Monday, October 25, 2021

Houston v. Atlanta

Both the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves are products of the 1960s, when the South finally started to regain full status within the Union.  The Astros began life as the Houston Colt .45's, when they joined the National League as an expansion club for the 1962 season.  Three years later, in 1965, they moved into the Astrodome and became the Astros.  The next year, Atlanta joined the majors when the Milwaukee Braves moved to town.  The first matchup between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves took place on April 29, 1966 in Atlanta, with the Braves winning 4-3.

Three years later, both Houston and Atlanta were put into the new National League West, along with the Cincinnati Reds, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants, and the newly formed San Diego Padres.  For the next 25 years, these six teams were locked in a very intense matchup.  Atlanta and Houston were also-rans for most of that period, but they had their moments.  The Astros won the division in 1980.  Atlanta won it in 1982.  Houston won in 1986.  But it wasn't until the early 1990's that the Braves really broke through, winning pennants in 1991 and 1992.  The last season for the old National League West was 1993, and the last divisional game between the Braves and Astros took place on September 30, 1993 in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.  The Astros won 10-8, but could not stop the Braves from winning the division for the third year in a row.

For people my age, that era is how we will always remember the Braves and the Astros -- the TBS years from the late 1970's through the early 1990's when the Braves were on TV almost every night and they played Houston 18 times per year.  There is no telling how many hours I spent with a Braves/Astros game on in the background, as Skip Caray, Ernie Johnson, and Pete Van Wieren helped you get through another long summer with a lot of humor and bad baseball.

But Houston and Atlanta are not very nostalgic cities -- they always want to do better.  And so they embraced MLB's changes.  The Braves dominated the National League in the 1990's, and then Houston moved into a new park downtown (named after Enron!) and built a great team that won the pennant for the first time in 2005.  On their way to the pennant that year, the Astros beat Atlanta three games to one, and the final game (in Houston) went 18 innings before Houston prevailed 7-6.  That's probably the most famous matchup between these two.

It turned out, however, that the National League wasn't big enough for both Houston and Atlanta, so the Astros left the National League after going 55-107 in 2012.  Now they have become the dominant power in the American League, with pennants in 2017, 2019, and 2021.  And so they meet their old foe.  I'll watch the games, but it will be hard to convince myself that this is really the World Series, and not some late August game just there to fill out the schedule.

One more point:  the Braves have three World Series titles, one each for the Boston Braves (1914), the Milwaukee Braves (1957), and the Atlanta Braves (1995).  This year is Atlanta's chance to finally break the tie.

Previous World Series Appearances:

Houston Astros (1-2):  2005, 2017, 2019, 2021

Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves (3-6): 1914, 1948, 1957, 1958, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1999

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