Then there was the (second) baseman's holiday that Biggio took on the team's off day in Cincinnati. "I toured the Louisville Slugger factory," he said. "That was the most memorable part of the trip so far."
In San Diego the team made a field trip to the nuclear submarine USS Houston. Then again: "San Diego's a great city," said Bagwell. "But when you're losing four straight there, it's not a lot of fun."
In Los Angeles an earthquake threw a 3.7 on the Richter scale. In San Francisco 35.000 members of the American Bar Association convened while the Astros were in town. "Thirty-five thousand lawyers," said Astro traveling secretary Barry Waters, shaking his head at the memory. (Reader: Insert your own punchline here.)
Law Night at Candlestick Park—we are not making this up—was so frigid and so gusty that the flag bearers in the Navy color guard, trying to stand at attention for the national anthem in the brisk breeze, could not do so and were windswept out of formation in centerfield.
It was so blustery, the Astro relief staff didn't dare venture from the comical shed that shelters members of the bullpen from the elements at Candlestick. "We stayed in the chicken coop," said Boever. And those Astros who remained in their rooms at the Parc Fifty-Five when not playing—it is a hotel that does big business with Japanese tourists—could occupy their time by dipping into the copy of The Teachings of Buddha that beckoned from each nightstand. "The road is boring," says Candaele. "You play your game and go back to the hotel." So naturally, at the three Hiltons in which the Astros were booked during the trip, there was plenty of time for that classic autobiographical work Be My Guest, by Conrad Hilton.
Is it any wonder that the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance last year, trying to prevent these atrocities before they befell the Astros? Unable to spring the Astros from making the trip, the union did at least produce some lovely parting gifts: a single room for each player in Chicago, as well as first-class round-trip plane tickets between Houston and Chicago (or the cash equivalent), so that players' wives could make conjugal visits.
Of course, not all of the Astros are married, which may be why teammates placed an inflatable woman in pitcher Pete Harnisch's locker at every stop on the itinerary. And a single room for the single Gonzalez in Chicago meant that he had more space to pace when his 11:30 p.m. room-service order of two club sandwiches still hadn't arrived two hours later. "I called them three times," said Gonzalez. "I told them I was staying in the building, at the Hyatt, in case they didn't realize it."
So were several hundred Pentecostals and hordes of hardware sales folk for what were, presumably, two separate conventions. Which is why the Astros, upon checking in late at night after their hairy flight from San Francisco, were pleasantly surprised to find the lobby bar nearly empty. One would have assumed that the hardware boys would be packing 'em away, no?
No. Which gave the 'Stros a rare opportunity to pause for a cold one, and perhaps to toast the Republicans with a thousand pints of Lite. "The convention is going to bring a lot of money into the city," says Biggio of Houston. "The way I look at it, you have to play 81 on the road. It doesn't really matter when you play them."
Still, for those disgruntled Astros, there is a God: While Houston was taking two out of four games against the Cubs, convention spokesman Kyle Simmons was reporting that a G.O.P. staffer had nearly fallen into a hole at the dome ordinarily occupied by the Astros' dugout toilet. (The dugouts were being displaced for network TV anchor booths at the time.)