From the Annals of the Taxpayer Funded Stadiums – In 1962, the ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Harris County Domed Stadium (later dubbed the Astrodome) in Houston. It was designed to be the first fully air-conditioned and completely enclosed sports stadium in the world. The Houston team at the time was named the Colt 45’s so the ceremony was not held with the standard gold-plated shovels. Harris County Judge Roy Hofheinz and other local dignitaries shot Colt .45 pistols into the dirt. Red is disappointed to learn they shot blanks and that the pistols have been lost to history; but it was a foreboding sign for a team that would take 55 seasons to finally win the World Series. The Astrodome itself is rusting hulk that has now sat empty for more than 15 years.
From the Annals of Baseball – In 1964, the Houston Colt .45s changed their name to the Houston Astros. The name change coincided with the move to the Astrodome (officially the Harris County Domed Stadium) beginning with the 1965 season. The word “Astro” does not appear in the English language and is Greek prefix. The name honored Houston’s position as the center of the nation’s space program with NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Clear Lake. The name change and relocation to the Astrodome did little to improve results on the field. Attendance increased dramatically – but not because of the Astros. Fans from around the country came to see the phenomenon of baseball being played indoors.
From the Annals of the Eighth Wonder – In 1999, the Houston Astros played their last game in the Astrodome. Predictably it was the last game of a divisional series loss to the Atlanta Braves. After winning the first game in Atlanta, the Astros lost 3 straight to Braves. The Braves held a 7-0 lead after a 5 run 6th inning. The Astros rallied to score 5 runs sparked by a 3 run homer by Tony Eusebio in the 8th inning. The Astros had a chance to tie in the bottom of the 9th. As Jeff Bagwell came to the plate, Red’s buddy the Big Dog remarked, “This is kind of a career-defining moment for Bagwell.” Bagwell failed to deliver. The Astros still had a chance with Ken Caminiti at the plate. Caminiti, who had carried the Astros in the series with 8 RBI’s and a .471 average, hit a long ball to the warning track in left field and the Astros run in the Eighth Wonder of the World was over. The blame largely fell on future Hall of Famers, Bagwell and Craig Biggio who combined for a total of 4 hits while batteing .154 and .105 respectively in the series.
From the Annals of the Big Leagues – In 1964, the Houston Colt .45s changed their name to the Astros. Supporters of the Second Amendment gnashed their teeth and rent their garments.
In honor of the Fall Classic, Red will be posting something about the World Series every day. Today’s entry comes from a particularly odiferous made for TV movie called “Murder at the World Series.” Red remembers watching this with a group of friends back in 1977 mainly because it featured scenes shot in Houston in and around the beloved Astrodome.
Other than that, MATWS has little to offer. The basic plot is that an aspiring but psychopathic baseball player tries out for the Houston Astros and is rejected. He tries to get revenge by undertaking a series of kidnappings and plotting to bomb a World Series game at the Astrodome. His plans go awry when he sort of falls for one of his kidnapping victims. He intends to let her go, but ends up killing her when a bomb planted in his van goes off. He either gets captured or killed – Red doesn’t remember because this is some awful tripe masquerading as actual entertainment. The MFTVM is notable in featuring Joachim “Where’s My Head” Andujar as the starting pitcher for the Astros and the late great Bob Allen as a sportscaster. Red can’t imagine that this is ever showed anywhere, but if perchance it is, the only reason to watch is to see what the Astrodome looked like in its glory days – including the movie credits being displayed on the big light board in centerfield.
And finally, as Red’s old buddy Scooter said at the conclusion, “You know it had to be fiction because the Astros won the World Series.”
From the Annals of Roundball – In 1968, Houston ended UCLA’s 47-game winning streak with a 71-69 victory at the Astrodome before 52,693 fans. The so-called “Game of the Century” was the first basketball game played in the Eighth Wonder of the World and set a NCAA attendance record. It was also the first NCAA regular season game broadcast nationwide in prime time through a syndication package.
Houston and UCLA had met the previous season in the semifinals of the 1967 tournament with the Bruins winning 73–58 and moving on to win the national championship for the third time in four years. Houston Coach Guy Lewis wanted a rematch and sold the game to UCLA’s John Wooden as something that would be good for all of college basketball.
The biggest match-up of the game featured Center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) for the Bruins against Forward Elvin Hayes of the Cougars. Although they did not play directly against each other, Hayes did block 3 of KAJ’s shots bringing cries of “E” from the crowd. KAJ had suffered an eye injury the week before and turned in the worst performance of his college career. The two teams would meet again in the NCAA tournament semi-final. UCLA exacted revenge stomping the Cougars 101 to 69 and going on to beat North Carolina in the final.
Sports Illustrated cover from Pristine Auctions.
From the Annals of the Astrodome – In 1965, Judy Garland became the first artist to perform at the Astrodome. The Supremes were the opening act. Garland was paid $43,000 for the show and tickets were priced from $1.00 to $7.50. At the time the Eighth Wonder of the World seated 48,000, but another 12,000 seats were added for Garland’s show. Garland appeared on stage at 10 p.m. and sang for 40 minutes, with her set of songs including: “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”; “Just In Time”; “My Kind Of Town, [Houston] Is”; “Houston”; “As Long As He Needs Me”; “Joey, Joey, Joey”; “Do It Again”; “What Now My Love?”; “By Myself”; “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby”; “San Francisco”; “Chicago”; and “Over The Rainbow.”