Mandatory Credit: Photo by Alex Gallardo/AP/Shutterstock (10532266a) Members of the Los Angeles Dodgers watch as the Houston Astros celebrate their win in Game 7 of baseball’s World Series in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles City Council wants Major League Baseball to strip the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox of their World Series titles and award the trophies to the Dodgers. The resolution was introduced, after it was revealed that the Astros used a system by then-coach Alex Cora in 2017 to tip off batters on what pitch was to be thrown Baseball Cheating, Los Angeles, USA – 02 Nov 2017
I grew up in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California, in an environment where most of my childhood revolved around baseball. After school, I’d head to baseball practice, and after practice, I’d rush home to turn the television on so I wouldn’t miss any more than I had to of Vin Scully’s Dodger broadcast. I’ve been to Dodger Stadium hundreds of times over the years, and allowed my emotional investment in the team to reach levels that probably aren’t always healthy. It was a family affair for me – my dad grew up in L.A. in the 1960s, listening to the same Vin Scully broadcasts I did when he was a kid.
When the Dodgers began their current run of playoff teams back in the early 2010s, I was just happy to have a contender to root for. Much of the 1990s and 2000s were defined by mediocre baseball in Los Angeles, and watching the Dodgers lose to teams I envied – teams like the Houston Astros led by Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, and Craig Biggio with Roy Oswalt on the mound. By the time 2017 came around, I’d become used to the playoffs – but more than anything, I’d become used to the heartbreak that was losing at the end. It began to feel like a rite of passage, and something that was just part of life as a Dodgers fan.
The 2017 Dodgers team changed everything. I’ll never forget sitting in 100-degree heat at World Series Game 1 with my dad, a dream coming to life at age 25. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers had both won more than 100 games that year, the first time in almost 50 seasons that two teams with such strong resumes had met in the Fall Classic. That a World Series of such magnitude would extend to a seventh game only felt right, and the idea of a World Series Game 7 being played at Dodger Stadium felt surreal.
It was not the best financial decision I’ve ever made to purchase a ticket to Game 7, but I knew I really never had a choice in the matter. I was fortunate enough to be there with my family as well as a few close friends, and I’ll never forget the butterflies I felt on that overcast night at Chavez Ravine before the game began. We had a family of Astros fans who had traveled from Houston behind us, and were fortunate enough to get to know them well as the evening went along. They felt blessed to have gotten through Hurricane Harvey unscathed, and talked about what an emotional ride the Astros had taken the city on that October.
Astros fans are well aware of how Game 7 went – Houston would pick up all the runs they needed over the first two innings, topping Los Angeles 5-1 to earn the city’s first ever World Series Championship. I was distraught, feeling an overwhelming sense of dread that the Dodgers had squandered their first (and in my mind, potentially their only) chance at winning it all in my lifetime. My way of coping was to congratulate the folks behind us, incredibly jealous of their joy while knowing that I couldn’t actually fathom it. After all, I’d never feared for my home and feared for so many loved ones like they had just six weeks prior. I’d always known sport had an ability to provide an outlet for joy in the midst of sorrow, but had never experienced that emotion firsthand like I did seeing the elation on the faces of the Astros fans who made the trip west. While exiting the stadium, I was overcome with a duality of emotion – I wanted to congratulate and hug every Astros fan I saw, but also felt deeply upset that the best Dodgers team I’d ever watched would be but an afterthought in baseball lore.
A few years would pass before news broke of the Astros sign-stealing scandal, forever poisoning the well between the Dodgers’ and Astros’ fan bases. It reopened wounds for fans in Los Angeles, leaving us wondering whether we’d been cheated out of something we should have gotten to experience ourselves. The ugliness would rear its head on Twitter on a daily basis, and interviews with players on both sides would only add to the toxicity of the situation. Now five years removed from it all, though – did the animosity really make anyone feel any better?
Lashing out was a natural course of action for fans on both sides, and was probably unavoidable. Fans of the Dodgers felt as if they were cheated out of a title, and in many cases felt as if they had fleeting opportunities to create long lasting memories with loved ones tarnished. Houston fans were understandably defensive, feeling as if much needed joy they felt at a vulnerable moment in 2017 was being thrown in the garbage over circumstances they couldn’t have ever controlled. To varying degrees, both feelings are completely valid – but did they ever really need to be directed at one another? Massive cities and fanbases like Los Angeles and Houston are always going to have their bad apples, but the reality is that most of us are just people who care deeply about a sports team. We connect our emotions to them in vulnerable ways, at times making them parts of our identity.
Regardless of the scandal that would follow, the 2017 Astros were an unbelievable ballclub. The lineup was talented from top to bottom, and the display of clutch hitting they put on throughout October was jaw-dropping. It’s hard to imagine a more watchable World Series in my lifetime, and it’s a shame that it isn’t remembered that way by more baseball fans nationwide. Whether folks around the country want to admit it or not, the 2017 Houston Astros were World Series-worthy and then some.
You’ll notice that I’m deliberately disinterested in the details of the scandal, what other teams in the league might have also been doing, or whether the Astros “deserved” 2017’s World Championship. The reality is that it happened, and it lifted a city in collective joy at a time it was really needed. With five full years between then and now, I choose instead to focus on the tears of joy I witnessed from folks wearing orange that night, and the interactions I’ve had with some of the awesome people who call Houston, Texas home since.
My plea heading into the 2022 Postseason is that we all keep our heads above water as we prepare for our emotions to run high again. The Astros and Dodgers are two of the best run franchises in Major League Baseball, and it would be a blessing for the sport if they met again in the World Series this year. My hope is that fans (especially on our side) can make a potential 2022 Dodgers-Astros World Series about 2022, and not about what happened five years ago. It doesn’t get a whole lot better in sports than October baseball, and it’s not to be taken for granted to have a dog in the fight. Windows of greatness like these two franchises have been in for more than half a decade don’t last forever, and it would be a shame to spend any more of that time at the throats of folks who don’t deserve it.