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 World Series – In 2005, the first World Series game ever to be played in Texas started. The Houston Astros played the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Field losing 7-5 in 14 innings. The game was also the longest in World Series history lasting 5 hours and 41 minutes and actually ended on October 26. The long game produced many all-time World Series records. The teams combined to use 17 pitchers (9 White Sox and 8 Astros), throwing a total of 482 pitches, and walking 21 batters (12 by the WS, 9 by the Stros); 43 players were used (the White Sox used 22 and the Astros used 21), and 30 men were left on base (15 for each team). Scott Podsednik set an all-time record with eight at-bats in the game.
The Series itself was remarkable as the teams had combined for 132 years of championship frustration. The Astros had not won in their 44 year history and the Pale Hose last championship had been in 1917. The White Sox would go on to sweep the Astros in 4 games and break their long drought.
From the Annals of MLB – In 2004, after 43 seasons and losing their previous 7 playoff series, the Houston Astros finally won a postseason series by defeating the Atlanta Braves 12-3 in Game 5. The so-called “Killer Bees” led the way with Biggio (.400, 4 RBIs, 4 runs), Bagwell (.318, 5 RBIs, 5 Runs), Berkman (.409, 3 RBIs, 5 Runs) and Beltran (.455, 9 RBIs, 4 Home Runs) as the team scored 36 runs in the 5 game series. Alas, the Astros would go on to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
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.
The Baseball Writer’s Association has selected Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines for the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2017.
Pudge Rodriguez leads the class as a first ballot HOFer even though he barely got in with 76% of the vote. PR deserves the honor. For about a decade, Red’s view was that if he was building a team, Pudge would be the first player taken. He is the greatest catcher ever by any metric. In his 21 seasons, PR hit 311 home runs, drove in 1332 runs, scored 1354 runs, had 2844 hits and sported a .296 batting average. Throw in 14 appearances in the All Star game, 13 Golden Gloves, the 1999 MVP award and the fact that he played the most difficult and demanding position in all of sport and you have to wonder – who didn’t vote for this guy?
Tim Raines, who has long been touted by the sabermetrics crowd received 86% of the vote in his 10th and final year of eligibility. Raines’ stat line is not as impressive as PR’s, but Red will defer to the experts on TR. He never hit 20 home runs in a season and only once topped 70 RBI’s. His 808 stolen bases are impressive, but Red thinks that Raines owes his new HOF status to a vigorous internet campaign.
Red will not make any friends here, but he really doesn’t think Jeff Bagwell is among the 220 or so greatest baseball players of all time. Okay he has a better stat line than either PR or TR, but his greatest years were almost certainly tainted. Never thought of as a great fielder, he played a relatively easy position and never earned a Golden Glove or Silver Slugger award. He does have 4 All Star appearances and the MVP award from the strike shortened 1994 season in his favor. But having watched a lot of JB over the years, Red has a hard time seeing him in Cooperstown – but there he will be.
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.
From the Annals of Heat – In 1983, Nolan Ryan playing for the Houston Astros set a new major league record with after recording strike-out number 3509 against Brad Mills of the Montreal Expos. Ryan broke a 55-year-old major league baseball record with the K. Ryan would go on to strike out a total of 5714 batters in his remarkable career and record a MLB record seven no-hitters. Less noted is the fact that he also is the all-time leader in bases on balls – but that is the price of longevity. Ryan is the only player to have his number retired by three different ball clubs – the Angels, Astros and Rangers. Among the stranger records he holds is his claim to have been the only pitcher in MLB history to have struck out seven pairs of fathers and sons. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1999. Sadly, he is depicted wearing a Texas Rangers cap on his hall of fame plaque.