Culture / Sporting Life

George Springer and Jeff Bagwell Trophy Bond, Carlos Correa Goes Marriage Crazy and Charlie Morton Sees Water Through the Champagne: The Astros Win It All For Houston

BY // 11.02.17

LOS ANGELES — Cradling the Commissioner’s Trophy in his arms, rubbing the biggest prize in all of baseball, George Springer takes it all in. The happy chaos going on in the Houston Astros’ clubhouse all around him — the room reeks of champagne, Budweiser and cigar smoke already; there’s even champagne dripping from the ceiling in spots. The wide-eyed grins on his teammates’ faces. The horde of reporters trying to maneuver through the cramped space, many wearing ponchos to shield themselves from the indiscriminate joyful spraying.

“This is what you play for,” Springer says, still holding the trophy that only baseball’s champions get. “This is what you play for.”

This — and Houston. The Astros are world champions after the most epic playoff run of all time — and they took their flood-soaked, Hurricane Harvey-devastated city along for every step of the wild ride. The finish is a 5-1 brushback of the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series. The richest team in baseball is no match for the most determined when it counts most.

The Dodgers played for a world title. The Astros played for so much more.

“Flying back to Houston this time, with that trophy, is going to be something else,” Astros pitcher Charlie Morton says. “Every time we’ve flown back after Harvey, it’s a little emotional. Because you still see some of the water, and you still see the debris, and you still see some of the devastation by the reservoirs.

“There’s people who’ve been through so much. And to fly back this time, with the trophy, I mean…”

Morton stops, shakes his head and smiles. Some things are bigger than words.

A crown for the city that always comes back.

You can argue that these talent-packed young Houston Astros of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bregman would have still won the World Series if Harvey never happened. But there’s no questioning the added resolve it brought to every level of this Astros organization.

“It added a whole other dimension to it,” Astros owner Jim Crane says, his orange tie still straight as an arrow 30 minutes after his team’s won a world title.

“We did it,” Springer says quietly, much later in the clubhouse. “We did it.”

The Astros are champions for the first time in their franchise’s 56-year history. They’re also the first Texas team to ever win the World Series, delivering a cosmic kick right to the behind of the Texas Rangers. The third longest championship-less drought in baseball is done, stomped out by a special team that dispatched of baseball’s most historic franchises one after the other along the way.

The Red Sox in four. The Yankees in seven. And now, the Dodgers in seven. A crown for the city that always comes back.

There’s never been a playoff run quite like this. Houston, you have an all-time team.

“Not everybody can do it. It’s hard to win these things,” Craig Biggio, the Astros great who never got to win one and lived through so much playoff disappointment, says as the celebration goes on around him on the field. “These guys are just good.

“What a team. I just love watching them play, love watching them fight. You’ve got Jose Altuve, the modern day Tony Gwynn. Springer — that guy is ridiculously talented. I could go on and on…”

The Astros of Jeff Luhnow are somehow deeper than the best team money can buy. Despite its $265 million payroll — easily the highest in the Majors — Los Angeles does not have as many answers as Houston. Just like the Yankees didn’t the series before. Not when it matters most.

“I’m just glad we could have a game where we win it all that was kind of easy going,” Astros outfielder Josh Reddick says. “There wasn’t that much stress. We had enough stress in these playoffs already.”

In their two Game Sevens, the Astros outscored the Yankees and Dodgers by a combined 9-1 margin. That’s closing like Jon Hamm at a bar on singles night.

Happy Chaos and Carlos Correa’s Marriage Proposal

This SoCal Game 7 ends with Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel throwing his arms over head after recording the final out on a short toss from Altuve. It ends with Altuve and Correa jumping into each other’s arms for the happiest happy dance ever. It ends with Brian McCann, the veteran catcher the Yankees gave away who made so many trips to the mound to steady Astros pitchers during these playoffs that he drove some Fox viewers crazy, wrapping up one of those pitchers (Morton) in an embrace.

It also ends with a marriage proposal. There is Correa, the Astros young future MVP candidate, dropping to his knee and proposing to his girlfriend Daniella Rodriguez (the 2016 Miss Texas USA) right there on the Dodger Stadium grass. And yes, he had quite the ring ready. Rodriguez shows off the glittering monster diamond to her giddy girlfriends even as the Astros celebration continues.

“I told Carlos, you just won the World Series,” Astros pitcher Lance McCullers says later. “You’re 23. Now is not the time to get married.”

McCullers is kidding. Sort of. That’s what these Astros do. That’s part of what makes them such a fun team to root for and watch. There’s genuine love, trust and an easy closeness in this clubhouse. And it comes through in almost everything the Astros do.

“I’m just glad we could have a game where we win it all that was kind of easy going. There wasn’t that much stress. We had enough stress in these playoffs already.”

Springer even uses the platform of winning the World Series MVP (a tricked out Chevy truck comes with the honor) to get in a friendly little jab at Astros utility star Marwin Gonzalez.

“I wouldn’t be here without every one of you guys,” Springer says. “I love every single one of you guys — from the front office staff to the clubhouse guys. Even Marwin Gonzalez.”

Jeff Bagwell provided a link to Astros teams past.

Watching it all, even Astros Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell — one of the most hard-nosed baseball players in the history of the game — cannot help get sucked up into this team’s happy ways.

“I used to be one of most strict, by-the-book baseball guys,” Bagwell says. “But this team’s shown me another way. They have so much fun out there. You can see it in everything they do. And it works for them. They’re relaxed, they’re just playing.

“I wish I let myself have as much fun playing baseball as those guys do.”

Joy and The City

The joy starts early on the first championship night in Astros history. Springer leads off Game 7 with a scorching double into the corner, setting the tone from the game’s very first moment. Just one inning later, he sends a home run soaring into the left centerfield bleachers, right into the middle of the stunned Dodgers fans. Right into baseball history.

That’s five home runs in seven World Series games for Springer. Remember, this is the guy who went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts in Game 1, the leadoff force everyone but Astros manager A.J. Hinch wanted to drop in the lineup.

“I told Carlos, you just won the World Series. You’re 23. Now is not the time to get married.”

Clayton Kershaw — the Highland Park product who’s the highest paid player, and the best pitcher, in baseball — comes out of the Dodgers bullpen to throw four scoreless innings. But it’s too late to change the Astros’ destiny.

“Maybe one of these days I won’t fail, we won’t fail and we’ll win one of these things,’’ Kershaw says.

On this night, Morton is the one throwing the final pitch — and getting the last out, the party-starting out — after four scoreless innings of his own. The same Morton who’s bonded so well with the fourth Major League city he’s called home.

Morton keeps both Justin Verlander, the ace who might have never been traded for if Harvey didn’t hit, and Dallas Keuchel in the bullpen. The Astros won’t need one of their big-name pitchers to save them on championship night,.

A crown for the city that always comes back.

“I’m thinking, ‘Is this really happening? Is this really the third out?’ ” Morton says of the moment no Houston kid who’s a baseball fan will ever forget.

Later, Morton will think of his adopted city and all those people who fought back against all that water. A lot of the Astros will find their thoughts drifting to Harvey in the aftermath of what Altuve calls “the greatest moment in my baseball life.”

This city, this team, this championship and that hurricane are forever linked.

“We’re so proud to represent Houston,” Hinch says. “We’re not completely rebuilt yet as a city — and some people are still struggling. But we want everyone around the country to know what Houston is all about.

“We’re playing for one of the best cities in the country that people really still don’t know enough about.”

Later, when the Astros party is dying down (temporarily), Verlander stands in a back room of the visitor’s clubhouse, smoking a big cigar, happily talking to Altuve. After 13 years with the Detroit Tigers, Verlander is finally a champion with the Houston Astros.

During the game, supermodel Kate Upton wears her custom jean jacket with Verlander on the back in big glittery letters. Even the biggest celebrities start acting like high schoolers around this team. Afterwards, Verlander and Upton share a big kiss. They’ll be married in Italy later this month.

But first there’s a parade back in Houston on Friday to take care of. HISD has even given all its students the day off on Friday. Call it Astros Party Day.

“I hope Houston’s ready to party,” Reddick says, standing in the middle of the clubhouse in his customary series-winning speedo and championship wrestling belt outfit. “Because I know I am — and we’re bringing it home.”

A crown for the city that always come back. There’s nothing more right than that.

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