Mattress Mack stepped up for Houston during Hurricane Harvey — and he had an Astros playoff moment. (Photo @MarkBermanFox26.)
Jose Altuve is a dominant MVP force for the Houston Astros.
Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel quickly bonded.
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane keeps a close eye on things in his office at Minute Maid Park. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan.)
Before Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve made Minute Maid Park literally shake just minutes into the Houston Astros’ playoff opener, one of Houston’s true Hurricane Harvey heroes almost brought the house down. Mattress Mack — the furniture store tycoon and TV pitchman — received the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
And the unconventional Houston icon — who exemplified the giving side of Houston during Harvey by opening up his two Gallery Furniture stores to anyone who needed shelter almost from the moment the first rains hit, while others infamously stayed on the sidelines — made the most of it. The rail skinny, white-haired Mack threw a strike from the mound, showing that age and physique really don’t matter when it comes to this guy.
Mattress Mack gets it done. No matter the situation. This is a guy who thought to use his furniture delivery trucks to rescue people and bring them to the dry safety of his stores during the worst moments of Harvey. A baseball moment — even with 40,000 people watching — isn’t going to faze him.
Of course, Altuve took it from there, hitting three home runs in one playoff game, pushing the Astros to an 8-2 win over the still national-darling Boston Red Sox, putting on one of the most remarkable postseason performances ever. MVP indeed.
Dressed in an orange Astros jersey, Mack received one of the largest ovations of the pregame by far — certainly the loudest for someone who wasn’t one of the Astros biggest stars. Jim McIngvale is Mattress Mack’s real name — and he’s handling his dose of national celebrity post Harvey (CBS Evening News featured him in a long story — and multiple New York papers wrote about the first pitch honor) in his usually excitedly ho-hum manner.
Long recognized locally because of his memorable Houston TV ads and his support of Houston sports teams (often involving memorable bets), Mattress Mack isn’t going to let a little national press go to his head.
Mack’s moment highlighted a pregame that had a bald eagle fly over, the on-field recognition of a host of Houston First Responders and Clay Walker — who’s apparently turned into Houston’s version of Michael Buffer without anyone realizing it (or even approving it?) — belting out the national anthem and Ed Emmett’s call-out game intro. “Houston strong. Play on,” said Emmett, who didn’t draw nearly the same type of crowd love as Mattress Mack.
Many Houstonians waited a long time for this October moment — and they had to wait more to get in. While Major League Baseball always ups security for its postseason games, the measures seemed even more heightened in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. The lane of Texas Avenue closest to Minute Maid Park has been completely barricaded off, bringing back visions of the measures put in place on Kirby during last February’s Super Bowl.
But once inside, everyone quickly dropped back into the fun of October baseball.