For three days every second or third or fourth year, Astro-Girl and I are at odds rooting-wise. She loves her Astros (pouring over the draftee list all weekend; she wanted more lumber); I like the Astros a lot. I love the Yankees; she loves Derek Jeter, likes Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posaada a lot, admires Mo, thinks Joba is "the cutest thing," and has more or less accepted A-Rod. So she roots for the Yankees, and I root for the Astros, and all is well and good except for three days every third year when the interleague wheel comes around to AL East/NL Central, and watch our guys square off.
A few fun facts about the Yankees and Astros:
1. Everybody knows Mickey Mantle hit the first home run in the Astrodome, in an exhibition game in 1965. When the 2000 Yankees returned to help the 'Stros open Minute Maid Park (then known as . . . ugh . . . Enron Field), the first home run was hit by . . . Rickey Ledee, in his third year of attempting to crack the Yankees' World Championship outfield that featured Paul O'Neill in right and Bernie in center. (The official totals for the Dyansty Years of 1996-2001 indicate the Yankees tried out precisely 5,204 left fielders to go with Paulie and Bernie. Ruben Rivera, who tried to steal some of Jeter's gear--um, not a sterling career move in the Bronx--was out there. Shane Spencer, the replacement player (err, strikebreaker) who was thought to have a real shot until he tore up his leg in '99 and was never the same. Chuck Knoblach in 2001, when his throws from second to first threatened to kill Rudy Guiliani. Jose Canseco was thought to have a shot; the Yankees traded for him after Spencer went down, then discovered he'd decided on his own to become a full-time DH forevermore--not only did he not have a glove, but when was issued his Yankee uniform (cue trumpets: the hallwed pintripes of the Babe and Lou Iron Horse, of Joe D and the Mick), he specifically asked not to be given a cap, on grounds that he would only need a batting helmet.
2. Incidentally, a former major-leaguer, a Hall-of-Famer, has come forward to announce that he, and not the Commerce Comet, hit the Astrodome's first home run. His logic is, if you're going to count exhibition games, then the scrimmage he played in, as a young Astro, against a local high school team the night before the Mick went yard, ought to count, too. And he wants us to know it. If you're guessing that this fellow was a second baseman who was later traded to the Reds, and who then went on to win two consecutive MVPs, nice guess. His logic, then, begs the question--if you're not going to distinguish between an official Major League Spring Training game (for which official records were kept, and MLB umpires assigned, and customers charged admission) and a game with no fans, no records, no (I'm guessing) umps, why not stop there? Why not award the first home run to whoever hit one first in that scrimmages' batting practice? How about the first Astrodome construction worker who brought a bat and bucket of balls to work, and hit fungoes after 5 pm while standing in short center?
3. The Astros and Yankees took part in one of the strangest games in history in 2003: the Astros employed a record six pitchers in no-hitting the Yankees. This fact can only happen if the starting pithcer is hurt (Roy Oswalt was) and a host of relievers hold up their ends. Brad Lidge, Billy Wagner, and Octavio Dotel were called, at one time or another, "closers." The fellow Sarloos pitched some good games. And I always forget about the sixth guy. I took some mighty crap from my co-workers after that game. But the Yankees' record vs. the Astros' since then? 7-0.
4. I saw all three Astro-Yankee games at Minute Maid two years ago, a birthday present from Astro-Girl. This was a Yankee sweep. The first two games were classic Yankee victories--solid startin pitching, good hitting late, solid bullpen--but in the third game the internal history of the team was altered. Astro owner Drayton McClane had ordered the Minute Maid doors thrown open a half-hour early, to allow those attending to see the Yankee batting practice ample time to find their seats. Thus we were allowed to see the Jeter-Posada-Melky cabal stretch and soft-toss before BP, see the scrubs and rookies take their places in the outfield, gues who was hot. For the Sunday game, Wang was facing Oswalt, and so much was Girardi's obsession for getting ready for Oswalt that he, on Saturday night, had rested Matsui and Posada in order to load up on left-handed bats. Posada came out on Sunday morning and hit line drives to the left-field porch; I said, "He's going to crush the 'Stros today." And so he did, hitting a homer, though turned around to the right side, Oswalt having been long gone. The Yankees won 13-1, but one run ended their season and hastened their pursuit of CC and AJ: Wang rounding third, ripping that tendon at the bottom of his foot, and essentially ending his career.
And this doesn't even bring us up to this year.