Asked what he thought the odds were of a team that once was 15 games under .500 winding up in the World Series, Lance Berkman gave it some thought.

“Well, how many times has it happened — ever?” Berkman replied. “Once in history, right? (Right.) And that was in 1914, right? (Right — by the old ‘Miracle’ Braves.) So what does that tell you? That it’s virtually impossible. But somehow, we did it. It’s hard to believe, really.” ~ESPN

With all apologies to my White Sox fan neighbours exulting in their latest World Series trip, Houston’s 5-1 win last night, clinching the National League series 4-2, was by far the more impressive achievement and the far more meaningful event, if we can really ever attribute much meaning to sporting events. Not only do teams that started off as poorly as the Astros almost never reach the World Series, but Houston has had an unusual run of missed chances, two of which I remember painfully and distinctly (the fateful 1986 series against the hated Mets, and last year’s choke against the Cardinals). Normally, I don’t write about sports or the teams that I have followed for years, but, as an Astros fan since I first saw them in 1984 in the Astrodome, I am breaking with my usual silence to pay tribute to one of the few genuinely admirable baseball teams still around.

All the stories about this Astros team seem like a strange throwback to a bygone era where players stayed with their teams for their entire careers (see Biggio and Bagwell) and there was still some modicum of real hometown loyalty. Thus you have seen Roger Clemens, 43, returning for still another year to help his hometown club alongside his friend, Pettite. There is Craig Biggio, the seemingly tireless, gritty warhorse, who has finally reached the championship series in what may now well be his final year after a record 2,564 regular season games without going to the World Series (and whose all-time HBP record and trademark tar-stained, dust-covered helmet remind us of a time when professional baseball players were not the pathetic, posing prima donnas of the present). Then there is the entire team, in spite of one of the ugliest starts of a season I can remember in 21 years of following the team, managing to scrape and struggle back to the wild card and get to the championship. If Americans love those sorts of stories, they should love the Astros.

Even though I moved away from east Texas when I was six, I have never stopped supporting the Astros. That loyalty was not misplaced. Yes, it is only a game, and it has no great significance in the scheme of things, but I can’t help thinking that there is something basically good in this team’s success. Go Astros!