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Grit, determination define Astros under Hinch

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Three years ago, when winning the World Series was still a distant dream for the Astros, new manager A.J. Hinch had two important conversations with second baseman Jose Altuve.

One was a get-to-know-you chat after Hinch's hiring following the 2014 season. It dealt with routine stuff. Only in attempting to change the culture of the Astros, nothing was routine.

HOUSTON -- Three years ago, when winning the World Series was still a distant dream for the Astros, new manager A.J. Hinch had two important conversations with second baseman Jose Altuve.

One was a get-to-know-you chat after Hinch's hiring following the 2014 season. It dealt with routine stuff. Only in attempting to change the culture of the Astros, nothing was routine.

Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

"We talked a lot about getting better," Hinch said. "We talked about the 100-loss seasons. We talked about the grind that had taken its toll. I asked him one question: 'Why don't we talk about winning?'"

Hinch steered every conversation with a player, coach or executive in that direction. In the end, everything had to be about that. By the time Houston won Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, those chats had come full circle.

"We had this little burn in us that never stopped, and that raises the bar even higher," Hinch said. "We're going to talk about winning a lot now. Obviously, as we go into next season, we're going to have to handle success equally as well, if not better, than we handled the failure. That for me is one of the most exciting challenges."

Hinch's other memorable talk with Altuve occurred after the Astros had been eliminated by the Royals in Game 5 of the American League Division Series in 2015.

"He walked into my office and said, 'This is on me. I feel it's my fault,'" Hinch remembered.

Hinch assured him the Astros get nowhere near the playoffs without the man who is now a three-time AL batting champion and favorite to win the 2017 AL Most Valuable Player Award.

Video: Correa, Altuve, Springer greeted by fans at parade

In four seasons (2011-14) before the '15 playoff appearance, Houston averaged 104 losses. To go from that low point to winning the franchise's first World Series will be remembered forever by the people who made it happen.

"Our players were really at the end of their gas tank [last week]," Hinch said. "This is a lot of baseball. There wasn't a single guy that felt good, including the coaching staff. We're all beat up at the end of this run because of the emotional roller coaster you go through, the physical grind that happens.

"To a man, these guys played through a lot of different things. But you'd have to rip these dudes off the field for them not to be able to play. I love how our guys posted at the end."

For Hinch, the joy -- both personal and professional -- is something he's still wrapping his mind around.

"That's the best feeling in the world as a coach," he said. "This was the biggest smiles, the best celebration, the best hugs you can possibly imagine on a baseball field. It's thrilling. There's nothing like it.

"To watch George Springer go from having to talk about strikeouts after the first game to winning the World Series MVP, there's a lot of emotion involved in that when you're in charge of leading 'em on the field.

"The moment that these guys run in the dog pile in the middle of the field, that first champagne that comes on after we get into the clubhouse, it's hard to describe because it's hard to get that feeling. I loved every second of it, and I want to do it again."

Among the hundreds of text messages Hinch received since Game 7 were those from former managers, coaches, players, etc. All of them offered advice. Actually, the same advice.

Video: Crane speaks to fans about Astros' World Series climb

"This is new for me, for all of us really," Hinch said. "The texts were telling me to soak up, to take a lot of pictures and videos, because at some point this thing passes and you move into the future and you want to enjoy this as much as you can. It does represent a lot of hard work and a lot of people spending years in this organization."

And there was this memory:

"Think about this picture," he said. "We have two televisions in the dugout to see each bullpen. I have Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander warming up in Game 7 of the World Series. Both as relievers. Both may be coming in for one out apiece to win the World Series.

"I'm looking out at Charlie Morton pitching his heart out. Our front office was steadfast that he was going to be a difference-maker on our team coming off an injury-riddled season.

"That never happens. Our two top pitchers warming up in case another one of our pitchers needs some help in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series. I'll forever remember that picture and that feeling as part of this process."

When Morton finally did get the last out, Hinch saw Astros legend Enos Cabell weeping on the field. He saw the two Hall of Famers -- Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell -- with the same joy the current players had. He saw the parents of players crying.

"I think that's what starts to resonate with players is how many people represented them and supported them," Hinch said, "and Astros alumni celebrating from around the world."

Even if Houston wins the World Series again -- or multiple times -- nothing is likely to be as meaningful as this first one. That's the part the Astros are still getting their minds around.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

Astros' World Series parade: In Real Life

MLB.com

The Astros celebrated their first World Series championship with their fans, and MLB.com was on the scene in downtown Houston.

Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

The Astros celebrated their first World Series championship with their fans, and MLB.com was on the scene in downtown Houston.

Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

5:24 p.m. ET: And that's a wrap
Astros owner Jim Crane, manager A.J. Hinch, World Series MVP George Springer, and teammates Dallas Keuchel and Josh Reddick addressed the fans, who turned out in droves to cheer for the champions.

Tweet from @BenDuBose: Confetti flies. #Astros #EarnedHistory pic.twitter.com/gpOhTOhXBO

Video: Correa, Altuve, Springer greeted by fans at parade

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: Reddick: "Wooston, we don't have a problem. We have a championship."And Reddick saves the day

5:11 p.m. ET: It's officially "Astros Day"
Mayor Sylvester Turner declared Nov. 3, 2017, as "Houston Astros Day" in the city of Houston, and Gov. Greg Abbott did the same for the state of Texas.

Tweet from @BenDuBose: George Springer alluding to Jansen���s quote: ���I was told before Game 7 we didn���t have a chance. How���d that work out?��� #Astros #EarnedHistory pic.twitter.com/AHIvORuR2d

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: "Hey Houston, we did it," Hinch tells the crowd"Don't forget where you were when they made the last out."

Video: Crane speaks to fans about Astros' World Series climb

Tweet from @MLBGIFs: Earned it. #WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/1cvxgOM9XF

Celebrate with the best moments from the Astros' victory parade

4:49 p.m. ET: Champs take the stage
The massive crowd outside City Hall erupted into cheers when the players arrived, after Orbit fired up the fans with a giant "World Series champions" flag as chants of "Let's go, Astros" broke out.

Tweet from @BenDuBose: Houston City Hall has a new look. #Astros #EarnedHistory pic.twitter.com/ffF6ndy0vv

Tweet from @richardjustice: pic.twitter.com/tH4lDU3bss

4:06 p.m. ET: Astros approaching final stage of parade
When the firetrucks arrive at City Hall, the World Series champions will take the stage in front of the throngs of fans packing the surrounding area.

Tweet from @Cut4: The city of Houston's throwing a really nice parade. https://t.co/QobumVgGL2 pic.twitter.com/k4AuaAeovs

Tweet from @MLBGIFs: #HowToBePopularIn4WordsWin the #WorldSeries. pic.twitter.com/ywTsa8fzn4

Tweet from @BenDuBose: #Astros fans cooling off in the water in front of City Hall, awaiting the team's arrival to the main stage. #AstrosParade #EarnedHistory pic.twitter.com/8eV5cFzWaU

3:43 p.m. ET: Magical ride to continue
Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa will be honored Saturday with a victory parade down Main Street U.S.A. at the Magic Kingdom Park at Disney World.

Tweet from @DisneyParks: The stars of the Houston @Astros World Series championship team are ���going to Disney World��� on Saturday! Details: https://t.co/3T8ZXD9rdX

3:29 p.m. ET: Astros past and present
Reddick (wearing his title belt and giant orange hat) and Jake Marisnick are on the move, as were Hall of Famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.

3:16 p.m. ET: Precious cargo
With an assist from the Houston Fire Department, the Commissioner's Trophy is being trucked into downtown Houston, along with the World Series champions.

Tweet from @BenDuBose: Carlos Correa throws up the H to raucous Houston fans. #Astros #EarnedHistory pic.twitter.com/HImYA5HVxg

2:46 p.m. ET: Houston showing Astros love
Fans were lining the streets, even into parking garages, to welcome the World Series champions as start time for the parade approached.

Tweet from @BenDuBose: These #Astros posters are being given out at City Hall. Pretty cool: pic.twitter.com/r3VjzIcGKx

2:23 p.m. ET: Top dog
Even Houston's finest K-9 was showing Astros pride.

Tweet from @BenDuBose: With one hour to go, here���s the folks awaiting the #Astros directly in front of the City Hall stage. Massive turnout. #EarnedHistory pic.twitter.com/nRtTORwbVB

1:28 p.m. ET: Seeing orange
The fans are catching the eyes of the Astros' players as they gather for the start of the parade.

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: "Sorry, I"m late. I was taking selfies with the best fans in baseball...in traffic," Bregman showing up to press conference.

Tweet from @brianmctaggart: "Driving through the city and seeing a bunch of orange everywhere is pretty special," Astros P Chris Devenski.

Tweet from @ABREG_1: Who's ready for this parade?????

12:26 p.m. ET: H-Town is hopping
Horns are honking everywhere as the fans clearly are amped with anticipation to greet their champs.

Tweet from @BenDuBose: Milam and Walker at 11 a.m. #Astros #EarnHistory pic.twitter.com/BYm7JavDyO

11:56 a.m. ET: What do you say, Joe?
Natalie Guerrero, who has been here since 8:30 a.m. CT, has a very important question for Astros right-hander Joe Musgrove.

11:39 a.m. ET: Early to rise
Fans hit the streets well before the parade started to celebrate a championship 56 seasons in the making.

Tweet from @alysonfooter: People lined up outside Astros team store at MMP hours before parade. pic.twitter.com/4pK4l6Cwu0

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, Josh Reddick, George Springer

Astros parade today 56 years in the making!

Celebration begins 2 p.m. CT today in downtown Houston
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Who doesn't love a parade? Certainly not fans of the Astros, who will gather on the streets in downtown Houston this afternoon for what figures to be one of the biggest parades in the city's history to celebrate the 2017 World Series champions.

Dress like a champion for the parade! Get Astros World Series title gear

Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Who doesn't love a parade? Certainly not fans of the Astros, who will gather on the streets in downtown Houston this afternoon for what figures to be one of the biggest parades in the city's history to celebrate the 2017 World Series champions.

Dress like a champion for the parade! Get Astros World Series title gear

Full Game Coverage

The Astros, who beat the Dodgers, 5-1, in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium to win their first World Series championship after 56 seasons, will be paraded through the streets of downtown, beginning at 2 p.m. CT. Live coverage of the parade can be seen on MLB Network and MLB.com beginning at 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT. MLB.com will also capture all of the excitement leading up to the parade with real-time photos and videos through its In Real Life coverage.

:: World Series presented by YouTube TV: Complete coverage ::

The parade begins and ends at City Hall, where Astros owner Jim Crane, manager A.J. Hinch, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and members of the Astros will address the crowd following the parade on the steps of City Hall. The route begins at the corner of Smith and Lamar Streets just a couple blocks away from Sam Houston Park and will then proceed north on Smith Street before winding its way through downtown.

• 56 seasons to a title

"I exhaled and I was really thrilled for our team," Hinch said after Wednesday's game. "It won't hit us until we get home in front of our whole city and we celebrate and we bring the trophy home. … We played pretty deep this year so we'll soak all this up."

The Astros celebrated in their hotel in downtown Los Angeles late Wednesday before flying home to Houston on Thursday with the Commissioner's Trophy in tow -- though Jose Altuve took a detour to New York to appear on "The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon." Astros fans will get their first look at the champoinship hardware during the parade. The Houston Independent School District canceled classes for the day, and some other area districts are allowing kids to skip school with an excused absence to honor the champs.

Springer tucks in trophy for flight

"They wanted everybody to be proud of us," Hinch said of the fans. "They wanted to win a championship as much as we did. They supported us in the good times. I know there were some lean years a few years back, but it will be long forgotten with a championship."

Video: Astros fans celebrate team's first World Series win

Indeed. The Astros lost at least 106 games in three consecutive seasons, bottoming out at 111 losses in 2013 -- their first year in the American League. As they continued to stockpile young talent through trades and the Draft, the wins started to come.

This year, Houston fans grew to love Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick, Dallas Keuchel and, of course, Justin Verlander. It was the first World Series title for every player on the roster, and the first major sports title for the city of Houston since the NBA's Houston Rockets won back-to-back championship from 1994-95.

Video: Bregman on winning the World Series for Houston

The fans rallied around the Astros following the August devastation of Hurricane Harvey, which caused widespread flooding and damage and killed more than two dozen people in the area in August. The Astros began wearing a "Strong" patch on their chests, and a city and a baseball team were joined forever.

Fans celebrate at Minute Maid Park

After an unforgettable journey through October, Astros fans will get one final chance to cheer the champions on streets that will be filled with orange.

Tweet from @HoustonTX: City @astros #WorldSeries Championship Victory Parade info here https://t.co/uuEnrbbAmX #EarnHistory #HistoryEarned pic.twitter.com/Ik4EgZDSx3

"I don't think you can put it into words what it means to the people of Houston," Keuchel said. "We wear that patch and we wore it proudly. The people in Houston are never far from our minds. We know they're at Minute Maid watching, they're going crazy for us. … They deserve this as much as we do, man, and we're going to party hard."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

Hinch finds glory with style, substance

Astros manager builds relationships with players, shows faith in them
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, one of the first things manager Charlie Manuel did was look for a reporter from Cleveland.

"Tell 'em I did OK," Manuel said.

HOUSTON -- When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, one of the first things manager Charlie Manuel did was look for a reporter from Cleveland.

"Tell 'em I did OK," Manuel said.

Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

In the happiest hour of his professional life, Manuel still carried the sting of being fired by the Indians six years earlier.

Did Astros manager A.J. Hinch have something along those lines he would like to say?

:: World Series presented by YouTube TV: Complete coverage ::

"Well ...," he said.

Hinch said he hadn't forgotten an opposing manager or two who'd given him a cold shoulder when the D-backs hired him.

Nor had Hinch forgotten the sting of being fired by Arizona after parts of two seasons in 2009 and '10.

Nor had Hinch forgotten that plenty of people did not think he deserved another job and were openly surprised that Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow hired him three years ago.

What goes around …

Today, Hinch, 43, is the prototype for what the modern Major League manager should be. He builds lasting relationships with players. He jokes with them and listens to them.

When outfielder George Springer struck out four times in Game 1 of the World Series, Hinch told the media the idea of benching Springer or dropping him in the lineup was silly.

"He's too important to what we do here," Hinch said. "Listen, my players are going to know I've got their back."

Hinch did not mention that he had texted Springer and told him to hang in there and that great things were going to happen for him in this World Series.

Springer revealed those text messages after the Astros won the World Series on Wednesday with a 5-1 victory over the Dodgers in Game 7. Springer was named the Most Valuable Player of the Series for batting .379 with five home runs.

"When someone has your back, that allows you to go play hard and take chances and not worry about the other stuff," Springer said.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Hinch on Springer's MVP performance

Hinch did the same sort of thing after third baseman Alex Bregman began his Major League career in 2016 with a deep confidence-shaking slump.

Rather than bench Bregman, Hinch moved him from sixth to second in the batting order.

"That reflects what the organization thinks of you and what I think of you," Hinch said.

Minutes after Game 7 ended, a representative of the Hall of Fame asked for Bregman's third baseman's glove.

"We have another glove from a World Series third baseman," Bregman was told. "That's Brooks Robinson."

"Brooks Robinson?" Bregman said. "My dad's favorite player."

Bregman's glove is on its way to Cooperstown.

This World Series was a coming out party for the Astros, for owner Jim Crane's leadership, Luhnow's blueprint and the individual greatness of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, etc.

It was a tribute to reborn players like Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock, to veterans like Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, who have more yesterdays than tomorrows in this game.

But maybe the lasting impact of this World Series is that Hinch had one of the great World Series any manager has ever had.

That the Astros won the World Series is no surprise, since they have a roster that was been carefully built and smartly managed.

But to win a World Series when Hinch simply could not rely on many of the relievers that helped Houston win 101 regular-season games is astonishing.

Rather than try to coax his main guys back into the mix, Hinch came up with a brilliant Plan B on the fly.

One of his season's most reliable starters, Peacock, was invaluable in appearing in Games 1-3-5-7 as a reliever.

And Morton. He'd never pitched in relief prior to the World Series. But Morton was probably the key to the Astros winning Game 7 by pitching the final four innings to finish off the Dodgers.

Video: Astros' bullpen gets key outs in 2017 World Series

Morton is a tribute to Luhnow and his staff's ability to see things in players that others don't.

When Morton became a free agent last offseason, he was so frustrated with his career that he wondered if he'd even get a Major League deal.

The Astros were impressed enough to offer Morton two years, and he repaid them with two solid postseason starts -- five shutout innings in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in Game 4 of the World Series.

Then, working on three days' rest, Morton turned in a World Series performance he'll remember for the rest of his life.

In the end, Justin Verlander gave Houston two solid starts and Morton and Dallas Keuchel one apiece. Hinch had to scramble from there, and in Game 7, with starter Lance McCullers Jr. gone in the third inning, Peacock and Morton combined to go six innings.

Hinch called his bullpen management "a race to 27 outs." Without the usual late-inning guys lined up, he improvised.

And then when Morton got the 27th out in Game 7, a celebration filled with gratitude and elation began. Hinch's brilliant work was huge in getting the Astros where they hoped to be.

Hinch will be in downtown Houston on Friday to be honored with a championship parade that should be an outpouring of emotion and joy.

• Parade set for Friday in Houston

Not every manager gets a second chance. Hinch is grateful for his.

The Astros are even more grateful.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

Sarah's Take: 2017 Dodgers were special

Club will live in franchise lore despite coming up one win short in WS
MLB.com

In their 56th season in existence, the Houston Astros have won their first World Series championship.

Throughout the postseason, bolstered by a city that was heavily damaged by Hurricane Harvey in late August, the Astros proved that a franchise that builds from within and makes wise trades still can win a World Series within the current economic environment of baseball.

In their 56th season in existence, the Houston Astros have won their first World Series championship.

Throughout the postseason, bolstered by a city that was heavily damaged by Hurricane Harvey in late August, the Astros proved that a franchise that builds from within and makes wise trades still can win a World Series within the current economic environment of baseball.

:: World Series presented by YouTube TV: Complete coverage ::

The 2017 World Series was a historic, hard-fought series, and either the Astros or the Los Angeles Dodgers could have taken home the Commissioner's Trophy.

Every time the Astros had a scoring opportunity, they seemed to take advantage of it. Coming into the World Series, their bullpen was in disarray, but somehow manager A.J. Hinch -- going against current analytics -- used the relievers he felt could do the job. George Springer, who had five home runs, earned the World Series MVP Award. Justin Verlander, who was acquired from the Tigers on Aug. 31, pitched brilliantly for the Astros, especially in the American League Championship Series, where he was named the series MVP.

In 2017, the Dodgers had the most wins since they moved to Los Angeles six decades earlier. Most nights during the regular season, Los Angeles provided thrilling victories with a different hero practically every game. The Dodgers either won or lost as a team, never blaming a teammate for a poor performance.

They breezed through the National League Division Series against the D-backs and the NLCS against the defending-champion Cubs. Then, competing in the World Series for the first time since 1988, the Dodgers battled valiantly, and they almost won it all.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Taylor reflects on Dodgers' 2017 season

Many times during the regular season, some so-called fans said if the Dodgers didn't win a World Series championship in 2017, they would call this season another failure. But I beg to differ. This version of the Dodgers gave us everything that we want from a baseball team. They never gave up on winning a game. No matter which role a player was asked to step in by manager Dave Roberts, he did it to the best of his ability without complaint.

The front office attempted to obtain the players needed to win a championship, but unfortunately for the Dodgers, half of the new players didn't perform up to the club's expectations. Getting Tony Watson from the Pirates and Tony Cingrani from the Reds was beneficial to the Dodgers, and they performed well in the World Series.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Darvish leaves after 1 2/3 innings

However, obtaining Yu Darvish from the Rangers did not end up being a good move. At the time of the headline-catching trade, Darvish had just had his poorest performance of his MLB career. Despite having a great Dodgers debut against the Mets, Darvish mostly struggled with L.A. He pitched well during the NLDS and the NLCS, but unfortunately for the Dodgers, in the World Series, he was a disaster. In two Fall Classic starts, Darvish lasted only a combined 3 1/3 innings with a 21.60 ERA.

In the middle of August, the Dodgers acquired Curtis Granderson from the Mets, because the front office desired his World Series experience. However, Granderson was never able to make consistent contact after joining Los Angeles, and he didn't earn a spot on the World Series roster. If the Dodgers had won the World Series, Joc Pederson -- the player the Dodgers wanted Granderson to replace -- likely would have won the World Series MVP Award.

Video: After World Series defeat, Dodgers look ahead to 2018

Since the Dodgers have a young nucleus and a productive Minor League system, their chances of returning to the World Series soon are good. However, we won't see another team like the 2017 Dodgers in most of our lifetimes. They were special!

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros fulfill quest with first World Series title

Franchise began with 1962 National League expansion
MLB.com

Fifty-six seasons later, and the Astros are no longer a trivia question.

• Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

Fifty-six seasons later, and the Astros are no longer a trivia question.

• Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

They are World Series champions, a 5-1 victory against the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night the finishing touch on a journey more known for oddities than success since their inception in the original National League expansion along with the Mets in 1962.

:: World Series presented by YouTube TV: Complete coverage ::

When Jose Altuve fielded a ground ball off the bat of Corey Seager and threw to first base for the final out in Wednesday's game, the Astros left the Rangers as the only original expansion team yet to claim a World Series title.

The Angels celebrated in 2002, a seven-game World Series success against the Giants. The Mets, who came into existence with the Astros in the expansion of the NL from eight teams to 10 teams in 1962, were World Series champions in '69 and '86. That leaves Texas, which originally joined the American League as the expansion Senators in 1961, along with the Angles. The Rangers have advanced to the World Series twice, but they lost to the Giants in 2010 and the Cardinals in '11.

The Astros have come a long way from the franchise that was originally known as the Houston Colt .45s, had its player wearing boots and cowboy hats on road trips in the early days, and brought indoor stadiums and AstroTurf to the big leagues after the opening of the Astrodome in 1965.

It is the only franchise to have a pitcher be credited with appearing in a game despite never facing a hitter. Larry Yount, who is the older brother of Hall of Fame shortstop Robin Yount, came on in the ninth inning of a Sept. 15, 1971, game. He warmed up and then walked off the mound because of tightness in his elbow in his only Major League game.

Four years later, with a 40-69 career Minor League record and having never returned to the big leagues, Larry retired.

Astros' title 56 seasons in the making

The Astros' history includes the only player to have at least two at-bats and retire with a 1.000 batting average. John Paciorek, older brother of former big league outfielder Tom Paciorek, suffered what was described as a sciatic nerve injury during his pro debut in 1963. John, however, was still among seven players Houston called up at the end of that year to start in the season finale. He went 3-for-3 and never made it back to the big leagues before retiring in '69.

While their expansion cousin Mets won the World Series in 1969 and '86, the Astros didn't make their postseason debut until '80, when they were eliminated by the Phillies in five games in the NL Championsip Series. Houston advanced to the World Series for the first time in 2005 only to be swept by the Chicago White Sox.

It was 2011 before the Astros suffered the first 100-loss season in franchise history, which turned out to be the start of a three-year stretch of 100-loss seasons, capped off by a franchise-record 111 defeats in '13.

Five years later, though, the Astros are World Series champions, their seven-game World Series victory against the Dodgers coming at the end of a season in which they won 101 games -- one shy of the franchise record set in 1998 -- and then knocked off the Red Sox in four games in the AL Division Series and the Yankees in seven games in the ALCS.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Astros presented with World Series trophy

Their quest for credibility on the national stage may well have begun in 2015, when Houston not only claimed an AL Wild Card spot, but Craig Biggio became the first player inducted to the Hall of Fame as an Astro, only to be joined in Cooperstown this past July by his former teammate Jeff Bagwell.

Houston announces Friday parade for champs

And then, on Wednesday night, the Astros claimed their first World Series championship, with Game 7 ending in a seemingly fitting fashion with a ground ball to Altuve.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Altuve on Astros' first championship

Altuve is 18 games shy of appearing in 1,000 career contests with Houston, something that has been done by only 19 of the 846 players who have appeared in a game in franchise history. And the .316 career hitter is the only player in franchise history with at least 3,000 plate appearances to hit .300 or better.

With Altuve's contagious smile, he has become the face of a franchise -- one that after 56 years has become a World Series champion for the first time.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

City's post-Harvey strength carried Astros to title

Keuchel: Winning World Series is 'what we give on back'
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- At one point, Astros outfielder George Springer thought Hurricane Harvey might have destroyed his home. Being on the road with his teammates during that stretch in late August, he simply did not know.

Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

Full Game Coverage

LOS ANGELES -- At one point, Astros outfielder George Springer thought Hurricane Harvey might have destroyed his home. Being on the road with his teammates during that stretch in late August, he simply did not know.

Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

Full Game Coverage

That uncertainty gnawed at Springer, and at others, too. Teammate Jose Altuve approached manager A.J. Hinch during this time and poured out his heart.

"How long am I going to have to play like this?" Altuve asked.

Altuve's wife and infant were back in Houston. They were safe and dry, but they were trapped inside their home by the floodwaters. Altuve loved his baseball team, but he knew he should be home as Harvey devastated Houston.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Springer's father on son winning WS title

:: World Series presented by YouTube TV: Complete coverage ::

"That's not easy to ask your players, 'Jose, now, go out and get your normal two and three hits. Be the three-hole hitter. Play hard. And deliver us a win,'" Hinch said.

This baseball team -- and this championship -- will be forever intertwined with Hurricane Harvey, and that conversation between Altuve and his manager resonated in all sorts of ways Wednesday night when the Astros won the first World Series in franchise history by beating the Dodgers, 5-1, in Game 7.

"If you want to humanize baseball, look at that story," Hinch said. "And it will show you what these guys go through daily in their personal lives that leads to the professional lives. And on top of that, I think we were able to really keep in perspective what was going on in Houston."

The Astros knew they could not magically heal a wounded city. They did not pretend otherwise. They simply wanted to do something. This is what good people do in tough times. They offer a helping hand. Besides, this was their city, too. These were friends and neighbors in need.

Video: Path to the Splash: Astros win first World Series

When the Astros did return home a few days later, they worked in homeless shelters and funded animal-rescue efforts and gave both their time and money. But they knew the main thing they could do was simpler than that.

The Astros could play baseball. They could play it with energy and joy. They could continue to win and provide a few hours of distraction each day from the pain and suffering of Hurricane Harvey.

"It means everything," pitcher Dallas Keuchel said. "We knew that, so we wanted to really be behind them. We love each and every one associated with Houston. We've been through a lot, and for us not to be there when everything was going on really hurt us. This is our redemption. This is what we give on back."

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Keuchel on winning 2017 World Series

In the end, that's what the Astros did. When they returned to Minute Maid Park on Sept. 2, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner declared it the beginning of the city's rebuild.

The Astros became a rallying point for plenty of people, a baseball team so engaging and so entertaining that it provided a few hours of entertainment or distraction from the grim days of real life.

"We're just happy for the city," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "The city was in bad shape. Still a lot of work to do there, but I'm happy for the fans and the city and the region. Just couldn't be more proud of that, and we look forward to getting back with the trophy."

• Astros celebrate in LA; parade Friday

Video: Look back at the Astros' epic 2017 run to win the WS

The Astros won because they were a team smartly constructed and shrewdly managed. They won because Springer played the best week of baseball of his life and was named the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.

Houston also won because Springer, shortstop Carlos Correa, third baseman Alex Bregman and Altuve form a young nucleus as good as any in the game.

And finally, the Astros won because Hinch, the guy who wondered if he'd ever get another chance after being dismissed by the D-backs in 2010, pushed every right button.

Now, Hinch is the prototype of what a big league manager should be in 2017. And in the biggest game of his life, a game in which his starting pitcher, Lance McCullers Jr., didn't finish the third inning, Hinch smartly worked around a tired bullpen by squeezing 6 2/3 innings from four relievers, including right-hander Charlie Morton for the final four frames.

When it ended, Houston players mobbed one another in the middle of the diamond at Dodger Stadium, where they laughed some and cried some and celebrated a moment they will remember for the rest of their lives.

The Astros also won this World Series for all the fans who'd waited so long and cared so deeply. For all those hours at the ballpark with parents and grandparents, for those hours in which they came to care so deeply about their baseball team.

This day had been so long coming that some had begun to doubt if it ever would. Houston was the place that watched other cities hoist championship trophies and host joyous parades.

Only three franchises have waited longer than the Astros for their first championship -- the Phillies (77 seasons), Orioles (63) and Rangers (57 and counting).

Video: Astros enter '18 as champs, aim to build dynasty

Now Houston has a World Series trophy to call its own after a Fall Classic filled with crazy games and close games, a Series as wildly entertaining as any that has ever been played.

On baseball's biggest stage, the Astros did themselves proud. Crane bought the franchise six years ago and steadfastly stuck to his blueprint despite some tough times.

That blueprint is now being copied all over baseball. That is, this notion of tearing a franchise down to its bones and building it back through player development and affordable free agents.

Crane's best decision was to hire Jeff Luhnow, a scouting director for the Cardinals, to be his general manager and baseball architect. In turn, Luhnow's wisest decision was bringing in Hinch to manage the club.

The Astros won because of Luhnow's forward-thinking judgment and his gift for constructing a championship roster. But they won because of Hinch's communication skills and bullpen management and the knack for saying or doing the right thing at the right times.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Hinch on Houston's recent adversity

In the end, though, this team's journey will be forever intertwined in that of Houston's recovery from Hurricane Harvey and also from the team's collective efforts to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.

Both were devastating storms, and both deeply impacted Astros players and coaches.

After Harvey, the Astros added "Houston Strong" patches to their uniforms. They said they took the message of those patches personally. They knew that they mattered in ways baseball teams don't always matter.

Funny how these things play out. In some of the worst of times, Houston's greatness and heart and strength shined more brightly than ever before.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, as Houston picked its battered self up and dried itself off, it was about neighbors helping neighbors.

Into this moment stepped a baseball team. Today, that baseball team is the World Series champion.

"We never lost perspective of what was important," Hinch said. "I saw these guys do good deeds for people as they start to rebuild the city. And I think that's why the city fell in love with this team all over again, and why we had that Houston Strong strength that carried us a long way."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

Astros' title 56 seasons in the making

Magical postseason run featured victories over Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- No team has been woven into the fabric of Houston sports longer than the Astros, who were founded in 1962 as the expansion Colt .45s and grew up with a city on the rise. Through heartbreak and triumph, unforgettable highs and crushing lows, the Astros persevered.

• Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

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LOS ANGELES -- No team has been woven into the fabric of Houston sports longer than the Astros, who were founded in 1962 as the expansion Colt .45s and grew up with a city on the rise. Through heartbreak and triumph, unforgettable highs and crushing lows, the Astros persevered.

• Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

Full Game Coverage

:: World Series presented by YouTube TV: Complete coverage ::

So when second baseman Jose Altuve fielded a grounder off the bat of Corey Seager and calmly threw the ball across the Dodger Stadium diamond to teammate Yuli Gurriel at first base for the final out of the 113th World Series, it was a moment 56 seasons in the making.

"We all put it on the line for seven months, and now we get to celebrate," veteran catcher Brian McCann said.

The Astros completed their decades-long odyssey to a championship. The final out was recorded at 10:58 p.m. CT Wednesday night, before 54,124 fans at Dodger Stadium. The Astros beat the Dodgers, 5-1, in Game 7 of the World Series, setting off a celebration that could be felt all the way to Houston.

"We were at the bottom," said pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who endured a 111-loss season in 2013 that was the low point of the team's rebuild. "Nobody wanted to come here. It was an open tryout, and now it's a destination for players to come. We've got MVPs wanting to come here, we've got Cy Youngs wanting to come here. We're on top of the world ... literally."

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Astros presented with World Series trophy

The Astros mobbed one another on the field in a scrum of orange in an ending fit for Hollywood. Back home in Houston, the moment generations of fans had waited years to see brought unprecedented outbursts of emotion.

The Astros are World Series champions.

Minute Maid spark! Fans party in Houston

"It's unbelievable," World Series Most Valuable Player George Springer said. "It's indescribable. When you get to [Spring Training], you know who you have, you see what you have, and there's always the thought of 'We could do it,' but the 162-plus games is a lot of games. And lot of things have to go right in order to get here."

Springer swats his way to MVP honors

A city that only a couple of months ago was devastated by Hurricane Harvey rallied around its baseball team and held on tight.

City's post-Harvey strength carried Astros to title

"You know what, Houston? We're a championship city," manager A.J. Hinch said. "This team loves playing in Houston, and we're going to love bringing this World Series trophy back to Houston.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Astros celebrate winning the World Series

"We take great pride in being there for Houston at that time. Obviously, they responded by falling in love with this team. Our September was incredible, October was even better. And November, we're pretty good."

The Astros, who struggled through August, acquired Justin Verlander at the end of the month and zoomed to the American League West title. They took down the mighty Red Sox in the AL Division Series and the mightier Yankees in the AL Championship Series before meeting another iconic franchise -- the Dodgers, who haven't won a World Series since 1988. Those teams featured the three highest payrolls in baseball in 2017.

In a Fall Classic full of heart-stopping moments, the Astros rallied to win Game 2 in dramatic fashion in Los Angeles and walked off to win an epic Game 5 in Houston, 13-12, in a game started by two Cy Young Award winners. The Dodgers' Game 6 victory set the stage for the biggest win in Astros franchise history in Game 7.

Hinch lauded for leadership during title run

"They put a lot of fight in the whole series, and we need to tip our cap to the Dodgers," Hinch said. "That's going to go down as one of the more remarkable World Series of all time, and that takes two teams to do that. That team across the way equally could have been champions. We just outlasted them."

How this team reached the pinnacle of baseball is in itself a remarkable story.

Crane, Luhnow relish World Series title

When an ownership group led by Jim Crane hired a forward-thinking general manager in Jeff Luhnow late in 2011, the Astros traded veteran players and began stockpiling Draft picks and young talent. Altuve was already in the fold, as were Springer and Keuchel. They were soon joined by Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

Video: Path to the Splash: Astros win first World Series

After three consecutive seasons of at least 100 losses, the Astros made a postseason run in 2015, but they fell short in 2016. With a young core in place, management added veterans Carlos Beltran, McCann and Josh Reddick a year ago. Verlander, who came over in a trade from the Tigers, was the final piece. A championship team was built. Astros legends were made.

"This team was special from the get-go, even before we got the guys we acquired from the Deadline," Reddick said. "We knew this was a team that could get us to the stage we wanted to be. We all realized that from Spring Training with the moves we made, trading for Brian, getting Carlos Beltran, getting Charlie Morton and trading for Verlander and [Francisco Liriano] and Cameron Maybin, everybody contributed. There's not really many guys you can point out and say, 'They're the reason we're here.' You look around this whole clubhouse, and everybody participated."

After the early days of Judge Hofheinz and the magical Astrodome, to the rainbow uniforms and the Killer B's, the Astros' rich history now includes a championship. Four years removed from their third consecutive 100-loss season, the Astros delivered Houston's third major sports title -- and the first in 22 years -- led by a relentless offense and a pitching staff with grit and heart.

"It won't hit us until we get home in front of our whole city and we celebrate and we bring the trophy home," Hinch said.

Houston announces Friday parade for champs

Video: Look back at the Astros' epic 2017 run to win the WS

For lifelong Astros fans, a World Series title means so much more.

It was a win for Bob Aspromonte, Jimmy Wynn and Bob Watson. It was for Joe Niekro, Art Howe and Cesar Cedeno. It was for Shane Reynolds, Brad Ausmus and Larry Dierker. It was for Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell -- both of whom were in attendance on Wednesday. And it was for the Astros who left too soon -- Ken Caminiti, Darryl Kile and Jose Lima.

It was for every Astros fan who endured the playoff heartbreaks of 1980 and 1986, who left the Astrodome in frustration in the late 1990s when their team couldn't get past the Braves and who cringed when Albert Pujols' homer off Brad Lidge won Game 5 of the 2005 National League Championship Series -- a series the Astros won two days later for their first World Series appearance.

The ups and downs, they all make sense now. The Astros are champions.

"I think that winning the World Series is hard, especially in this day and age, and for our guys to be able to get it done, especially with what they went through," Biggio said, "is pretty amazing, for sure."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

'It's incredible': Bagwell, Biggio soak it all in

Astros greats celebrate franchise's first World Series championship
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio stood side by side on the right side of the baseball diamond for the better part of 15 years. They also stood side by side in Cooperstown in July, as the only Astros to have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

Full Game Coverage

LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio stood side by side on the right side of the baseball diamond for the better part of 15 years. They also stood side by side in Cooperstown in July, as the only Astros to have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dress like a champion! Get Astros World Series title gear

Full Game Coverage

So it was only fitting that Bagwell and Biggio were together on the field at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night, celebrating the first World Series championship in Astros history after a 5-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 7.

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"You're old, you cry now," Biggio said. "It's what you're supposed to do."

The two Houston icons and their wives found each other in a chaotic, crowded scene following the Astros' final out of the clincher and celebrated together, reveling in how far the team had come in the past four years and marveling about the young talent that carried the team through Game 7 of an epic World Series.

Bagwell and Biggio played on seven playoff teams together but reached the World Series only once -- in 2005, when they were swept by the White Sox.

Though they never won a championship as players, they felt very much a part of the win over the Dodgers.

"We tried in '05 and it just wasn't meant to be," Biggio said. "Thirty years here, getting an opportunity again, and being involved with the organization, it's special. And it's got to go down as one of the greatest World Series of all time. What an emotional roller coaster it was. It's incredible. It's everything I thought it would be."

Video: Craig Biggio enjoys Astros winning the World Series

Bagwell, who was at Dodger Stadium for Games 6 and 7, said he could not be happier for this year's Astros.

"I'm ecstatic," he said. "They're great kids, they play hard, they never gave up. To see them win, the celebration, excitement, the relief ... the city of Houston, I'm sure, is going crazy right now.

"I couldn't be more proud of the guys that represent the Houston Astros right now."

Tweet from @alysonfooter: The Bagwells and the Biggios are here celebrating the Astros World Series championship. #HOF pic.twitter.com/6LRNq7dsNT

Biggio was drafted by the Astros in 1987 and played his entire 20-year career in Houston. Bagwell, acquired by the Astros as a Minor Leaguer in a 1990 trade, also never wore another uniform during his Hall of Fame career.

In four tries from 1997-2001, the Astros never got past the Division Series. In 2004, Bagwell and Biggio helped them beat the Braves in the National League Division Series, but they lost to the Cardinals in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.

In 2005, with both nearing the end of their careers, the Astros won their first pennant, but they lost four games to the White Sox by a total of six runs.

That's all in the past now. Watching the celebration on the field at Dodger Stadium, Bagwell and Biggio felt nothing but elation for the current personnel who made Houston history.

"This is their deal," Bagwell said. "Anybody that played would love to be with those guys right now. But it's not about us, it's about them, about A.J. [Hinch] and the coaching staff, the front office and the players. What they did, it's just special."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros

Kershaw's shutout relief does little to ease sting

Dodgers had hoped to use ace late in Game 7 with a lead
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- There were many a scenario that manager Dave Roberts scripted out in the hours leading up to Game 7. There was one, however, that he preferred.

Had Wednesday night gone as planned, with Yu Darvish giving the Dodgers a decent start and the offense building a lead, Roberts knew to whom he would turn late. The final nine outs were to belong to his ace starter and shutdown closer.

Full Game Coverage

LOS ANGELES -- There were many a scenario that manager Dave Roberts scripted out in the hours leading up to Game 7. There was one, however, that he preferred.

Had Wednesday night gone as planned, with Yu Darvish giving the Dodgers a decent start and the offense building a lead, Roberts knew to whom he would turn late. The final nine outs were to belong to his ace starter and shutdown closer.

Full Game Coverage

:: World Series presented by YouTube TV: Complete coverage ::

It turned out that Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen gave Roberts more, with the two combining for five scoreless innings. However, circumstances didn't offer Roberts the luxury of holding either back until the end. Instead, their stingy relief work, while it did prevent the Astros from adding to their early five-run lead, finished mostly as a footnote in a 5-1 loss that left the Dodgers a victory short of a World Series championship.

"We had a pretty good plan from the onset of what we wanted to do," Kershaw said afterward. "Our bullpen was ready to go. We were all ready to go. It's unfortunate that it got kind of out of hand pretty quick there."

The impact Kershaw would have in the winner-take-all game emerged as a leading storyline as soon as Roberts was able to avoid using him in Game 6. Kershaw said he'd go 27 innings. Realistically, the Dodgers hoped merely for a few. But coming back from a 94-pitch no-decision in Game 5, Kershaw was effective and efficient enough to be pushed for four.

"I felt fine," Kershaw said after his fifth career postseason relief appearance. "I could have pitched two innings. I could have pitched seven innings. I got going quick, which is probably a good thing for me. I didn't have to think about it too much. I just got to go out there and pitch."

With the outing, Kershaw became the third pitcher since 1960 to throw four or more innings of relief in a World Series Game 7. San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner had done so most recently to help the Giants secure their 2014 title.

Individual feats, however, seemed far from Kershaw's mind as he tried to unpack the abrupt end to such a special season.

"It's just too hard to think about what the Astros are getting to do right now," said Kershaw, who allowed 14 earned runs over 33 2/3 innings this postseason. "The Astros are an amazing team, and they deserve to win, no doubt. But I think there are so many things that, one pitch here, one pitch there could have could have the changed the outcome of different games. Every game was so close outside of this one. Yeah, it's human nature to go back and think about things you could have done differently."

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Kershaw on decision to pitch in Game 7

In that reflection, Kershaw will likely come back to his own Game 5 performance. Before the extra-inning contest ultimately swung Houston's way, he stood on the mound with separate four- and three-run leads. Kershaw lost them both in a 4 2/3-inning performance that stood in contrast to the dominance with which Kershaw had opened this World Series.

It also left the Dodgers returning home knowing they'd have to reel off two straight wins.

That didn't happen, and thus a postseason that opened with Kershaw fielding questions about past October stumbles closed with him addressing teammates before everyone dispersed for the winter.

"I told the guys tonight that I was just thankful to be a part of this team, thankful for just their commitment and work," Kershaw said. "It's just a great group of guys that right now we're just trying to -- without being too emotional -- just embrace each other and understand that we're all feeling the same burden.

Video: WS2017 Gm7: Roberts on Darvish and Kershaw in Game 7

"This month felt like 27 years. Just every game, every pitch was just so intense. You go through this much effort to win that many games against this many good teams, I hope we get to get to this point again."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw

Crane, Luhnow relish World Series title

Five years after starting rebuilding process, Astros atop baseball world
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- When an ownership group led by Jim Crane purchased the Astros late in 2011, the deal was contingent on the team agreeing to s