What does that logo stand for?

On the Houston Astros, bad men, and who this is all for.

First: Hi! This was The Seventh Circle Newsletter. Now it’s Action Cookbook’s Newsletter. It’s still exactly the same otherwise; still me writing everything, still the same approach, just a different title/sender name/URL. The brown remains unchanged. — Scott

I have an old Houston Astros hat lying around at home — something I bought as a teenager that I’ve surprisingly managed not to lose in the decades since. It’s the slick late-90’s rebrand, black with a shiny gold bill and the stylized “shooting star” logo. 

I’m not from Houston, and save for maybe an airport connection, I don’t think I’ve ever even been there. I am not now, nor have I ever been, an Astros fan — but the logo on hat still stood for something to me. Those Houston teams of the late ‘90s had a lot to offer: an exciting, deep lineup of guys who seemed scrappy and energetic and all the things you’re taught to believe in as a somewhat-undersized and deeply-untalented young player yourself. I idolized Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, and frequently imagined myself in the role of Billy Wagner, the fireballing 5’-10” closer.

Regular-season interleague play had just been introduced, and my team getting to play against this team was a fresh novelty. The Astrodome was faded, well past its prime, but an architectural landmark and source of fascination for me nonetheless. Baseball was expanding, reorganizing and reconnecting, and I was obsessed with it in the way only a kid with the endless expanse of free time baseball demands could be. The Astros represented a new frontier in my understanding — 1990s baseball, a space-age stadium, one of the many places I’d visit when I someday visited all the places.

To many people, they represent more. They represent home. Tradition. Family. Their first ballgame, their first experience of the joys and pains of sports fandom. For that part? I’ve got a hat with a red “C” on it, and I know I’m looking past something when I wear it. I grew up, and remain, a Cleveland Indians fan. My parents took me to games at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, that old barn on the lakefront that might have 10,000 fans in 70,000 seats on a good day. That’s where I first met sports, and for better or for worse, they’ve been a part of my life ever since. The Indians got good, then great — they had a few tremendous moments that were absolutely thrilling to be a young fan for. I moved away from Cleveland, and I’ve been gone for over 20 years. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back; I don’t have any family left there. I still wear that hat, though. I still identify with my hometown, and the Indians are a big token of that. They’re something that bonds me to where I grew up, to who I was, to what I believed I’d become. It’s a deep bond, and not one easily overcome.

Of course, that wasn’t the hat I wore back then. 

Unofficially since the 1930s and officially a decade later, the Cleveland Indians wore a grotesque cartoon caricature of a Native American face on their hats and sleeves. Criticize “Chief Wahoo”, and within seconds someone will materialize to insist to you that actually, the team was honoring Louis Sockalexis, a player of Native American origin who played for one of the Indians’ predecessor clubs at the turn of the 20th century. That’s horseshit, obviously. The truer story is the simpler one: the name and logo came to be at a time when racist names and logos were widely popular and commonly accepted. It’s just the way things were done until it (mostly) wasn’t.

I stopped wearing that logo a few years ago — later than I should have, because old habits die hard — and the team itself is finally, gradually distancing themselves from it officially. A vocal contingent of fans still proudly wear it, arguing that it stands for something more. As best I can tell, this group believes that abandoning the logo is abandoning everything they’ve associated with it — the tradition, the camaraderie, the notions of home and family. They refuse to acknowledge the stain on our shared history, and would rather dig in their heels and defend it than abandon it and move forward. Those people do not speak for me; they do not get to decide what is important about the team to me or to anyone else.

Saturday night, the Houston Astros won their second American League pennant in three years in the kind of thrilling, storybook fashion that every fan dreams of. Jose Altuve, the Astros’ diminutive superstar second baseman, slugged a walk-off, pennant-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the New York Yankees and send his team back to the World Series. It was a moment of sheer joy for a region, for fans who live and die with this team. Surely there are young girls and boys out there for whom this will be a moment every bit as cherished as my memories of the Indians winning the 1995 pennant.

After the game, according to a report in Sports Illustrated that has been confirmed by multiple other witnesses, Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman took the opportunity to do some chest-beating.

Taubman turned to a group of three female reporters, including one wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet, and yelled, half a dozen times, “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f------ glad we got Osuna!”

Taubman was referring to the Astros’ closer, Roberto Osuna, who has performed well on the mound since Taubman’s front office picked him up on the cheap following a 2018 suspension for domestic violence. Logically, it should be hard to divine a direct reason for the timing of Taubman’s outburst — Osuna blew a save in that game, and was only rescued by the parallel failure of the Yankees’ own domestic abuser, Aroldis Chapman. He was not why they won the pennant; he was almost a reason they didn’t. 

Of course, the simplest explanation is also the most logical. Taubman’s just an asshole, the worst kind of person, the kind who thinks that success is all you have to stand for. Surely, in his mind, the Astros winning the pennant that night — Osuna’s failure aside — justifies everything done to arrive there and proves anyone behind that logo to be immune from criticism. Fuck you, we won.

The organization, for its part, issued a ludicrous statement denying the reporters’ account of events and defending Taubman: 

“Our executive was supporting the player during a difficult time. His comments had everything to do about the game situation that just occurred and nothing else – they were also not directed toward any specific reporters.”

This is an obvious lie, contradicted by multiple credible reports. Also, it’s unclear how “celebrating a pennant victory” is supposedly a “difficult time”, but it’s 2019 and we all know words have no meaning anymore. The behavior of Taubman and the Astros’ front office is reprehensible and without excuse, and hopefully by the time this reaches you, Taubman has been fired. (I’m not holding my breath). 

Understandably, many will find themselves rooting against the Astros in the World Series because of this, and there’s no argument I’d make against anyone who chooses to do that. People like Brandon Taubman don’t deserve to be rewarded; they deserve to be driven from professional and public life. Reporters like Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein and Yahoo Sports’ Hannah Keyser deserve a safe, professional and respectful environment within which they can continue to do their jobs — as they did by reporting this story. 

Astros fans deserve better, too, though — because the logo on their hat doesn’t stand for Brandon Taubman or for Roberto Osuna, or for the people who would excuse their actions in the name of success. Women affected by violence have a right to say that the the team is theirs, that these people aren’t allowed to take their team from them or dictate what they must accept in order to appreciate it.

The logo doesn’t stand for some front-office toad who proudly traded for a bad man who then played well; someday they’ll be gone and you’ll still be here. It stands for memories shared over lazy summer afternoons and tense fall evenings. It stands for a father teaching his daughter to hold a bat just like Bagwell or Altuve, for a mother bonding with her son over the team she grew up loving, for women who love sports or work in sports standing in their place and not having to apologize for it, explain it, or justify it to anyone.

The wins and losses will pass; the shared history will not. The Brandon Taubmans and Roberto Osunas don’t own the game; you do.

It stands for you, not them.

Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)

Share The Action Cookbook Newsletter