When the Astros stormed the field Saturday night after winning their second World Series, I immediately called my sister Betsy in Houston. We talked about all the Astros games we’d been to over sixty years, starting with the franchise’s very first game in 1962. We recalled the decades when we had season tickets above the home dugout. The many painful losses. The occasional joyful victories. A dark subtext, at first unspoken between us, was the Astros’ first, tainted World Series title, back in 2017. We’d sat in the Crawford Boxes above left field for game three of that series against the Dodgers, barely a month after our mother died, wishing then that she and our father could have seen it. We talked about that day in 1996 when we’d gone early to a game in the Astrodome and scattered our father’s ashes near our dugout box seats. So many memories, the Astros entwined in light and darkness with our family like the double DNA helix.

Baseball is about memories, but it’s also about forgetting. It’s about the eternal present. The American spiritual teacher Ram Dass was not thinking about the Astros when he wrote Be Here Now, but there is no better example. Your last hit, your last strikeout, your last wild pitch—nothing. All that matters is the small white baseball, how it is pitched, whether it is hit or not, whether it is caught or not, whether you score or not. That five-ounce sphere is its own planet, its own world. I see one, in my dreams, my prayers, my meditations, sometimes against a blue sky, sometimes against black night, sometimes against the geometric pattern of the Astrodome roof. I saw that same ball, for real, rising up toward the roof of Enron Field (excuse me, Minute Maid Park) when the Astros won the World Series Saturday night.

There is something about a massive home run that stops the heart. Nothing else in sports matches it. It’s something godlike, wrought by Hercules or Thor, a myth created before your eyes. That was how it felt watching Yordan Álvarez do his magic. The baseball was thrown with unbelievable speed, barely visible to the eye, then struck with impossible force and precision and sent back into space high up where no ball had ever been hit before, in a climactic reversal no film script could ever capture. I was watching on TV in New Mexico, but I could almost feel the stadium shake in orgasmic disbelief and joy.

A few innings later the Astros stormed the field in victory—Altuve, Bregman, Peña, Valdez, Verlander, Dusty Baker. So many individual stories, so many personal dramas, so much joy—the players and coaches embodying it all in ways that no fan could know. Just being witness, that was enough.

My sister Betsy and I have been Astros fans from day one. The Astros and our family grew up together, and so did Houston and so did Texas. It’s been a bumpy road, with heroes like Rusty Staub and Joe Morgan and José Cruz and J. R. Richards bringing moments of pure joy through years of heartbreaking losses and empty stands. At one point, an Astros game scored a TV rating of 0.0—in Houston. Then came a tainted championship, and our shared pride became disbelief and shame and then defiance. It turned out the ticket wasn’t free, the trophy wasn’t quite genuine, the asterisk loomed beside the record. But the story wasn’t over.

Álvarez wasn’t the first Cuban player I’d seen win a historic Astros game. Román Mejías hit two home runs in the team’s very first game, when it was called the Colt .45s, to help beat the Chicago Cubs. In between that first Astros game and this latest one, I grew from a teenage boy to a man older even than Dusty Baker, the Astros’ healer and leader, whom I saw win his first World Series ring as a Dodgers outfielder when I was living in L.A. in 1981. Houston grew too. That 1962 game was played a few months before (and I’m starting to feel like Forrest Gump now) I saw President Kennedy give his “We choose to go the moon” speech at Rice stadium; before Lyndon Johnson cut a deal to have NASA’s headquarters built outside Houston; before there were any astronauts to give the Astros their name; before there was an Interstate 10 to speed my family from our home in Baytown to the games. Houston wasn’t much bigger then than metropolitan Dayton is now.

We had season tickets from the first game. I don’t know how my father afforded them, but he considered them a necessity. For three years we sweated, sunburned in our shadeless, hard-plank bleacher seats, swatting mosquitoes, cheering on the Colt .45s even as they finished 35 or so games out of first. I still carried my baseball glove to games then, as I had in the 1950s when we went to watch the Houston Buffs play in Busch Stadium. I always wanted to catch a ball. There would be something magical about it, to hold a ball my heroes had touched, thrown, hit. To have something tangible besides the memories and the scorecards that for years I kept meticulously by hand. There were no replays, no VHS tapes, no way to remember the games, but I could re-create every pitch from those scorecards, and sometimes I would lie awake in my bed and do just that. Once more I’d be in that rickety minor league stadium with the fans and the lights and the scent of the freshly mown grass and the ball rising tiny and white into the black of the night sky.

Three years after that first game, the Colt .45s were rechristened the Astros, after the very real astronauts who now called Houston home. Space City! In April of 1965, my father and mother and sister and I went to the first game in the Astrodome. The Dome was the brainchild of Roy Hofheinz, the kind of hybrid developer-showman who thrived in Houston back then. He was more P. T. Barnum than Branch Rickey. It wasn’t just that the Astrodome was the first air-conditioned, domed stadium. It also had a massive scoreboard (partly designed by my uncle) that stretched across the whole outfield. We watched Mickey Mantle limp out and hit the Astrodome’s first home run.

When President Johnson arrived to take in the game, Hofheinz, ever the showman, set off the scoreboard. It was a miracle of animation. A baseball exploded through the roof of the Astrodome! “HOME RUN,” it flashed! “ASTROS WIN!” Two twenty-foot-tall cowboys materialized, firing their six-shooters. Then came two massive steers, breathing fire. A cowboy chased them across the whole face of the outfield, twirling his lariat, then was finally jerked off his horse—fireworks! All to pounding music. This wasn’t kids in the outfield changing the scoreboard numbers by hand. It was a circus. The baseball players stood on the field in shock. We all did.

So many memories in the Astrodome, like the epic Mets Series in 1986. We were there for the sixteen-inning heartbreaker, singing, “Here come the Astros, burning with desire; Here come the Astros, breathing orange fire!” It’s the mystery of being a fan, of subsuming your identity into cheering victories and mourning defeats, into living vicariously through young men in uniforms playing a game on behalf of your city, making you a part of something. It’s joyful and basically harmless. Until it gets more complicated.

When it opened, the Astrodome sported a lovely field of natural grass, carefully watered and lit by the sun shining through the lattice windows of its roof. The first games were played on cloudy days. All went well. When the sun came out, however, suddenly the outfielders lost fly balls in the glare and ran helplessly in circles. Balls landed all around them. It was a tragicomedy, but what to do? You could paint the windows to block out the sun, but that would kill the grass. Hofheinz came up with a solution: artificial grass. And so, with the can-do spirit Houston prided itself on, Astroturf was born. In the screenplay I cowrote for the film Apollo 13—the 1970 lunar mission that went spectacularly wrong and stranded three real astronauts 200,000 miles from home—the mission controllers did much the same thing. They staved off real tragedy with improvisation.

I was thinking of Apollo 13 after Saturday’s game. The astronaut played by Gary Sinise was scrubbed from the mission at the last minute but ended up being the only man who could save it. I’m always drawn to stories of failure and redemption like that, far more than to stories of uncomplicated heroes. After his heroics in the Astros’ first two playoff games this year, Álvarez had looked lost in the next ten of them, only to reappear in the last game in spectacular fashion. The slugger fell from grace and then rose again. That was the hero turn. But the supporting examples were equally telling.

At the trade deadline, Houston had traded for Christian Vázquez and Trey Mancini. They had been standouts on their old teams, but neither made much impact with the Astros. In the playoffs, they were all but useless until near the end. In game five against Philadelphia, Mancini, who was 0-for-18 up to that point in the postseason, subbed in for an injured Yuli Gurriel at first base. That very inning, Mancini made one of the two plays that saved pitcher Justin Verlander’s crucial win. Vázquez, a catcher, played in only one game behind the plate, but it was the historic no-hitter of game four. He too had been in a slump, but he knocked in the key insurance run of the final game. When I watched the celebration, no one seemed happier than those two newest Astros.

Which brings me to the elephant in the room. The Cheaters. The Astros who won our first World Series in 2017 amidst the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, the feel-good team that gave a whole city hope. A baseball team, like a military platoon, a Pueblo people, a high school, a church, or any other institution, is the product of its culture. New members are taken under the wings of the elders and taught to model their values. The Astros elders betrayed their protégés. They set up a bizarre system of signaling opposing teams’ pitch signs using the center-field camera, a connection to the dugout, and a coded system of banging trash cans. One of those former Astros elders is the current manager of the Boston Red Sox; another is a broadcaster for the Yankees. No one boos them.

It’s like the riddle of Theseus’s ship. If every mast and sail, every board and timber, is gradually replaced, is it still the same ship? It depends on whom you ask. For years, Astros who weren’t on the roster in 2017 have been booed. Mancini and Vázquez, along with Astros rookies David Hensley and Jeremy Peña, were rousingly booed in Seattle, New York, and Philadelphia during the postseason, even though they’d all been Astros for less than a year. Like all but five members of this current team, they were new to the ship.

I could point out that the cheating system only worked at home. That in 2017, the Astros won more games on the road, where they couldn’t cheat, than in Minute Maid Park, where they did. That they won two of four World Series games in Dodger Stadium. That statistically, cheating seemed to have made no difference. The tragedy is, they didn’t need to cheat—but they did. Put that badge on your chest, take the boos, just go out and keep winning. Own what you did, let them hate you, but over the years make them respect you. That’s how pitcher Lance McCullers put it after Houston swept the Yankees in the ALCS. Ryan Pressly, the closer who saved Saturday night’s game and wasn’t an Astro in 2017, said: “We don’t really give a s— what they say. We won. We’re the best. Ain’t nothing they can say about it now.”

That gives a glimpse not of redemption, but maybe closure. Baseball is a liminal game. The veil between preparation and luck or magic is impossibly thin. Álvarez adjusted his hands an inch or so just before he hit that magical home run. Phillies batters did the equivalent and their balls fell into Houston gloves. The veil between moral failure and redemption in baseball is liminal too. With luck, or call it grace, you might get it. Or not. Baseball can be cruel, unfair, unjust. But it is always true. That may sound mystical, but Dusty Baker has delved far more deeply into its painful and glorious mysteries for six decades than I have, and he seems a cheerfully mystical guy.

There is also something so Houston about these new Astros. The heroes now aren’t just Alex Bregman and Justin Verlander. Álvarez is from Cuba. Framber Valdez, who won two of the four Series games, is from the Dominican Republic, as are Cristian Javier, Rafael Montero, and Bryan Abreu, three of the four pitchers who combined in the game four no-hitter. As is Jeremy Peña, the spectacular rookie who was named the World Series MVP. Vázquez and fellow catcher Martín Maldonado are from Puerto Rico. None of them were part of the 2017 team. They help make up one of the most diverse teams representing the most diverse city in the United States. The Astros are America, with all its warts and wonders.

And yet that’s not the whole story. With apologies to Ryan Pressly, there is something I can say about it now.

When my sister Betsy and I were up in the Crawford Boxes during the 2017 World series, cheering the Astros on against the Dodgers a few weeks after our mother had died, just to our left was that rigged center-field camera. The whole game, it was relaying the Dodgers’ signs to the Astros dugout. We didn’t know about that camera then. We were missing Mom and Dad, and remembering all those decades watching generations of Astros players come off the field back into the dugout beneath us. We were thinking about all those losing seasons Mom and Dad went through. When the Astros won the Series, we wished they’d been around to see it. The purity of baseball, they loved that most of all.

When the cheating scandal broke, I couldn’t help but wonder how they’d have taken it. I think they would have felt betrayed. I think it would have broken their hearts. It would have broken the heart of that boy with his glove in the stands at Busch Stadium.

You don’t heal a broken heart, but after last night, it’s easier to live with.

That’s baseball, and that’s life. If you’re lucky.

William Broyles is a native of Baytown and was the founding editor of Texas Monthly.