We fought hard.
by D. Ryan lionceaux
A poised Scott
Elarton had the
look of a
winner in his
of the Houston
Some fans hoped the 1997 Houston Astros would go all the way to the World Series, but
e team fell short in the playoffs as they were swept by the Atlanta Braves, 3-0 in the National
League division series.
The city nonetheless rallied behind the 'Stros as visions of 1986 swept through the city.
Not for over a decade had the city experienced a baseball division champ, and Houstonians
savored every moment of the thrill.
The Astros hosted only one game during the '97 playoffs, but it was the largest crowd in
the club's history, with 53,688 in attendance as the Atlanta Braves finished off their sweep of
the Central Division champs on Friday, Oct. 3, 1997.
"It was such a long battle. It's been an up and down season and we now have what we
all wanted for a long time," first baseman Jeff Bagwell said following the game.
Yet the feeling of disappointment lingered only days after Bagwell and his teammates
won their first title in Houston. It was also the first time in team history that a rookie manager
accomplished such a feat, as Larry Dierker, longtime television and radio analyst, came out of
the box and into the spotlight to guide the 'Stros into the playoffs.
The record attendance and playoff fever that captivated the city and students at the
University of Houston was much like the thrilling series against the Philadelphia Phillies in
1980, or the great confrontation against the New York Mcts in 1986.
"This is the farthest I have witnessed the Astros go in a long time," said sophomore
English major Collins Murphy. Murphy's sentiments were echoed by olhers, as most realized
that the team had only been to the playoffs twice in team history, and not once since the year of
the Challenger explosion.
Although the Braves swept the Astros, few fans left early during the final game and
fewer ever stopped cheering. One could look at the crowd and see many babies dressed in bee
outfits to show support for "Killer B's" Craig Biggio, Bagwell, Sean Berry, and Derek Bell —
players who helped make the 1997 season a winning one.
"The only thing I've ever asked for is a chance in post-season. I came back here (instead
of signing as a free agent) with that goal in mind. It's all worth it," said second baseman Biggio
after the season-ending game.
Despite the loss, some fans said they thought the Astros had a successful season overall.
"This was one of the special teams in the city's history," said junior psychology major
Though the Astros did make it into post-season play, they were not a cut above the rest
by any stretch of the imagination. After eking into the playoffs with a record barely above .500,
the 'Stros impressed few in the three-and-out series against the Braves.
The Astros had the luxury of being in the worst division in baseball, one which pundits
and experts mocked routinely through the year. As much as the city marveled at a playoff team,
the players understood that Houston would expect more in the future.
"Yea, it's embarrassing, but you make it a learning experience. We will come out in '98
and work to be better," Astros third baseman Billy Spiers said of the beating the team took from
The team impressed many by going out and signing Moises Alou, fresh off a World
Series win, to a contract ensuring the city that the team took winning seriously.
However, that image was tarnished shortly after as Darryl Kile, the team's ace pitcher,
signed a free agent contract with the Colorado Rockies.
Time would tell if the Astros really meant business, or if the 1997 run was just a cloud