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Old-time Astros celebrate victory

Old-time Astros celebrate victory

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ST. LOUIS -- The Busch Stadium clock read 10:21 p.m. CT when Jason Lane cradled Yadier's Molina fly ball in right field. With that catch, the Houston Astros had clinched the franchise's first National League pennant.

With that catch, decades of heartbreak and frustration came to an end for those in the Houston organization who had waited so long for this night.

Those who were on hand savored the moment. Everywhere you looked in the boisterous Houston clubhouse, there were hugs and tears. Players whooped it up, others were misty-eyed. Champagne sprayed every which way.

"We've got people in this organization who have been here a long time," Astros general manager Tim Purpura said. "Like Walt Matthews, who's been here 40 years. Mary Ann Bell in accounting, who just retired after 40 years, Julio Linares, who has run our Dominican Academy for 35 years. I can't imagine what they're feeling now just from what we're feeling here in this room. I can't imagine."

After so long a wait and too many disappointments -- the Astros had been 0-5 in games where if they had won they would have clinched a World Series berth -- those long-time Astros were finally finding out what World Series bubbly tastes like.

How sweet it is.

"To me it's all about the city of Houston, it really is, and I'm just thrilled," said Astros radio analyst Alan Ashby, a catcher on the 1986 team that fell to the New York Mets in the NLCS. "This ballclub has been good enough so many times to get in a position to do this. You take your shot, they've proved best this postseason and now a chance to get in with the Chicago White Sox. It's great for the players, it's great for the organization and it's absolutely tremendous for the city of Houston, I'm really proud."

After the disappointing loss in Game 5, when Albert Pujols' three-run homer in the ninth kept the Astros from clinching at Minute Maid Park, Ashby said it took a moment after Lane caught the last out.

"[There was] almost as much disbelief as it was the other night when Pujols took it away from us with that home run," Ashby said. "It's finally starting to sink in."

First base coach Jose Cruz has been a fixture in Houston as a player and coach for more than a quarter of a century. Cruz came close to a World Series as a player in 1980, when the Astros lost to Philadelphia in the then best-of-five NLCS, 3-2.

"I'm happy and glad for the city of Houston, because I know the city of Houston has been waiting for a long time," Cruz said. "When you lose a game [like Game 5], you always come back with, 'Oh my God, I hope we're not going to lose like 1980 and '86.' But when you've got two guys and Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens the last two games, I say I'd put my money on them, you've got a chance."

Oswalt was outstanding and with the Houston offense contributing five runs, the Astros were finally able to end their World Series drought.

"Finally. What a satisfying moment," said Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith, the architect of the 1980 and '86 playoff teams and a Houston resident who has been a fixture in this organization for more than 25 years.

"We've been through a lot. When you finally get there it's just such a glorious, satisfying step. I hope the entire city and all of our wonderful fans ... all will really enjoy it, because they've also helped support it."

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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