Remember when the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scandal felt like a big deal? Man, those were innocent times.
One particularly enterprising baseball team tried to capitalize on that fury, and to mix sports metaphors, called an impressive audible when the world suddenly changed.
Meet Astro the Grouch, a collectible created by the independent St. Paul Saints that Yankees fans (or Dodgers fans, or anyone else looking for vengeance) can purchase while simultaneously contributing to a great cause.
If you’re trying to figure out why an independent team from Minnesota got involved in the Astros’ mess, well, don’t overthink it. You need know only that the Saints’ ownership, the Goldklang Group, features Mike Veeck, the son of legendarily enterprising owner Bill Veeck, and entertainment icon Bill Murray.
“We have no connection,” Sean Aronson, a Saints vice president who oversees their media relations and broadcasting, said in a telephone interview. “Twins fans are not up in arms about the Astros. But we’ve always been known as the team that pokes fun at the establishment. We were trying to find the right idea that jumped and made us laugh.”
The revelation that the Astros banged a trash can to convey their stolen information evoked “Sesame Street” legend Oscar the Grouch, and the Astros’ mascot Orbit has those memorable antennae. A marriage of those two images, combined with the industriousness needed to avoid copyright infringement lawsuits, led to Astro the Grouch, who, upon a pressing of a button, will alternately shout, “Fastball! Changeup! Curveball! Slider!” while banging on his can when the occasion calls for it.
The Saints planned to give these away on July 31, when the Twins hosted the Astros at Target Field, across the Mississippi River from where the Saints play; they announced the promotion in late February. That game almost certainly won’t take place thanks to the coronavirus shutdown.
Even if it does, however, the Saints, taken aback by the positive responses to their announcement, decided to produce more of the collectible and sell them for $35, with 10 percent from each purchase going to ACES, an organization that uses sports as a hook to help low-income kids in the Twin Cities. My only suggestion for an improvement would be for the Saints to donate a lot more than 10 percent per purchase (they had sold over 2,000 as of earlier this week), all the more so in light of Minneapolis serving as ground zero for the serious, necessary discussions about race relations that have taken place these last couple of weeks.
“It’s great to be able to come up with an idea, and even when you don’t have a season, it gains traction,” said Aronson, who credited the team’s general manager Derek Sharrer and director of marketing and promotions Sierra Bailey for creating Astro.
That a healthy percentage of the orders have come from Texas, and even Houston, shows that Astros fans might very well possess a sense of humor about their team’s shame. Or at least, they’re willing to turn those embarrassing lemons into some meaningful lemonade.
This week’s Pop Quiz Question came from Gary Mintz of South Huntington: Name the ballpark that makes a cameo appearance in the 2019 film “Yesterday.”
My latest quarantine reading was “Kings of Queens” by Erik Sherman, an interesting catch-up session with several members of the 1986 Mets – including backup catcher Ed Hearn, whose great deeds were documented here a few weeks ago. The book is a must-read for fans of the ‘86 Mets.
Your Pop Quiz answer is Citi Field.
If you have a tidbit that connects baseball to popular culture, please send it to me at [email protected]
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