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Press Row: Astros make history10/12/2004 4:00 PM ET
By Kevin Czerwinski / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- The Astros celebrated a playoff victory for the first time in Houston on Monday night while Atlanta continued to feel the sting of postseason struggles.
Carlos Beltran was lauded as a hero in The Lone Star State. While no one goat was tabbed in the deep south, yet another playoff loss left Atlanta fans feeling like they had just been jilted by the same bride-to-be yet again.
T. R. Sullivan of The Fort-Worth Star Telegram writes:
"The Houston Astros finally figured out why they couldn't win a playoff series.
"They were short one Killer B. Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman weren't enough.
"They needed Carlos Beltran."
Richard Justice of The Houston Chronicle also touched on the long-suffering Astros fans, calling on Bagwell's homer in the decisive game as a reason to let out 43 years worth of suffering.
"This one was for fans that had waited 43 seasons, endured seasons of great expectations followed by even greater disappointments, for fans who occasionally swore they would never care as much again," Justice writes.
"This one was for all those who had tried before him. For Larry Dierker and Jimmy Wynn, for J.R. Richard and Bob Aspromonte and hundreds of others who shared his dream.
"Bagwell's two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning Monday night turned a tight, tense game -- the kind of game that had usually ended badly for the Astros in October -- into a 12-3 blowout."
Said Dan O'Neill of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"For their part, the Astros had experienced first-series failures in all seven of their previous postseason appearances. But the Astros staged a lopsided liberation in front of 54,068 Tomahawk Choppers, the second-largest turnout in Turner Field history -- and quite possibly the most disgusted turnout in Turner Field history."
ESPN's Jayson Stark also called on the ghosts of Astros past to help celebrate what had become a franchise unable to get out of its own way in the postseason.
"The Braves have lived too many nights like this. But for the Astros, there has never been a night like this," Stark wrote.
"More than 15,000 nights in the life of the franchise, and none of them ended with grown men spritzing champagne after a postseason series that turned out right for a change.
"It took them four decades, eight trips to the playoffs and seven games -- spread out over a quarter-century -- where they had a chance to open that champagne if they won. But finally, on a drizzly Monday night in Atlanta, in a stadium where so many of their October adventures turned so ugly, the Houston Astros won themselves a series."
Bill Zack of The Augusta Chronicle left no doubt as to where he felt things now stood in Georgia.
"Never mind what the calendar says. Autumn died Monday night.
"Get out the Christmas decorations. Check the furnace. Stack the firewood.
"The season expired on the right arm of Houston pitcher Roy Oswalt and the bat of center fielder Carlos Beltran, who hit two home runs and knocked in five runs in the Astros' 12-3 drubbing of the Braves in the decisive Game 5 of the division series."
While the actual game between Atlanta and Houston took center stage in the media outlets in both cities, the tragic news that former Houston slugger and National League Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti had died of an apparent heart attack certainly was a much-discussed topic throughout the country.
Some of the strongest words came from New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy, who wrote: "Ken Caminiti poured so much garbage into his body, an endless string of toxic cocktails, that the New York medical examiner may never isolate what finally killed him, what caused the massive heart attack at age 41 in the Bronx, where he reportedly was visiting a friend on Sunday night.
"But it's worth a try, a close inspection. You hate to talk about Caminiti as a laboratory specimen, instead of as a tough competitor, a former National League MVP and a troubled addict. But he was the first baseball player who actually admitted to taking steroids, over an eight-year period. You only hope that in his tragic death there are finally some tough lessons learned in the post-BALCO world of slow-mo investigations.
Some even thought that Caminiti's death might factor into the performances of Bagwell and Craig Biggio, two former teammates and close friends. Based on what happened Monday night, it was obvious Caminiti was on their minds but not enough to alter the outcome of the game.
"One can only wonder how Bagwell and Biggio will deal with the sadness following the death Sunday of Caminiti, the 1996 NL Most Valuable Player who spent the first eight seasons of his career in Houston," writes Phil Rogers of The Chicago Tribune.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.