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Sports by Bruce Penton
The most famous ’56’ in Major League baseball is the historic 56-game hitting streak put together by Joe DiMaggio in 1941, an accomplishment likely never to be beaten. Now, the Houston Astros are working on recognition for another 56.
The Astros (originally the Colt 45s) were born in 1962, joining the National League along with fellow expansionist New York Mets. While the Mets have enjoyed a modicum of success, the Astros list of heroics is short. One appearance in a World Series (2005), but zero wins, thanks to a four-game sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox.
We bring this up in the middle of the 2017 season because the Astros are arguably the best team in baseball. The way things are shaping up, the Astros — now in the American League following a shift in 2013 — will meet the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series and will legitimately put the ‘Classic’ in the Fall Classic.
The Astros climb to the top of the power charts followed a lengthy spell in the doldrums. Three consecutive 100-loss seasons (2011-13) gave the Astros high picks in the amateur draft and the selections of slugger George Springer (24 homers), all-star shortstop Carlos Correa and sophomore infielder Alex Bregman have helped set the foundation for the juggernaut team performing at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Sparking the offence is diminutive Jose Altuve, who might just be the best all-round player in the game.
As of the fourth of July, the Astros had MLB’s best record and led in a number of offensive categories — home runs, batting average, runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging average. Their 5.59 runs per game means that, on average, the opposition needs to score six to win, and that’s not going to happen too often when facing the likes of Dallas Keuchel (9-0, 1.67 E.R.A) Lance McCullers (7-1, 2.69) and Mike Fiers (5-3, 380).
Houston is so powerful that its chances of finally winning the World Series in its 56th year are high. How high? Astronomical.
• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “A California man went to Disneyland 2,000 days in a row. Hey, if you were really that fixated on repeatedly seeing a Mickey Mouse outfit in southern California, wouldn’t Rams season tickets be cheaper?”
• RJ Currie of “Kicker Becca Longo signed with Adams State — the NCAA’s first female on a football scholarship. Kicking situations for the Grizzlies will now be called fourth and Longo.”
• Steve Simmons of Postmedia: “Phil Jackson was an equal opportunity leader, consistent with the New York Knicks. He didn’t care to talk to his players. He didn’t care to talk to agents. He didn’t care to talk to media. Other than that, he did great.”
• Janice Hough of “All the talk about Kevin Durant’s sacrifice in signing for only two years $53 million. How will he feed his family?”
• Buster Olney of ESPN, copying a tweet from colleague Eddie Matz: “A Nationals player upon walking into the clubhouse (July 4) and seeing the drug-testing guys standing right there: ‘Drug testing on the fourth of July? That’s un-American. I’m gonna test positive for hot dogs.’”
• Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald: “A British soldier won the National Cheese Rolling Championships where competitors chase a 9-pound wheel of cheese. A group of humans dressed in wiener suits racing around a U.S. baseball stadium stopped in front of a TV monitor to go, ‘Stupid!’”
• Norman Chad of the Washington Post: “Watching baseball on TV these days is like putting a pot of water on medium heat and waiting for it to boil.”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Lance Armstrong makes a cameo in an HBO movie, ‘Tour De Pharmacy,’ mocking drug use in the Tour De France. That’s like Mike Tyson making a cameo in a movie about cannibalism.”
• Bob Molinaro of (Hampton, Va.): “A friend of mine, a frustrated Orioles fan, believes two or three Baltimore pitchers should have earned invitations to the All-Star festivities. They’re more than qualified, he said, to have pitched in the Home Run Derby.”
• Dwight Perry again: “A falling fireworks shell exploded in the upper deck of the Tennessee Titans’ stadium on the Fourth of July. It’s believed to be the first misfire to reach that level since Vince Young overthrew a quick out in 2010.”
• Author unknown, but found in Dwight Perry’s ‘From the Sidelines’: “A good argument for calling one’s toilet the Jim instead of the John: ‘It sounds better when I say I go to the Jim first thing every morning.’”
• A groaner from RJ Currie: “Beatrice High School in Nebraska held a summer football camp led by NFL lineman Richie Incognito. Bully for them.”

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