather by splashing in the reflecting pool in front of City Hall, it was Astros outfielder Josh Reddick who captured the spirit of the day best.

"Houston, we don't have a problem, we got a championship," Reddick said. "This is amazing. I love every single one of you, the whole city, the whole state. But now, you guys know what we are?"

What's that, Josh?

"We're limousine-ridin', jet-flyin', kiss-stealin', wheelin'-dealin' son of a guns."

Indeed, they are.

And the best baseball team on the planet, too.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.