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.
“McCovey is off the table!”
That’s how Red felt about Willie McCovey as a young man. McCovey passed away this week at the age of 80.
At age 21, McCovey made his Major League Baseball debut with the San Francisco Giants by going 4 for 4 with two RBIs on July 30, 1959 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year award despite playing only one half of the season. McCovey finished his Hall of Fame career (inducted on the first ballot in 1986) with 2211 hits, 521 homeruns, 1555 RBIs and a career .270 batting average. McCovey is honored by the Giants franchise with the unofficially named McCovey Cove behind the right field wall of AT&T Park. 78 Giants and 47 players from other MLB clubs have hit home runs out of the park into McCovey’s cove – one of the few places in MLB parks that a player can hit one out of the stadium. His 18 career grand slams are a MLB record.
McCovey’s best season was in 1969 when he had a career high in hits (157), Homeruns (45), RBI’s(126), OBS (.453), SLG (.656), and OPS (1.108) and was the NL MVP. McCovey appeared in six all-star games (winning the AS MVP award in 1969). McCovey played for 22 years until 1980 and stayed with the Giants organization for another 18 seasons.
Red was lucky enough to see McCovey play once at the Astrodome in Houston in the first MLB game he ever attended. Red also doesn’t recall anyone ever saying a bad word about this man.
Houston Astros regular season games are broadcast on AT&T SportsNet Southwest which also provides pre-game and post-game coverage and analysis. However, during the playoffs, ATTSNSW will be the only regional sports network that will not provide such coverage. ATTSNSW is declining to provide the local angle because “they don’t have the rights to broadcast the games.” They are clearly the outlier as the other regional networks will provide coverage before and after each game even thought they are not actually carrying the games either. In the American League, Yankees fans can get the local scoop on YES, Red Sox faithful on NESN, Indians supporters on SportsTime Ohio and A’s hangers-on on NBC Sports California. But for Astros fans, the final chance to hear Todd Kalas, Geoff Blum, Julia Morales, Kevin Eschenfelder and Mike Stanton chat up the Astros will be before and after the final game of the regular season on Sunday. Sad!
From the Annals of the Sluggers – In 2012, outfielder Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers hit four home runs in a game against the Baltimore Orioles. Hamilton became the 16th major league baseball player to hit four home runs in one game. He also had 18 total bases which set an American League record.
Hamilton’s troubles with drug and alcohol addiction are well-known by baseball fans. After being drafted No. 1 overall out of high school in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Hamilton’s addiction problems kept him out of the major leagues until he debuted with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007 at the age of 26. Hamilton’s on-field performance over the next seven seasons was impressive. He was named to four All-Star teams and was the AL MVP in 2010 when he led the league in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging. He had a couple of relatively minor relapses with alcohol in later years, but it is injuries that have kept him off the field since the 2015 season. At age 36, it seems doubtful that JH will ever return to baseball.
From the Annals of MLB – In 1991, in his 25th major league season and at age 44 Nolan Ryan pitched his record-setting 7th career no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays. Ryan was not particularly happy about pitching that evening on four days rest, but he agreed to pitch because it was Arlington Appreciation Night and he felt he owed something to the Texas fans. Before the game, Rangers’ pitching coach Tom House was less than optimistic.
“Nolan was bouncing his curveball, huffing and puffing on his fastball. He had no location, and his changeup was non-existent. I’m thinking, Whoops, this is not real good.”
Despite warning House and Rangers’ manager Bobby Valentine to have some warming up before he even took the mound, Ryan cruised through the game with only a couple of good defensive plays required. He struck out Roberto Alomar to close out the game.
Ryan retired after in 1993 with the all-time MLB of 5,714 strikeouts and the less desirable career record of 2,795 walks. His 324 career wins has him tied for 14th on the all-time list. But the record of seven career no-hitters may be unbreakable. Sandy Koufax is second on the list with four. Among active players, Max Scherzer, Cole Hamels, Jake Arrieta, Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander and Homer Bailey each have two no-hitters.
From the Annals of MLB – In 1968, the Houston Astros and New York Mets finished the longest night game in Major League history. The game lasted 24 innings and clocked in at six hours six minutes. The game had started on April 15 but did not finish until 1:37 a.m. the next day.
In the bottom of the 24th inning, the Astros loaded the bases. Bob Aspromonte hit a routine grounder to utility infielder Al Weis who was filling in at shortstop because Bud Harrelson had a sore arm. The ball went through his legs to score Norm Miller and end the game with a 1-0 Astros victory. The game was also notable because it was the longest scoreless contest in baseball history.
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.