After the public address announcer at Minute Maid Park exclaimed, “Ladies and gentlemen, the 2017 World Series championship pennant!” to a cheering crowd, an awkward stretch unfolded, as the cover refused to become unfurled. A brave stadium employee climbed a ladder attached to a giant light fixture, attempting to tug at a strap holding the cover in place, while two others used a pole and a leaf blower to jostle it free.
Meanwhile cameras caught Astros players, including 2017 American League MVP Jose Altuve and AL Championship Series MVP Justin Verlander, cracking smiles as they stood on the field. Eventually, the banner was revealed, to a roar from the thousands in attendance.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Astros President Reid Ryan said a stiff wind was to blame for getting the cover twisted into place, but that the employees were prepared to spring into action for just such a scenario. The unveiling put a cap on a celebration of the seven-game triumph over the Dodgers in last year’s World Series, one that brought the franchise its first championship in a history that began as the Houston Colt .45’s in 1962.
After a video recap of the Astros’ march to the title was shown Monday at the ballpark, team owner Jim Crane and his wife, Whitney Crane, emerged on a wagon pulled by the Budweiser Clydesdales to show off the Commissioner’s Trophy. Then General Manager Jeff Luhnow thanked the crowd for “helping the Astros reach new heights in 2017.”
The pregame ceremonies also included an emotional moment, when Astros coach Rich Dauer threw out the first pitch. The 65-year-old Dauer, who won a World Series title as a player with the 1983 Orioles, nearly died during Houston’s championship parade last year when he suffered an acute subdural hematoma and collapsed. He underwent emergency brain surgery and reportedly was given just a 3 percent chance of survival, but after being unconscious for three days, he eventually recovered and was on hand Monday for a grateful hug from Manager A. J. Hinch.
After the Baltimore and Houston lineups were introduced, a banner commemorating the Astros’ 2005 National League championship (the team switched to the AL in 2013) was unveiled with little trouble. The same could not be said of the World Series banner, but no one seemed unhappy at the extra wait, least of all Altuve and Verlander.
Actually, it’s likely that some people were, in fact, angered by the time it took to complete the unveiling: Falcons fans. That’s because while the Astros employees were doing their best to dislodge the cover, another banner could be seen in the background, noting the 28-3 deficit famously overcome by the Patriots in Super Bowl LI.