Catching up with ... Astros legend Bill Doran

May 14th, 2020

HOUSTON -- If the thought of having seven grandkids makes you feel old, you might want to stop here. Doran, the steady and dependable second baseman of the 1980s Astros, will turn 62 years old later this month, which serves as further proof that nobody stays young forever.

Doran, voted the Astros’ Most Valuable Player in 1985 and ’87 and the primary leadoff hitter on the memorable '86 team that pushed the mighty New York Mets in the National League Championship Series, still works in baseball as a special assistant for the Cincinnati Reds. Doran was born and raised in Ohio and still lives in the Cincinnati area. His seven grandchildren range in age from 3 to 15 years old.

Drafted by the Astros in the sixth round of the 1979 MLB Draft out of the University of Miami (Ohio), Doran played 12 seasons in the big leagues, mostly with Houston. He received some down-ballot MVP Award votes in ’85-87 and had his best season in ’87, when he played 162 games and slashed .283/.365/.406 with 16 homers, 79 RBIs and 31 steals.

On a franchise that can brag of Hall of Fame second basemen in Joe Morgan and Craig Biggio, and another second baseman, José Altuve, whose career is on a Hall of Fame arc, Doran still stands tall as one of the club’s elite players at the position.

We spent some time recently catching up with Doran for our latest entry in the “Catching Up With” series: As someone who grew up watching you play, it’s hard to believe you have grandkids.

Doran: Any time someone brings up a baseball card, though, to have me sign, it reminds me how old I am getting. Just the way it goes. You keep moving on and keep trying to enjoy the things that are out there for you to enjoy, and now it’s the grandkids. When I was done as a player, of course, I enjoyed my kids playing. The girls were volleyball players and my son played football, basketball and baseball, so I got a chance to watch all that. Now it’s onto the next, where I’m sitting there watching the grandkids do all the same things. So you still get baseball cards in the mail to sign or in person?

Doran: Sometimes they’ll send them to the stadium here in Cincinnati, or they’ll send them to the Spring Training site out in Arizona. Sometimes I’ll run into somebody at a game where I’m watching the Minor League kids play, and there will be some guys there that kind of know we’re in town, so they’ll come up and bring their cards. Even some of the kids. It still exists. It’s still out there. You probably see a lot of rainbow uniforms when you’re signing those old cards. All these years later, what are your thoughts on the rainbow uniforms? Hard to believe you wore them, or do you wish you could get back in one?

Doran: I wish I could get back in one [laughs]. Absolutely. You know what? At that time, anything that had a Major League logo next to it that said you’re playing in the big leagues, you’d wear anything. As years have gone on, the fact that I got there in enough time to actually wear them, I’m really proud of that. There’s never going to be anything like them again. If you miss the rainbow jerseys, how much do you miss the Astrodome? That 1986 team was built for the dome. Speed and defense. It fit your game.

Doran: There’s never going to be another Astrodome. I don’t care what they build. ... It was one of a kind, and it was way before its time. The uniforms, the Astrodome, the whole thing behind it, you look back and go, ‘What a neat time.’ As a guy who came up with the Astros and played in some playoff games, how invested were you in watching them win the World Series in 2017?

Doran: Just thrilled for them. Actually, I’m thrilled for the city. I don’t know anybody there anymore. There’s been so much turnover through the years, it’s not like there’s anyone there now I know. Dusty [Baker]'s there now, and I really like Dusty and certainly wish him well. The last few years, there really hasn’t been anybody really affiliated, other than Craig [Biggio] and Nolan [Ryan] as far as field guys, that I really knew. I can honestly tell you I’ve always rooted for the city. I root for the city in football and basketball as well. I think it’s a marvelous place, a great place to play.

For people that didn’t grow up there that ended up playing there, I think you see a lot of guys that ended up staying there. They’re spread out all over in multiple sports. That’s because the city is such a great place. When I’m watching the games, there are other guys on other teams -- coaches, managers -- that I actually know, but I always get back to rooting for the city. They deserve it. Even after all the Astros have accomplished in recent years, the 1986 team holds such a special place for so many fans. Why do you think that is?

Doran: I’m certainly thrilled to hear that. I thought we were a great group. Gosh, what a good group of guys. I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you that I’m thrilled to hear it. You helped Biggio make the transition from catcher to second base, a move he says made it possible for him to get to Cooperstown. As a second baseman, what are your thoughts on watching Altuve?

Doran: Obviously, I was close to Craig and watching him do what he did, I really enjoyed it. I’m enjoying watching Cavan [Biggio of the Blue Jays] do what he does now. That’s like family. The José Altuve kid, what a fun kid to watch -- offensively, defensively, on the bases. There’s nothing he can’t do. … When you talk to people who actually have known him through his childhood and things of that nature, you always hear what a great kid he is. That’s really neat to hear.

When you’re old like I am and watching these guys and don’t know them, you certainly hope they’re good guys and good people. And then when you hear somebody that actually knows them and talks so highly of them, it makes you feel good. Altuve falls into that category. I’ve never heard a bad word about this kid. OK, you know I’d bring this back to the 1986 Astros. You guys blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the NLCS and eventually lost in extra innings, losing the series, 4-2, to the Mets. Had you won Game 6, series MVP Mike Scott would have started Game 7. What do you think would have become of the ’86 Astros had you held on to win Game 6 that year and evened the series?

Doran: We’re never going to know. I certainly would like to go back and take our chances.