Opinion: Taunted and booed relentlessly, Houston Astros get last laugh at Dodger Stadium

·6 min read

LOS ANGELES — They stormed through the Dodger Stadium gates Tuesday already seething, and the moment they saw the Houston Astros on the field, they didn't hold back.

These Dodger fans waited two long years to vent, so they wanted to make sure the Astros knew exactly how they felt about them, convinced they were cheated out of a 2017 World Series title.

These fans, full of venom, booed, taunted, mocked, cursed and insulted the Astros all game, and were even more furious by the end of the night, with the Astros winning 3-0.

“People started throwing stuff at Astros’ fans and stuff,’’ Astros closer Ryne Stanek said. “For a few minutes, you just sat there watching people throw full beers at people for half an inning.

“It was kind of crazy.’’

The Dodgers tried to sooth their fans’ animosity with manager Dave Roberts asking them to act responsibly before the game. Dodgers public address announcer Todd Leitz pleaded in the third inning for fans to settle down, reminding them they were subjected to immediate ejection for throwing objects onto the field, abusive behavior, or using inappropriate language.

Only for his warning to be drowned out by heavy boos.

Sorry, no one was interested in listening, with the game halted almost every inning for the first six innings. And no one was about to stop these fans from expressing the hatred.

“Fans have been waiting,’’ Roberts said. “There’s a lot of pent-up frustration, anger. I understand it.’’

Dodgers fans threw inflatable trash cans onto the field. They threw virtually every baseball fouled into the stands by an Astros player back onto the field. They screamed at second baseman Jose Altuve. They cursed shortstop Carlos Correa. They booed every player wearing an Astros uniform, even beloved manager Dusty Baker, the Dodger great.

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Dodger Stadium spectators react after the Houston Astros' Jose Altuve strikes out during the fifth inning.
Dodger Stadium spectators react after the Houston Astros' Jose Altuve strikes out during the fifth inning.

“It was kind of a bonkers atmosphere, for sure’’ Stanek said. “We were fine. It was just a lot of mean words, but besides that, it was all good. Nothing we basically haven’t heard all year.’’

Only the atmosphere was louder, and more vicious, than the Astros endured all year, with the sellout crowd of 52,692 – the largest of any major-league game this season –letting the Astros have it.

These Dodgers fans, dressed in creative outfits, came ready to show their contempt and disgust after MLB’s investigation a year ago revealed that the Astros cheated throughout the 2017 season. It happened to be the same year the Dodgers lost to the Astros in seven games in the World Series.

There were T-shirts with Oscar the Grouch peeking out of his trash can. There were shirts with “Cheaters’’ over the Astros’ logo. There were others simply with asterisks.

And there was Neil Brown, 41, and Josh Johnson, 40, of Simi Valley, California, who may have won the imagination award for the night.

They were dressed in Astros’ No. 17 jerseys (commemorating the 2017 scandalous season) that read, "Bang Bang" on the back, and "Trashtros" on the front. The jerseys were designed by Brown’s daughter, Samantha, and were a huge hit everywhere Brown and Johnson walked along the concourse.

“We were going to get into this series,’’ Johnson said, “even if we had to fight somebody.’’

No fighting was necessary, and with the extra layers of security at Dodger Stadium, there was no noticeable violence inside the stadium.

Chris Pena, 38, and Rosa Perez, 34, who proudly wore Astros’ caps and T-shirts, brazenly walked through the concourse with little fear, and reported no issues, at least before the game.

It was different in San Francisco during the weekend, they said, when several Giants fans yelled at them and used Altuve’s name in vein.

“Nobody’s been too rude so far,’’ said Pena, “but I guess nobody’s been drinking too much.’’

Besides, they said, they’re just fans, living in the Houston area. It’s not as if they were the ones stealing signs electronically and relaying them by thumping on trash cases.

“It’s a game, ultimately, it’s a game,’’ Pena said. “We weren’t on the field.’’

There were only three Astros players on the field Tuesday night from that 2017 team – Altuve, Correa and starter Lance McCullers Jr. – with Alex Bregman on the injured list and Yuli Gurriel on the bench.

No matter, there was enough viciousness to spread around for everyone.

Still, with chants of “Cheaters’’ reverberating through the night, and Altuve and Correa being taunted from the start of batting practice until the final out, the Astros seemed rather unfazed.

“I enjoyed it,’’ said McCullers, who started Game 7 for the Astros in 2017. “I enjoyed the reception on the way out to the pen. I felt comfortable, felt calm. Obviously, there was a lot of booing, but I liked it.’’

They might never get used to the name-calling, and hate the obscenities chanted towards them, but it’s almost as if they’re embracing being Public Enemy No. 1.

“It takes a special player to put an Astros jersey on,’’ Astros reliever Blake Taylor said, “if you’re not willing to put up with criticism in every stadium we walk into. It’s a tough gig.

So, let the Dodgers stay mad. Let first baseman Max Muncy mock them before the game, hitting his bat twice against a trash can in the Dodgers’ dugout, and yelling, “Curveball.’’ Let opposing teams and their fans resent them forever.

The Astros, 65-42, have the best record in the American League, and perhaps are feeding off all the hatred.

“I honestly think the booing makes them stronger and more determined,’’ said Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, an Astros consultant. “The challenge has made them tough. It’s a good test for young men. …These guys, play, boy. You’ve got to admire them for that.’’

Jackson, of course, is talking from plenty of experience. Perhaps no one was booed more during his era. He was the most feared home run hitter on baseball’s biggest stage playing for the New York Yankees.

In many ways, he said, it helped bring out his greatness, saying there was a time the Orioles even asked their fans to stop booing him because it only motivated him more.

“It kind of helped my concentration,’’ Jackson said. “I understood it. I’m the guy that you feared because I’m going to hurt your team. That’s how I interpreted it.

“Of course, my ego worked for me, too.

“They don’t boo nobodies.’’

Who knows? Maybe there’ll be a time when opposing fans stop hating the Astros, booing but without all of the venom, knowing that the Astros are actually thriving off the hostility.

If not, well, keep bringing it on.

The Astros dare you.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Bob Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Houston Astros endure Dodger Stadium taunts from LA fans