Daily Herald sports writer Bruce Miles has covered the Cubs full time since 1998. As the Cubs play the Astros as a National League team in Houston for the final time this week, here are Miles' favorite memories of games in Houston over the past 15 years.
Sept. 27, 1998
The Cubs blew a 3-1 lead on the final Sunday of the season and fell 4-3 to the Astros at the Astrodome. They headed off the field thinking they had blown their chance at the wild card, but on their long walk to the clubhouse, the Rockies' Neifi Perez hit a game-winning homer to beat the Giants and force an extra game between the Cubs and San Francisco for the wild card the next night.
"We aren't in the playoffs," said Cubs closer Rod Beck. "But having a second chance is real good. There will be no scoreboard watching tomorrow. There's one game going on. It's us and them."
Terry Mulholland started and worked 8 innings of the Sunday game at the Astrodome before pitching one-third of an inning Monday as the Cubs held on to beat the Giants 5-3, with Beck earning his 51st save.
Sept 23, 2001:
Enron Field (now Minute Maid Park) showed it could play quirky, too. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Astros' Moises Alou hit a drive to left field. The ball hit a notch high on the scoreboard, spun up and over the wall into the seats for a home run.
The Astros won the game 7-6 despite the Cubs' Sammy Sosa hitting 3 home runs.
Cubs left fielder Michael Tucker argued Alou's home run vociferously, but umpires made the correct call because the ball never hit the ground.
"It still doesn't make sense," Tucker snapped. "They need to fix the (bleeping) ballpark."
Aug. 16, 2006:
With the Cubs needing an emergency starter because the previous night's game went 18 innings, they turned to their Class AAA Iowa farm club, which was playing at Round Rock, Texas, about 165 miles away.
Getting the call was little-known lefty Ryan O'Malley, a native of Sprinfield, Ill.
"I didn't really know until 6 this morning," O'Malley said. "Our trainer from Iowa, Bob Grimes, came in, knocked on my door and said, 'Get your stuff, you're going to Houston to pitch against the Astros today for the Cubs.' I told him to quit kidding with me. This is some kind of a joke."
All O'Malley did was work 8 innings of 5-hit shutout ball after taking a limo from Round Rock. The Cubs won 1-0 on Michael Barrett's sixth-inning homer off Andy Pettitte.
But O'Malley was all the talk. Manager Dusty Baker said the victory was "sent from above."
"Oh, man, that was sweet," Baker said. "The young man had a real gutsy performance. He worked quickly, kept our defense sharp. He had them off-balance all day long. Eight innings in your first outing, your first win, that's a young man from Illinois, too. I bet his parents are happy, too. I know we are."
O'Malley pitched in only one more big-league game, losing to the Phillies six days later as his elbow came up sore.