SABR

Baseball in the Space Age

Journal from the 2014 Convention, focusing on baseball in Houston.

  • Houston’s Role in the Initiation of Sunday Night Baseball By Bill McCurdy

    It is something of a minor irony that Houston, the city that brought totally covered stadiums and air conditioning to baseball and football, also became the place that pushed the envelope on the approval of baseball on Sunday nights. Like air conditioning, the concept was introduced for the safety and comfort of Houston fans, and its adoption came about as a quirk of fate. 

  • Movies, Bullfights, and Baseball, Too: Astrodome Built for Spectacle First and Sports Second By Eric Robinson

    The Astrodome was born in spectacle, a very Texan sort of spectacle, tied to the state’s historical heritage and fascination with its own cowboy mythos. Yet even within the western milieu, the first modern dome celebrated innovation, hailing the feasibility of large-scale domes, the invention of Astroturf, and the most advanced scoreboard of its day. The building played host to a number of pop culture and exhibition events as significant as any of the baseball or football games played there.

  • The Houston Astros and Wooing Women Fans By Will Flaherty

    Although the earliest of American baseball clubs were organized as exclusively male social organizations, spectators were soon drawn to their games, and plenty of women were among them. But by the early 1960s, teams began to notice declining attendance of women. Few franchises in baseball's westward expansion attempted to cater to female fans like the Houston Astros. Established in 1962 as the Colt .45s and led by eccentric owner Judge Roy Hofheinz, Houston’s entry in the National League employed a variety of marketing strategies to attract female fans to ballgames.

  • The Colt .45s and the 1961 Expansion Draft By Stephen D. Boren and Eric Thompson

    On October 10, 1961, the National League held the expansion draft to provide players for the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Mets. The NL learned from the mistakes made in the AL expansion draft a year earlier, but both teams were hampered by a lack of quality players in the pool and financial restrictions.

  • Dick “Turk” Farrell: Houston’s First All-Star By Ron Briley

    Blessed with an outstanding fastball, Dick "Turk" Farrell also enjoyed a reputation for being somewhat of a character and loving the party life. Many observers thought Houston had made a mistake in selecting him in the expansion draft, but Farrell’s work on the mound for the Colt .45s silenced his critics.

  • The 1963 Pepsi Cola Colt .45s Baseball Card Set By Charles Harrison

    This article investigates the 1963 Pepsi Cola Colt .45s Baseball Card Set, documents rarities, and identifies why certain of these cards are rare, drawing attention to this set that is obscure to all except the most sophisticated collectors.

  • Almost Three Games in One: Astros 1, Mets 0 on April 15, 1968 By John McMurray

    A memorable Houston Astros-New York Mets game in 1968 lasted 24 innings, six hours ... and featured just one run scored.

  • The 1968 All-Star Game By Brendan Bingham

    The 1968 baseball season took place against a backdrop of racial violence. The late 1960s trembled with social and political turbulence, with the summer of 1968 at its epicenter. Given the tenor of the times, Houston was a good place for Major League Baseball to showcase its talent in the 1968 mid-summer classic.

  • The Saga of J.R. Richard’s Debut: Blowing Away 15 Sticks at Candlestick By Dan VanDeMortel

    When Houston Astros flamethrower J.R. Richard debuted against the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park on September 5, 1971, he did so in relative anonymity. He received no television coverage, and no radio broadcast beyond the clubs’ local markets. Willie Mays and baseball’s fourth-best offense awaited him. The rookie responded by striking out 15 Giants to tie a major league record.

  • From the Gashouse to the Glasshouse: Leo Durocher and the 1972–73 Houston Astros By Jimmy Keenan

    In August 1972, Leo Durocher was hired by the Houston Astros for what would be his final managerial job in a Hall of Fame career. But his abrasive style of managing alienated many of his players, including star pitcher Larry Dierker. Some Astros never respected Durocher or his past accomplishments, and felt he was a relic from an era that was no longer relevant.

  • There Used to be a Big Dome By Francis Kinlaw

    A lyrical tribute to Houston's most famous ballpark.

  • Don Wilson: Houston's Fallen Star By Matthew Clifford

    Don Wilson won 109 games in nine seasons with the Houston Astros, including two no-hitters, but his death at age 29 in mysterious circumstances ended what might have turned into an exemplary pitching career.

  • Rainout in the Astrodome By Rick Schabowski

    A rainout in the Astrodome? How is that possible? It’s domed, protected from the elements. The 
Astros don’t even have the traditional rain check printed on their tickets! Yet on Tuesday, June 15, 1976, the supposed impossible happened. A game between the Astros and the Pittsburgh Pirates was postponed because of rain.

  • Catching Rainbows and Calling Stars: Alan Ashby and the Houston Astros By Maxwell Kates

    Few individuals saw more Astros history than Alan Ashby. An Astro for 20 of their first 50 seasons, he spent eleven on the Astrodome carpet, coordinating one of the more challenging pitching staffs of his time. After one year as their bullpen coach Ashby moved to the broadcast booth for another eight, culminating with Houston’s first trip to the World Series.

  • The Greatest Game Ever Played? October 15, 1986 By Ron Briley

    On October 15, 1986, the New York Mets led the Houston Astros three games to two in the NLCS after an extra-inning victory in Game Five at Shea Stadium. Game Six was scheduled for Houston, and most in baseball, including many of the Mets players, assumed that the Astros would roll on to win Game Seven if they could somehow manage a victory in Game Six at home. It was a 16-inning classic.

  • The Houston Astros Hall of Stats By Adam Darowski

    The purpose of a Hall of Fame is to celebrate the greats and preserve history. About half of Major League Baseball's clubs maintain team Halls of Fame, honoring players who may have fallen short of Cooperstown, but still made a lasting impact worthy of commemoration. If the Houston Astros were to establish their own Hall of Fame, what would it look like?

  • Astrodome Proves to Be No Hitters Park By Paul Geisler

    Long fences and “dead” indoor air gave Astrodome a reputation for being unfriendly to hitters. This analysis compares batting average, slugging percentage, and home run rate (home runs per 1,000 at-bats) for all Astros games at home (in the Dome) and on the road.

  • Astrodome Attendance Below League Average By Paul Geisler

    Despite the phenomenal engineering feat and the novelty of the stadium, attendance at the Astrodome ranked significantly lower than the average attendance in the National League during the Dome’s life, with a few notable exceptions.

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