HARRIS COUNTY-HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

Astros' celebrations are just the latest in a long line of sports stars having fun

The stare has become a staple of the Astros. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

Admit it.

You’re hooked.

You can’t wait to see what those crazy, rambunctious kids have cooked up for us today. What started as a singular stare into the dugout camera to celebrate a homerun has morphed into must-see, must-tweet-the-moment entertainment.

Yes, we’re talking your Houston Astros. The defending World Champions. A team that plays with the kind of joy you saw in the Post Oak Little Leaguers; a team that seems to have a celebration move for just about every big moment.

Take the dugout stare – created and perfected by Alex Bregman who has put himself on a very short list for American League MVP. He loves a moment and took it – with a little sass and a lot of swagger -- after hitting a homerun and turned into his signature move.

Then he upped his game, getting his teammates involved and promptly daring everyone on Twitter to join the #DugoutStareChallenge and . . . well, they did.

A few days ago, the AL West leaders added a human limbo pole to the post-homer dugout stare. Then they pulled off an improv curling lead-in to the stare. What’s next? Who knows.

Bregman would have you believe it’s all spontaneous.

“We’ve got a good Hollywood cast in this clubhouse that can act on the spot,’’ he told Channel 13. “So we say the word and – boom – everyone falls into position.’’

Riiight.

Bregman is simply the current front man for a team that loves to celebrate with bring-it-in little dances or chest or ankle or hip bumps before they head to the dugout – and the plate. Josh Reddick has been known to channel Spiderman unleashing his web. The outfield had their Fortnite Celebration dances earlier this spring.

And, yes, they have us talking.

But signature celebrations are nothing new are they? These days, neither are the tweets, instagrams and gifs surrounding them.

We could remind you of everything from the Ickey Shuffle to PrimeTime’s high step and dances to Michael Irvin’s celebrations and Usain’s Bolt.   Cam Newton’s Dab, Steph Curry’s Shimmy or Lebron’s chalk clap.

What about Aaron Rodgers’ Championship Belt, aka the Discount Double Check, or Victor Cruz’ Salsa, Russell Westbrook holstering his six shooters or Chi Chi Rodriguez’ toreador dance, complete with sword, er, putter brandish.

Or Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Terrell Owens, who all have more go-to celebration moves than you can count.

Instead, we’ll settle for running down the list of iconic celebrations by Houston athletes and teams. We promise that alone will keep you busy for an afternoon.

So where to start? Well you have to start with arguably the greatest celebratory dance in the history of the NFL,  the Oilers Billy White Shoes Johnson and the funky chicken. Or how about Ernest Givins’ Electric Slide. Or the Rockets Dikembe Mutombo’s finger wag. Or Mario Ellie’s Kiss of Death.

Then there’s J.J. Watt’s salute. James Harden stirring up a little home cookin’. Chris Paul’s Revenge Shimmy. The Astros’ silent treatment when Jose Altuve hit his first homer of the 2018 season. Fiery Patrick Reed’s shush or his can’t-hear-you or his fist-pumping Captain America Ryder Cup repertoire.

The Comets raising the roof as they won the first four WNBA titles. The ’86 Astros’ rally caps. The Dynamo’s double-knee slides. Harden’s - and now Bregman’s – eyes-rolling, head-turning look-off stare. Clyde Drexler – all the way back to Phi Slama Jama days -- finishing off another elegant glide with a rim-rattling exclamation point slam.

Coming soon? Carmelo Anthony’s three-tap to the head.

Celebrations are just another way to let it all out. To use your imagination and find a signature that not only fits the moment, but also the player. Can’t see Ed Oliver or Tim Tebow or Tom Brady doing the Shimmy, right?

Yes, social media has taken these moves – and often well-thought-out elaborate skits or dances -- to a new level. And the fans? Tweet, retweet. Post it. Snap chat it. It’s all part of the game.

Which brings us full circle to the1960s and two historic moments in celebration history you need to know – both with Houston ties:

* The first end zone spike came courtesy of former Texas Southern football and track star Homer Jones. Jones was drafted by the AFL Oilers but got injured and was cut before the season started. The New York Giants picked him up and in a 1965 game against Philadelphia, he scored on an 89-yard pass and spiked the ball in the end zone.

* As for the first end zone dance? It came from Houston Cougar wide receiver Elmo Wright in 1969. His sophomore season, he would slam the ball down when he scored, but, when he was a junior, he spontaneously celebrated one touchdown with a high-stepping little dance. It felt right and he kept right on going through his NFL days.

Today, Wright’s debut dance wouldn’t make anyone’s top 10, but, at the time, it was over-the-top unexpected. Imaginative. Entertaining.

And, most of all, fun.

After all, as everyone mentioned above – and just about any athlete -- will tell you, if you can’t enjoy a big moment, let your emotions go and celebrate a little . . . well, why are you playing the game?

As for the Astros? Buckle up. Bregman’s on a roll. So are the ‘Stros. And the playoffs are just around the corner.

 

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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