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Open Letters to Mr. Jim Crane

From Jeff Borski, Houston, TX… Astros fan since 1979

The move of the Astros to the American League barely registered on the national sports radar. This is nothing new for Houston sports fans. We’ve been ignored, mocked, and dumped upon from the day professional sports came to this city in 1960. It’s pretty easy to ignore us and even forget that our city is here. We’re in the blind spot of the national media, 1500 miles from New York, 1500 miles from LA. David Letterman even once snidely opined that he didn’t believe such a thing as an ‘Astros fan’ even existed. Houstonians are used to this treatment from the national media.

It’s no small irony that Houston has boomed over the past five years while the rest of the nation has floundered during the Great Recession. People from the rest of the nation have flocked here like rats from a sinking ship, proving that perhaps our city is more consequential on the national scene than the media allows. Even so, our sports fans can’t catch a break. Boston columnists call our football team ‘frauds.’ No big-name free agents want to play for the Rockets.

But worst of all, our beloved baseball team has been kicked out of professional baseball into something called the ‘American League.’ This is by far the worst ignominy yet visited upon our beleaguered fandom, and one that deserves a place of shame alongside Bud Adams’s absconsion with our beloved Oilers.

It doesn’t seem to matter to Jim Crane, Bud Selig, or anyone else that our team has been in the National League for 50 years. What they will find, though, is that this fact matters a great deal to the longtime Astros fans who have kept the team in business through many lean years.

If the last few years are any indication, Crane’s investment will wither as fans stay away from Minute Maid in droves. The difference between this lean period and the ones in the past will be the fact that all the fondness we die-hards once felt for our local 9 is gone. One can see this in the team’s cratering TV ratings and ghostly ballpark ambience.

We feel cheated, disregarded, and disrespected by Mr. Crane, and we’re not interested in listening to his condescending remarks about how we will eventually get over it. We won’t, not those of use who’ve been fans for most of our lives.

I fully expect to see the Astros leave Houston within the next decade. I almost hope that they do.

In any case, the team I loved and followed for most of my life is dead. Jim Crane killed it by moving it to the American League.

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From Michael Lyons, Ganado, TX… Astros fan since 1962

Dear Mr. Crane,

I have no memory of not being a passionate baseball fan.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are of being at the home games of the minor league team in the town in which I grew up.  I remember the joy my father especially showed when Houston, the city of his childhood and the majority of his adult life, received a Major League Baseball franchise.  At the age of 5, I saw my first MLB game at Colts Stadium on Mothers Day 1962.  The Colt .45s lost to the eventual National League champion San Francisco Giants, 7-2.  Even my 19-month-old brother acknowledged the occasion by pointing to the field and babbling, “Ballgame.”

My first game in the Astrodome was on September 26, 1965.  I was 8.  September call-up Chuck Harrison set off the Scoreboard Spectacular for us when his three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Astros a 4-2 victory over the Reds.

Over the years, I have seen a handful of games in person per year.  And, otherwise, I have followed the vast majority of the games on the radio or TV.

I remember being very thankful the Astros were in the National League when the American League began a experiment called the Designated Hitter in 1973.  I have tried to follow American League games from time to time over the years, have been to several Rangers home games in Arlington.  It is not that AL teams are inferior and certainly not that AL players are inferior.  But there is no doubt that the AL’s style of ball is inferior to that of the NL, and, long ago, I decided AL ball was unimaginative and had too many nine-inning games that last more than three hours for me to spend a lot of time with.

I have relished the Astros’ National League membership, and the spirited competition with the Cardinals, Reds, Dodgers, Braves, Cubs, Mets, Pirates, Phillies, Giants, Padres, et al.

I have purchased a new authentic Astros cap every time there was a style change and have proudly worn it to games and other places.  More recently, I purchased an authentic Astros jersey that has a couple of tiny stains of ballpark mustard that are, for a fan, like the dirt stains on a player’s jersey.

Now, for a bowl of pottage (Genesis 25:29-34), you have given up the National League heritage of our club’s birthright for the illegitimate breed of DH baseball in the American League.  In this, Mr. Crane, you ignored me and thousands upon thousands of other loyal Astros fans who have relished the team’s National League membership and tradition.  You will lose the $70 million windfall you got for ignoring us loyal fans, and much, much more.

For me, the 2012 season will be one of bringing closure to rooting for a franchise that has brought me so many of the thrills and frustrations of baseball fandom.  It is appropriate that the 50th anniversary logo will permeate much of the club’s activities this year because, for me, it will be about looking back and being thankful for what was a big part of me but won’t be again after this season.

In fact, after this season, I will not only switch my loyalty to a steadfast National League franchise, I will not refer to your franchise as the Astros.  The Astros I know are a National League franchise.  If you don’t change the name, I will refer to your team as the Houston American League franchise.  After the 2012 season, the Houston Astros will be dead, killed by greed.

So 2012 will be the funeral.  After the burial, I will not attempt to seek the living among the dead.  Like others who have lost loved ones, I will move on.

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From Sandy Voronin, Pasadena, TX… Astros fan since 1972

Being the only child of a father that was an admittedly “obsessed” baseball fan, two of the first things I learned were (A) love baseball, and  (B) hate the Yankees.

My first favorite team was the Brooklyn Dodgers. When they moved to LA, I changed my allegiance to the St Louis Cardinals. I stayed loyal to the Cards even after the Colt 45s / Astros were born.  In 1972 I was invited to an Astros – Reds game. When I walked inside of the Dome I felt a stirring in my heart and promptly fell in love.  That love has lasted to this day.  I devoted my sports life to the Astros, I attended games every year, in 1975 attended all home games. When I couldn’t attend I listened on the radio and in later years watched on TV. I counted the days from October till February anticipating Spring Training. I proudly wore their logo in every possible way. I passed this love on to my children and grandchildren.

Today I face the fact that my beloved National League team has died and I mourn the loss. Maybe when the pain has lessened I will again root for the cardinals, maybe not, but I will never support the American League Astros.

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From Mike Blagg, Brownwood, TX… Astros fan since 1964

Dear Mr. Crane:

I, like thousands of other fans, am horrified by the move to the American League.  I actually live closer to Dallas/Ft. Worth, but have always proudly been an Astros fan because I prefer the National League style of play.  It is a superior form of baseball.

I can give you many reasons why I don’t like the move to the AL.  But what I cannot understand is why this was done without consulting your customers, the fans, first.  The Houston Chronicle online poll, admittedly unscientific, showed 75% of the fans hate the idea, and about one-third of the fans said they would never set foot again in Minute Maid park if the Astros were moved to the AL.  What business it it’s right mind would float an idea of a major change to it’s customers, 75% of whom say they hate the idea and one-third of whom say they will never do business with you again, and the business goes ahead and makes the change anyway?

Surely it would have been so easy to contact the fans.  No doubt the Astros have a list of not only season ticket holders, but other fans who buy tickets online, etc.  It would have been so easy to contact them first, see what they think about this.  I think before I wrote a check for $600 million, I would certainly have done so!

While I was not in the room when you were negotiating with Mr. Selig, I believe if you would have stuck to your guns and refused to switch leagues, the pressure would have then been on Selig to give in.  Yours was a very generous offer.  Mr. McLane and the other owners would not want to see such an offer go bad over an issue manufactured by Mr. Selig.

While I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of moving a team to the AL, I do understand some of the reasons.  But it did not have to be the Astros.  The Brewers used to be an AL team, they could have moved back.  The Rockies and Diamondbacks are already out west, and they have only a few years in the NL.  They could have moved, and Houston could have moved to the NL West.

Oh, Bud says it was because Houston was going through an ownership change.  Well then how about the Dodgers, they don’t even have an owner.  Bud is in charge of that team, he could have moved them without even asking anybody.  It DID NOT have to be the Astros.

Also, consider this.  Texas is one of the largest markets in the country. What sense does it make to have only one league represented in Texas.  There are many folks in the state who are fans of the Braves, Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, etc.  Now they have no way to see these teams.  Very sad.

If there is any way on earth to reverse this horrible decision, Mr. Crane, please do it now. Otherwise I, and many thousands of others, with no longer patronize the Astros.  Mr. Selig can not force us to buy tickets, or watch the games on tv or listen on the radio.  And we won’t.  I am now a Cardinals fan, and I’m not waiting for 2013 to make the switch.

Please, Mr. Crane, find a way out of this, even if you don’t care about the fans, then for your own sake.  You have chased off a large segment of your customers, and you are about to start losing many millions of dollars.

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From Jason Beter, Milton, WV… Astros fan since 1983

I’ve been an Astros fan since I was 8 (I’m now 36) and I just have no passion for them now. Baseball is far and away my favorite sport and the National League is the brand of baseball that I love. I just can’t see myself being a fan of an American League team. This move is absolutely horrible for me. I know I’m being selfish, but I can’t imagine that I’m the only one. I’ll never be able to see a game. Living on the East Coast, the start times are just too late. Forget live games. I always go to Cincy to watch the Astros when they are in town. Now I  have to drive to Detroit, Cleveland or Baltimore. No thanks.

My entire basement is done in Astros memorabillia. Should I start trading it for Reds or Pirates? Ugh. Even the thought of being a Pirates fan makes me physically ill.

My family and friends have been trying to turn me into a Reds fan for years. Looks like they may succeed.

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From Bill Bennett, San Bernadino, CA… Astros fan since 1960

I might not live in Houston now, but with the move to the AL. I will never buy anything from them again. I will stop going to any of their games and minor league games and stop buying from those that have to do with your camp.

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