The franchise now known as the Houston Astros came into the league in 1962 as the Houston Colt .45’s and won their inaugural game against the Chicago Cubs 11-2 on April 10, 1962. That upset was but a small fraction of the history that was to come. Things never came easy to the franchise waiting eighteen seasons to win their first Division title. Their original stadium, Colt Stadium was only home to the franchise for two seasons and would later be dismantled and moved to Gomez Palacio, Mexico where it became home to a Mexican League Baseball team.
The .45’s moved into the “Eighth Wonder of the World” Houston Astrodome in 1965 and changed their moniker to the Houston Astros and found gold in the green turf beneath their feet. The construction of the Astrodome paved the way for a number of “firsts” to be accomplished. Although they would finish in ninth place, the stadium was routinely full as people came to see the Astrodome. By the time the ’66 season rolled around, the kinks and quirks of the new mega-dome were ironed out. A new turf was created aptly coined “AstroTurf” and before you knew it, the Astros were changing the way the America’s pastime was played. The ’66 season also saw the arrival of new manager Grady Hatton and before you knew it, the Astros were climbing up the rankings getting as high as 2nd place in the National League. Inconsistent play and a young squad hampered them in the latter part of the season and they crashed as quickly as they had risen.
The assassinations of both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy within a two month period left a damper on Major League Baseball. The MLB left it up to individual team owners to decide if any games were to be cancelled. When the Astros decided not to postpone any games, two, players 6X All Star RF Rusty Staub and former Brooklyn Dodger 3B Bob Aspromonte, who was the last Brooklyn Dodger to retire. Both were traded at the end of that fateful season.
While the franchise put out an exciting product on the field involving future Hall of Fame Players, they would not come around until 1979 when the team benefited from RHP Ken Forsch who no-hit the Atlanta Braves on the second game of the season. Later in the season, on July 4th, the Astros travelled to Cincinnati for a night game complete with fireworks. It was during that game that Astro CF Cesar Cedeno and Reds 3B Ray Knight after the Reds incessantly taunted Pitcher Joaquin Andujar. The Astros would go on to post a 89-73 record and 1.5 games behind the National League Champion Reds.
New team owner Dr. John McMullen struck gold when he signed Alvin, Texas native Nolan Ryan to a million dollar a year contract, the first ever of its kind. Ryan responded by posting 4 no-hitters while striking out 383 batters in one season. Attendance records soared but the team record stayed grounded. 1980 saw the franchise add knuckleballer Joe Niekro and giant RHP J.R. Richard for a trifecta of terror for opposing batters. The team made the playoffs and the NLCS where they faced a powerhouse team in the Philadelphia Phillies. The Astros would get within one game of making it to the Fall Classic but for the efforts of the Phillies Gary Maddox who doubled in Del Unser with one out giving the Phillies an 8-7 victory.
Minute Maid Park, a.k.a. the “Juice Box,” plays home to the Houston Astros. It’s one of the most architecturally unique parks in the majors. With a retractable roof, a fully working locomotive in left field and a 50,000 square foot glass western wall. The quirks are also put into the field as well as in the stadium around it. Center field showcases Tal’s Hill, a 30 degree incline against the center field wall and on the hill is a flag pole displaying the American flag and making a fly ball to center field very interesting.
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