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BLS Investigation: Which Astros game did the characters in 'Boyhood' attend?

Boyhood Ethan Hawke
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(IFC Films)

In the incredible movie “Boyhood,” Ethan Hawke’s character takes his kids to an Astros game. In the grand tradition of analyzing what real game movies are filmed at, I sat down with Baseball Reference to figure out which game it was.

Our clues?

Roger Clemens was pitching at home against the Brewers and Jason Lane hits a homer. If you do some searching around the internet, they will tell you it’s this game, a 5-2 Brewers win on August 18, 2005. (Hawke’s character in the movie says the Astros won, but we’ll allow that parts of the movie may have been fictionalized.) After checking game logs, this is the only game where Clemens pitched against the Brewers and Lane homered.

However, this cannot be the game. Why?

Hawke’s character says later it was a three-run shot, which again, could be movie magic, but we know from our friends at Yahoo Movies that there was at least one runner on and the homer went to left. See him leading off of second in this GIF:

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That August 18 game? It’s a solo shot for Lane to right instead of left, meaning it can’t possibly be the same swing as the image above. So there are a couple other options here.

The first is that it wasn’t Lane who homered. The only other home game Clemens pitched against the Brewers where the Astros had a homer is this April 18, 2004 contest, where Brad Ausmus went yard to left … but that, too, was a solo shot.

Also, here’s director Richard Linklater specifically saying it was Lane who homered:

I was thinking about that scene at the Astros game, where that guy hits a home run. You couldn’t possibly have known that was going to happen.

Yeah, I just — in the script, it says “At Astros game.” There’s little dialogue: “Hey, Dad, do you have a job?” That’s all kind of worked out, but where to fit it in and how to do that, no. That was a wonderful collaboration with the unknown, and the film gods were with us. I’m pointing my camera for one inning, and the Astros are one of the worst offensive teams in baseball at this time. I’m pointing my camera down the third base line, basically the point of view of my people. I’m just saying, well, let’s just hope something happens. I need something! And then Jason Lane, who’s my favorite player of all time now, hits a home run. It’s not out of the frame, it’s not to center or right. It’s right down the line, in the shot. You know, it wasn’t planned, but it just happened.

The other is that it was a different Jason Lane homer against the Brewers. We have a few options for that:

August 19, 2005: Two-run homer to left off of Dana Eveland.

April 17, 2006: Three-run homer to left off of Mike Wise.

August 29, 2006: Grand slam to left off Danny Kolb.

It probably can’t be the first one, because according to the game log, there was only a runner on first, not second, although we’ll allow it could have been a hit and run or that Morgan Ensberg, who had drawn a walk, left on contact and then slowed to make sure it wasn’t caught. And it can’t be the last one because in the GIF above there is no runner on third, taking a grand slam off the table.

If you look at the out of town scoreboard in this screen grab from the trailer, there appear to be only 10 other games being played, not a full slate (notice the empty box scores on the bottom left). On April 17? Ten other games were being played. And in this image from the same game, you can see a Royals/White Sox game over Geoff Jenkins’ shoulder, which could easily be the second game in the second column in the above screen grab.

One final piece of evidence? In this other screen grab from the trailer, you can tell the Astros have double-digit hits (it looks like a 12). In the August 2005 game, they ended the game with only eight. In April 2006? Lane’s home run would have been the 13th hit of the game. It fits perfectly.

One other possibility is that the homer takes place against a different team than the Brewers, in which case it is one of these games, every instance of Lane having a homer and at least two RBI in a game at Minute Maid Park. There is footage of the Brewers and Hawke’s character specifically mentions getting to know them and learning to hate them as they head to the park, so I’m comfortable saying at least one of the games filmed was against Milwaukee.

So, my contention is about the Astros game(s) shown in “Boyhood” is the following:

The filming took place on April 17, 2006, in the bottom of the seventh with Lance Berkman on second and Morgan Ensberg at first after consecutive RBI singles. While Clemens is shown in the film and discussed, it is impossible they were at a game where The Rocket pitched against the Brewers and Lane had a multi-RBI homer to left because a game like that never occurred. The Clemens footage is from a different game altogether (perhaps from the previous August).

One potentially plausible alternative theory I think we can dismiss: The games in question are August 18, 2005 (when Clemens pitched against the Brewers) and August 19, 2005, where Lane had a two-run shot (we’ll say there was a hit-and-run on or Ensberg left on contact). But those games took place with full schedules, meaning the out of town scoreboard on the left field wall would have been full.

We reached out to the Astros, who didn’t have any records handy of what game (or games) were filmed at Minute Maid Park, but said they would investigate. Our friends at Yahoo Movies are also going to reach out to Linklater and his production company in an attempt to confirm this fun little exercise.

But we've done our homework and this is our best guess. We'll update if and when we do hear anything from Linklater or his representatives.

UPDATE (August 5):  Steve from the Astros got back to us after doing some digging and confirmed the above theory. On August 18, 2005, the crew went and shot the game Clemens pitched. The following April, on the 17, Ethan Hawke and the other actors went to the game where Lane homered to left. A big thanks to the Astros for confirming our detective work.

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