Astros fan Andy Kaminski drove from Austin to Houston’s Minute Maid Park for game two of the American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers, excited to cheer on the home team. He found a good deal on an upper deck ticket and planned to do some guerrilla marketing downtown for RunnerCity, a gig economy start-up he founded in Austin during the COVID-19 pandemic that’s expanding into Houston.
A good-natured fella with a big personality, Kaminski couldn’t resist doing all of this with a wry twist—he wore a T-shirt, which a friend of his produced, in a dusty shade of off-white with an Astros “H” logo and a drawing of an orange trash can, complete with lid, being struck by a baseball bat. Alongside the image, in the team script, were the iconic words of Screwed Up Click rapper E.S.G.: “Swangin and Bangin,” a Houston catchphrase whose meaning has been repurposed by defiant Astros fans to invoke the team’s 2017 cheating scandal, in which bats were, uh, swanged and trash cans banged to tell Houston batters which pitches were coming next. When the Athletic broke the story in 2019, the news tainted the Astros’ ’17 World Series title in the eyes of baseball fans across the country.
By all accounts, the Dusty Baker–era Astros have put all of that business behind them, but it appears that some stadium staff members are nonetheless sensitive about being reminded. “It’s game time, I’m excited to go through, and I get pulled aside,” Kaminski recounted. “I thought maybe it was like at the airport where they do a random check, but the woman said, ‘Your shirt’s not allowed in here,’ and two security guards walked up.”
Kaminski insisted that the article of clothing was—however unofficially—an Astros shirt, but to no avail. “I am a die-hard Astros fan, and it’s also Houston culture, you know, swangin’ and bangin’, trill, Slim Thug,” he explained, name-dropping more Houston hip-hop slang and a reference to the rapper who delivered a memorable feature verse on the remix of Houston MC Paul Wall’s “Swangin in the Rain.”
Kaminski asked what he was supposed to do, and the security personnel gave him two options, he said: turn the shirt inside out or be escorted to the team store, where he could buy a scandal-free Astros shirt. He opted for door number two, and the guards told him to cover the trash can on his shirt with his hand as they walked to the store. Once there, he was free to purchase an officially sanctioned piece of Astros apparel. “All the people in the store, they were asking me, ‘What’s going on?,’ and I said, ‘Apparently my shirt’s offensive!,’ and they said, ‘No, man, that shirt’s awesome,’ ” Kaminski told Texas Monthly.
Kaminski is still an Astros fan, but he did express concern that, perhaps, the team’s misfortunes in that game—it gave up four runs in the first inning—were a curse that had been unlocked by its thin-skinned employees. “When I was walking back from the store and it’s the first inning, four–nothing, I did say something snarky like ‘You f—ers jinxed the whole game,’ ” he said, “but I was just upset about the score.”
A representative for the team, when reached by Texas Monthly, said he hadn’t heard about the incident, and he wasn’t able to clarify if the incident with Kaminksi reflected an unwritten policy or the actions of an overzealous employee. Either way, Kaminski’s not stressing over it. “I love the Astros, I love Minute Maid Park, and it gave me an opportunity to buy some merch, so there we go,” he said. “I don’t take it as a negative, I take it as a f—ing story I can tell forever.”