Slate's Sports Nut: Many Curses for the Astros

On Saturday, the Houston Astros will play in their first World Series game ever, battling the Chicago White Sox for the Major League Baseball crown. Many fans look to curses to explain such a long World Series drought — Slate sports editor Josh Levin mulls over several potential curses that may hang over the Astros...

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Yesterday, we brought you the thoughts of a Chicago White Sox fan whose team is in the World Series. He noted that although the Sox haven't won the Series since 1917, its fans do not complain of a curse all the time, the way Red Sox and Cubs fans do. Well, the White Sox's opponents in this year's fall classic are the Houston Astros, who had never even made it to the Series before now. The Astros don't have any curse legends, either, although the sports editor for the online magazine Slate, Josh Levin, can think of several curse-worthy things in their past.

JOSH LEVIN reporting:

Number one, the Curse of the Sun. In 1965, Houston tried to thwart Mother Nature by becoming the first team in major-league baseball to play in a giant bubble. The Astrodome was always a house of horrors. In the stadium's first year, nobody could see the ball against the clear-paned roof panels. When the panels were painted in opaque white the next year to reduce glare, the grass died, forcing the club to further mock all things natural by installing plastic grass called Astroturf. Countless rug burns and torn knee ligaments later, the Astros tried to make amends by vacating the Dome for a retro stadium. One problem: They sold the name rights to Enron.

Number two, the Curse of the Republicans. During the 1992 Republican National Convention, the Astros got the shaft. Ordered to vacate the Astrodome for four weeks so it could be made over for the GOP, the Astros embarked on an eight-city, 26-game, 28-day road trip. The Astros played respectably, but when they got back, the already-cursed Astrodome had been tainted by an even thicker stench of loserdom. The Republican nominee, incumbent George H.W. Bush, would go on to lose the presidency to Democrat Bill Clinton.

Number three, the Curse of the Blind Little Leaguer. In 1963, back when the Astros were still called the Colt .45s, third baseman Bob Aspromonte befriended a Little Leaguer who had been blinded when struck by lightning. The Astros-loving kid asked Aspromonte to hit him a home run three separate times. The light-hitting Aspromonte came through, even making two of the homers grand slams. So what did the team do after being blessed with a home-run-conjuring child? Apparently they let him fly away. I can't find any record of the team ever asking the kid to ask for more home runs despite his 100 percent success rate. He should be about 50 years old now. Perhaps the secret to ending the Astros futility is to put out an APB for their golden goose.

CHADWICK: Josh Levin writes about curses and the sports franchises that need them for the online magazine Slate.

NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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