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What an Astros World Series means to post-hurricane Houston

Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros have waited a long time to reach the World Series but this season is perhaps particularly notable for the Astros, who have made their way to the championship while helping Houston recoup from Hurricane Harvey. Jeffrey Brown speaks with Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle about the role the Astros have played off the field.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The World Series gets under way in nearly 100-degree heat tonight, with a battle between two teams who have been waiting a long time for a title.

    The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have won their share of titles over the years, have not won one since 1988. But the Houston Astros have never won a game in a World Series, let alone a championship.

    It's been a special season for the Astros, especially after Hurricane Harvey hit.

    Jeffrey Brown has more.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    The Astros have played a special role in the city on and off the field since the storm hit. Players met with evacuees at the height of the flooding and donated money. On the field, they have worn "Houston Strong" patches on their uniforms, on their way to winning more than 100 games, including delivering knockout blows to both the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

    I spoke earlier today to Houston Chronicle sports columnist Brian Smith. He joined me from Dodger Stadium Via Skype.

    And I asked him first about the team, a very bad team not long ago, that used to be mocked as the Lastros.

  • Brian T. Smith:

    Well, number one, the Lastros, or now the Houston Astros, are in the World Series and have the best overall player in baseball in Jose Altuve.

    He should end up being the American League MVP, just put up unbelievable numbers in the Division Series, in the Championship Series. And the Astros in 2017 won 101 games. They beat the Red Sox. They beat the Yankees. They could beat the Dodgers in the World Series. No team in baseball history has ever beaten the Red Sox and the Yankees in the same postseason.

    If they beat the 104-win Dodgers, you could make a movie about this season's Houston Astros. They are, without question, one of the best teams in baseball, and may end up being the best overall when it's all said and done.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Well, the larger context here is, of course, Hurricane Harvey and the flooding and destruction. What role has the team and its success played since then?

  • Brian T. Smith:

    You know, I'm sometimes hesitant to blend sports with human tragedy in real life.

    But people will tell you the story, right? And when it comes to the Astros, they have become one of the main things in Houston that's helped people recover, that's helped people pull through. This isn't the NFL and they're playing once a week. This isn't college football.

    This is a baseball team that plays every day in downtown Houston. The Astros couldn't play at their stadium, at Minute Maid Park, during Harvey. They had to play their home games in St. Petersburg near Tampa at the Rays' stadium.

    Right field at Minute Maid Park, where they're going to game three, four and five potentially of the World Series, it took water. They actually had to replace the outfield. And when the Astros finally returned on September 2, they had an old-fashioned double-header. It felt like the first official stage in Houston's recovery.

    It was right after the city was on everybody's television, the worst natural disaster in Houston's entire history. And baseball returned.

    And Mayor Sylvester Turner deserves a lot of credit for that. He pushed that. Some people thought it was too soon. He pushed that. So, as Houston has recovered, the Astros have risen.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    And where do things stand in the aftermath of Harvey? The city's attention may be on the World Series tonight, but work goes on around Houston, right?

  • Brian T. Smith:

    Yes, without question.

    I think the thing is, it's difficult to put in perspective if you don't live in Houston. You saw the floods. I mean, it's just — the scenes were unbelievable. But the water recedes. And you go back to normal life. And it's almost been two months.

    And you can drive around Houston. You can go downtown. You can go in all the main neighborhoods. You literally would have no idea they had — that Hurricane Harvey happened. But then if you take a left, if you take a right, if you go into one neighborhood, there is still debris.

    People's — the contents of their lives are on their front lawns, still waiting to be picked up in some areas, major areas in Houston. I mean, and that's the thing about Harvey. It wasn't just a — quote, unquote — "bad area" or a rough area.

    It hit the rich, it hit the poor, it hit the in-between. When you look at the Astros in the World Series, it gives those people whose lives were ruined, destroyed, affected, whatever it was, something to look forward to, something to distract them from the recovery of Hurricane Harvey.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Finally, there will be really another good team on the field tonight with even more wins. So, great players on both sides.

  • Brian T. Smith:

    They're very, very good.

    And, look, the Dodgers are favored. This is Los Angeles. Yesterday, media day, it felt like a movie was being made. There were stages being pulled around, hundreds of TV cameras. It was very difficult to even get to some players if you wanted to ask them something during a media interview.

    The Dodgers are favored. They won 104 games. They have the highest payroll in baseball. This is a money team in Los Angeles.

    I'm picking the Astros in seven, but obviously no surprise if the Los Angeles Dodgers win their first World Series since 1988.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    All right, good luck. And here's to a good series.

    Brian Smith of The Houston Chronicle, thanks so much.

  • Brian T. Smith:

    Thank you very much.

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