Culture / Sporting Life

Jose Altuve Goes Legendary, Proves He’s an All-Time Houston Sports Great: Forget Aaron Judge, Hakeem and Earl Campbell Should Be Making Room

BY // 10.05.17

After the third one leaves the park, Alex Bregman just throws his hands over his head and smiles the smile of an aw-shucks fifth grader. This is what Jose Altuve can do to other Major League Baseball players. He can turn them back into slack-jawed, disbelieving little kids.

There is no way this is possible. Not three home runs in one playoff game from the littlest (and best) player on the field. Not Astros 8, Red Sox 2 in a playoff opener that is everything a hurricane walloped city could ask for — and more.

Jose Altuve isn’t just the no-doubt, should-be-runaway American League MVP. He’s a damn magician.

“It’s just impressive,” shortstop Carlos Correa says in the Astros clubhouse afterwards. “So much fun. To see my little brother hit all those home runs…”

The 23-year-old Correa is actually four years younger than Altuve, but why quibble? Altuve is everyone’s little brother — and the very best player in professional baseball. What Altuve pulls off on a warm October night in Houston, with the Minute Maid Park roof closed, and the whole place literally shaking from the orange-clad fans’ delight, isn’t just impressive.

It’s legendary.

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This is the type of stuff that Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth get immortalized for — it goes so far beyond the real deal. Jose Altuve sees the Astros are in the playoffs, and decides to completely take over Game 1, to set a tone that the shellshocked Boston Red Sox may never recover from.

Merely excellent baseball players can’t do this kind of stuff. Only the great of the great. Just when you don’t think Jose Altuve can possibly do any more, he does even more. Again.

“He’s not known as a home run hitter,” Astros utility star Marwin Gonzalez says. “He’s just known as a great hitter. But he can do stuff like that.”

Few other humans on the planet, in any sport, can. Altuve can just seize the most important games of all by the throat and never let go. Everyone’s been comparing Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson to Michael Jordan lately because of that no-longer-mocked Dabo Swinney quote. It turns out we may have the right city, but the wrong sport — and the wrong athlete.

This performance does not just validate the real truth of the AL MVP chatter. Aaron Judge, please. You’re seriously not talking about four-strikeout Aaron Judge, right? No, this goes beyond that. This three home run playoff game proves without a doubt that Jose Altuve is one of Houston’s all-time greatest sports figures. Hakeem Olajuwon, Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan, J.J. Watt, Carl Lewis and Simone Biles should just go ahead and make room. There’s another member of the club.

If that’s not accepted, it’s only because Jose Altuve is still routinely criminally underrated — sometimes even in his own city. Even many superstar athletes never have a playoff performance quite like this.

After it’s over, Altuve returns to his locker from the shower and seems almost surprised to find Gene Dias, the Astros’ vice president of media relations, waiting for him. “Do I have an interview to do or something?” Altuve asks.

Yes, when you go historic, you do actually have to sit on the dais in the main press conference room, Jose.

OK, Altuve may have been half joking. But the scene (and many that follow) still show how humble this 5-foot-6 superstar still carries himself.

“I was surprised,” Altuve says, swearing this is the first time he’s ever hit three home runs in a game on any level. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Just imagine how the Boston Red Sox feel.

No-Nerve Astros

The first two wildcard days of these 2017 MLB Playoffs had been beyond wild, but the Astros reintroduce dominance in the first game of the division series round. It turns out these Astros are more than ready for October. They’re not afraid. They’re less spooked than even Stephen King by things that light up in the night.

Instead, they’ve been chomping at the bit, anticipating — and planning — for this moment.

“Our team was so excited to get out there,” Bregman says. “We were so ready to play. We had so many guys ready to step up.”

These Astros are a true curse (or as Larry David might say, a baseball fatwa) on anyone who takes the mound against them.

Chris Sale, one of most fearsome figures in baseball, finds out just how ready in a flash. The Red Sox ace sees Bregman, the second Astros batter, take him deep. Then, Altuve — the No. 3 hitter — starts his spree with a no-doubt shot to deep left center field. Back-to-back stadium shakers. Welcome to the playoffs, Sale!

So much for Boston’s Game 1 advantage. These Astros hitters are relentless, no more so than No. 27 himself. They just keep battling through at-bat after at-bat, ceding not one little thing to opposing pitchers. Even Larry David is less fixated on being right — and less annoying while dogmatically trying to prove it.

These Astros are a true curse (or as David might say, a baseball fatwa) on anyone who takes the mound against them.

“This team is just very determined,” Bregman tells PaperCty. “We go up there with a plan to hit — and we stick to our plan.”

When Marwin Gonzalez — who hit 23 home runs and led the team in RBI during the season with 90 — is batting eighth in your playoff lineup, you’re beyond deep. That’s almost just unfair to opposing pitchers.

Altuve’s approach — and drive — clearly influences every other Astro. Altuve sets the relaxed but ready tone when he jokes about fighting with Correa like brothers too in the pre-series press conferences. Then, he goes up to the plate, attacking. It’s not as easy to make your teammates better in baseball as it is in basketball, and even football.

Jose Altuve still manages to do it. This is a legend walking amongst us. If you can’t see that, you’re just not looking clearly.

This new playoff legend, pulls on a simple black T-shirt and black jeans, before heading to that interview room and the waiting horde. No pretense here.

“He’s just Altuve,” Correa says, from one locker over. “The best player on the planet.”

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