name = Houston Astros
established = 1962
Drayton McLane, Jr.
colors=Black, Brick Red, Sandcolor box|black color box|#960018 color box|#F0DC82
WS = (0)
WORLD CHAMPIONS = none
LEAGUE = NL
P = (1)
PENNANTS = 2005
OTHER PENNANTS =
misc5 = Division Series Champions (2)
OTHER DIV CHAMPS = 2004 • 2005
DIV = Central
DV = (4)
Division Champs = 2001 • 1999 • 1998 • 1997
misc5 = West Division titles (2)  
OTHER DIV CHAMPS = 1986 • 1980
WC = (2)
Wild Card = 2005 • 2004
misc6 =  - In by|1981, a players' strike in the middle of the season forced the season to be split into two halves. The Astros won the division in the second half, but lost the division playoff to the Dodgers.
 - In by|1994, a players' strike wiped out the last eight weeks of the season and all post-season. Houston was a half game out of first place in the Central Division behind Cincinnati when play was stopped. No official titles were awarded in 1994.
current league = National League
y1 = 1962
division = Central Division
y2 = 1994
**West Division (by|1969-by|1993)
nicknames = The 'Stros
y3 = 1965
pastnames =Houston Colt .45s (by|1962-by|1964)
Minute Maid Park
y4 = 2000
pastparks =*a.k.a. Astros Field (by|2002)
**a.k.a. Enron Field (by|2000-by|2002)
**a.k.a. The Juice Box (Fan's nickname when Minute Maid took over)
**a.k.a. Harris County Domed Stadium (by|1965)
**a.k.a The Dome (Fan's nickname for it being the first Domed Stadium)
Uniform = NLC-Uniform-HOU.png
retirednumbers = 5, 7, 24, 25, 32, 33, 34, 40, 42, 49
Team = Astros
Team1 = Astros
The Houston Astros are a
professional baseballteam based in Houston, Texas. The Astros are a member of the Central Division of Major League Baseball's National League. From 2000 to the present, the Astros have played their home games at Minute Maid Park. The Astros joined MLB under the name Colt .45s along with the New York Metsin mlby|1962. The Astros current owner is Drayton McLane, Jr.
Major League Baseball comes to Houston
Major League Baseballexpansion Houston’s connection to MLB was the Houston Buffaloesor Buffs. The Buffs were the minor league team for the St. Louis Cardinalsfrom 1921 -1958.
Houston had been making efforts to bring a Major League franchise to their city before the expansion in 1962. [cite web|url=http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/uhsc/00035/hsc-00035.html |title=George Kirksey Papers|accessdate=2008-09-26|publisher="
Houston Chronicle"|last=Elston|first=Gene] There were four men chiefly responsible for bringing Major League Baseball to Houston. George Kirksey and Craig Cullinan, who lead a futile attempt to purchase the St. Louis Cardinalsin 1952, R.E. “Bob” Smith, a prominent Houstonian who was an oil and real estate magnate, and was brought in for his financial resources. Judge Roy Hofheinz, a former Mayor of Houston and Harris County Judge was brought in for his salesmanship and political style. They formed the Houston Sports Association as their vehicle for attaining a big league franchise for the city of Houston.cite web|url=http://www.astrosdaily.com/history/sound/a.html|title=The Colt .45s|accessdate=2008-09-26|publisher=AstrosDaily]
Major league owner’s refusal to entertain any interest in expanding baseball, the four joined forces with would-be owners from other cities and announced they would start their own league to compete with the established National and American Leagues. They would call the new league the
Continental League. Wanting to protect potentially new markets caused both existing leagues to expand by two teams. Houston won a franchise in the National League to begin play in 1962. The continental League folded before it ever started.
The new Houston team was named the Colt .45s after a "Name The Team" contest was held. Since the Colt .45s were to be placed in the National League West, the organization decided on the the name because the Colt .45 was the gun that won the west. [cite web|url=http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20051024&content_id=1258510&vkey=news_hou&fext=.jsp&c_id=hou|title=Astros out to make history their history|accessdate=2008-10-01|publisher=Houston Astros|last=Herskowitz|first=Mickey|date=
2005-10-24] The colors selected were navy blue and orange. The first team was a collection of cast-offs stocked primarily through an expansion draft held after the 1961 season. The Colts made their choices alternately with the New York Mets, the other expansion franchise that put the National League at ten teams. They would play ball at Colt Stadium. Colt Stadium however was just a temporary field until Judge Hofheinz could build his indoor stadium. Hofheinz had convinced the National League owners that the sweltering Houston summers would not be a problem because he planned to build an indoor baseball stadium based loosely on the Coliseum in Rome. Bonds were passed and construction began but, until it was ready, the team played on some reclaimed marshland south of town, Colt Stadium was built on the same land that would eventually hold its famous successor. It was built on the cheap with little to protect fans from the weather or other hazards. True baseball fans hardly cared. Houston had become a "major league" city.
1962-1964: The Colt .45s era
The Colt .45s started their inaugural season on April 10, 1962 against the
Cubs. Harry Craft was named Houston’s first manager. The Colt .45s finished eighth in the National League West’s ten team division. To get an idea of how the first season was for Houston, look at the team’s best pitcher, Richard "Turk" Farrell. A starter for the Colt .45s, he was primarily a relief pitcher when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgersand Philadelphia Phillies. Turk lost 20 games in 1962, but had an ERA of 3.02. Turk was selected to both All-Star games that year. [cite web|url= http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=13583471 |title= Richard "Turk" Farrell|accessdate=2008-10-02|publisher=find a grave|last=Coons|first=Ron|date= 2006-05-10]
There was a bright spot in the line up in 1962.
Román Mejías, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Piratesin the expansion draft, was named the Colt .45s starting right fielder. It was in Houston Mejías would play the best season of his career. While he played better the first half of the season, an injury slowed him the second half of the season. However he still finished with a .286 batting average, 24 home runs, and 76 RBIs. His modesty and his hard play made him a fan favorite that year. Despite his good year Mejías was traded to the Boston Red Soxin the fall of 1962. [cite web|url= http://thompsonian.info/roman-mejias-bio.html|title=ROMAN MEJIAS – BRIEF BIOGRAPHY |accessdate=2008-10-02|publisher=McFarland & co|last=Briley|first=Ron|date= 2003-06-10]
1963 saw more young talent mixed with seasoned veterans.
Jimmy Wynn, Rusty Stauband Joe Morganall made their major league debut in the 1963 season. Still, the results in the win-lose department did not change much. In fact, the Colt .45s finished in ninth place with a 66–96 record. The team was still building, trying to find that perfect mix to compete. Craft had plenty of rookies to play and on September 27 he fielded an all rookie team versus the New York Mets. Houston lost 10 – 3 but it was a glimpse of what was to come in the next few seasons.
The 1964 campaign began on a sad note. Pitcher
Jim Umbrichtdied of cancer just before opening day. Umbricht was the only Colt .45s pitcher to post winning records in the Colt .45s first two seasons. So well liked by players and fans the Colt .45 retired his Jersey number 32 in 1965. Umbricht was 33 years old. [ [http://profiles.incredible-people.com/jim-umbricht/ Jim Umbricht Incredible-people.com ] ] On the field the 1964 Colt .45s got off to a quick start, but it would not last. Manager Harry Craft was fired presumably for wanting to play more experienced players, while the front office wanted to showcase the young up and coming talent. Craft was replaced by one of the Colt .45s coaches, Luman Harris. Some of that up and coming talent the front office wanted to showcase was a young pitcher by the name of Larry Dierker. He started versus the San Francisco Giantson his eighteenth birthday. He lost the game but it was the beginning of a long relationship with the Houston organization.
Just on the horizon the structure of the new domed stadium was more prevalent and the way baseball was watched in Houston, and around the league, was about to change.
1965 – 1969: The Great Indoors
Roy Hofheinznow the sole owner of the franchise and his vision of a domed stadium to play ball in complete, the Colt .45 moved into their new domed stadium in 1965. The Judge called the new stadium the Astrosdome. The name was in honor of Houston’s importance to the country’s space program and to keep the with the theme the Colt .45s were renamed the Astros. [ [http://houston.astros.mlb.com/hou/history/hou_history_feature.jsp?story=5 Astrodome Houston-Astros.com ] ] The new park, coined as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” did little to help the play on the field. While several “indoor” firsts were accomplished, the team still finished ninth in the standings. The attendance was high not because of the team accomplishments, but because people came from miles around to see the Astrodome.Just as the excitement was settling down over the Astrodome, the 1966 season found something new to put the domed stadium in the spotlight once again; the field. Grass would not grow in the new park, since the roof panels had been painted to reduce the glare that was causing players on both the Astros and the visiting team to miss routine pop flies. A new artificial turf was created called “AstroTurf” and once again Houston would be involved in yet another change in the way the game was played. [ [http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/past/Astrodome. Ballparksofbaseball.com ] ]
With new manger
Grady Hattonthe Astros got hot right away. By May they were in second place in the National League West and looked like a team that could contend. Joe Morganand Sonny Jacksonappeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, an Astros first, and Morgan was named as a starter on the All Star Team. The Astros cooled as quickly as they got hot. They lost Jimmy Wynnfor the season after he crashed into an outfield fence in Philadelphiaand Morgan had broken his knee cap. There were some good notes however. Sonny Jackson set a league record with 49 steals, and led the Astros with a .292 batting average. The Astros were a young team full of talent that was not yet refined and the inconsistencies of their youth showed on the field.
1967 saw third baseman
Eddie Mathewsjoin the Astros. Mathews, however, would play first base. The slugger hit is 500th home run while in Houston. He would be traded late in the season and Doug Raderwould be promoted to the big leagues. Rookie Don Wilson pitched a no hitter on June 18th, Fathers Day, against the Braves. It was the first no hit, shut out, pitched in team history and in the Astrodome. Jimmy Wynnalso provided some enthusiasm in 1967. The 5’9” Wynn was becoming know not only for how often he hit home runs, but for the distance of the home runs. Wynn set club records with 37 home runs, and 107 RBIs He also had a pinch hit single in the All Star game that year; another Astros first. [ [http://www.baseball-reference.com/w/wynnj01.shtml Jimmy Wynn Statistics - Baseball-Reference.com ] ] As the season came to a close the Astros found themselves once again in ninth place and a winning percentage below .500. The team looked good on paper, but could not seem to make it work on the field.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination delayed the start to the 1968 season. When Robert F. Kennedy was killed two months later, Major League Baseball let teams decided if they would postpone games or not. Astros management decided to not postpone games.
Rusty Stauband Bob Aspromontesat out in protest. Both were traded at seasons end. April 15th saw a pitching dual that was on for the ages. Met pitcher Tom Seaverand Don Wilsonfaced each other in a pitching dual that lasted six hours! Seaver went ten frames allowing no walks and just two hits. Wilson went nine innings and allowed five hits and three walks. After the starters pitched eleven relievers, seven for the Metsand four for the Astros tried to end the game. The game finally ended when Aspromonte hit a shot toward Metsshortstop Al Weis. Wies had been perfect all night at short, but he was not the same player he was six hours earlier. Wies was not quick enough to make the play and the ball zipped into left field allowing Norm Millerto score. [ [http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/excerpts/records_registry12.stm Baseball-Reference.com ] ] Houston hosted the All Star game in 1968 and as expected in the “Year of the Pitcher” the game was a low scoring match that saw the National league winning 1-0. Grady Hattonwas fired as manager on June 18 and Harry Walkerreplaced him. Walker had been fired from Pittsburghthe year before The Astros ended the season in last place. [cite web|url= http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Grady-Hatton|title=Grady Hatton |accessdate=2008-10-06|publisher=NationnMaster.com|last=none|first=none|date= 2003-06-10]
With baseball expansion and trades the Astros had dramatically changed in 1969. Gone were Aspromonte, Cuellar, and Staub, just to name a few. Added to the team were catcher
Johnny Edwards, outfielder Jesus Alou, infielder Denis Menkeand pitcher Dave Lemaster. Who would help the Astros finish better than they had since they started playing ball in 1962.Wilson continued pitching great and on May 1st threw the second no hitter of his career. He was just 24 years of age and was second to only Sandy Koufaxfor career no hit wins. Wilson’s no hitter lit the Astros fire and six days later the Astros tied a major league record by turning seven double plays. By may’s end the Astros had put together a ten game winning streak. The Astros infield tandem of Menke and Joe Morgancontinued to improve and provided power at the plate and great defence. Morgan had 15 homers and stole 49 base while Menke led the Astros with 90 RBI’s. The Menke/Morgam punch was beginning to come alive.On September 10th the Astros were tied for fourth and only two games out of first, but fell to the Bravesthree days later. [Larry Dierker] had no hit the Bravesand was one out away from ending it when Felix Millanbroke it up with a single. The Astros scored two runs in the thirteenth, but ex-teammates Aspromonte and Jackson lead a three run Bravescomeback. It seemed to be the turning point for the Astros as they slid into fifth place and Atlanta went on to win the divison. The series against the Bravesgave the Astros, and the fans, a taste of a penenate race. It was also the first time in the teams history they did not finish the season below .500. 1969 saw both the 1962 expansion teams improve, but it was the Metsthat climed to the top winning the World Series. The Astros could no longer make excuses, they had the talent. It was time to become contenders.
In 1975, former Astros pitcher Don Wilson, who had pitched two no-hitters for the club, committed suicide. Wilson's jersey, number 40, was retired by the Astros, and a patch with his number would be worn on the team jerseys during 1975.
The Astros in 1975 would also adopt the orange, yellow and navy "
Rainbow Guts" uniforms that became a team trademark and would stay with them in some form through 1993. These uniforms (nicknamed "the popsicles") bore a black band around the sleeve with the number "40" written in white, honoring Don Wilson. They were originally made by Sand-Knit, were highly popular with fans, increased awareness of the Astros considerably, and kicked off a fashion trend which would spread to Astros' farm teams from the Dubuque Packers to the Charleston Charlies. Eventually, the Rainbow Guts would be worn by many a recreational softball team, as well as high schools and colleges (notably Seton Hall, Tulane, and Louisiana Tech). Also in 1975, GE and Ford took full control of the team.
At the same time, the Astros also switched from red-orange caps to a pure orange. The team began wearing navy caps on the road in 1980 and went with navy caps in all games beginning in 1983. The Astros would sport a toned-down version of the rainbow pattern from 1987 to 1993.
In 1972, the Astros had their best showing to date. Under three different managers—including the legendary
Leo Durocher, whose last managerial job would be with these Astros—the Astros finished the by|1972 season at 84–69, and in second place in the National League West.
It was with the Astros that
Bob Watsonscored the one millionth run in baseball history on May 4, 1975. Because there were other players in other venues competing simultaneously for the right to be designated with the milestone, Watson had to run around the bases after a home run at full speed so as to ensure that he would be the one credited with scoring the historic run.
Pittsburgh Piratesplayer and manager Bill Virdonarrived in May 1975 as the team's new manager.
Ford acquired sole control of the Astros in 1978. After only a year, it sold the team to a group headed by shipping magnate John McMullen.
After three seasons hovering around .500, the Astros would be involved in their first real pennant race in 1979. Though the team was dead last in power (they only hit 49 home runs as a team and nobody hit more than 10 home runs), the 1979 Astros were a team built around pitching and speed. In fact, the Astros led the National League with 190 steals; four of the Astros' regular players had over 30 steals. The team's stars included outfielder José Cruz, Sr., third baseman
Enos Cabelland pitcher J.R. Richard. This formula enabled the Astros to lead the National League West for much of the season, leading the division by 10 games at the All-Star break. However, the team was unable to hold off the Cincinnati Reds, who edged out the Astros on the last weekend for the National League Westtitle, ultimately winning the division by 1 1/2 games. The Astros started looking good in the National league west and the best was yet to come.
1980–89: The start of something big; Taste of October
Following the by|1979 season,
Nolan Ryansigned with the Astros as a free agent, agreeing to MLB's first million-dollar per year salary. The club also brought back popular Texas native Joe Morgan (who began his Hall of Fame career with the Astros) to bring leadership to the young team.
Using much the same pitching and speed strategy in 1980 as they had in 1979, the Astros won their first NL West championship. They entered the final weekend series against the Dodgers with a three-game lead only needing to win one of the final three games to clinch the NL West. However, the Astros were swept, forcing a one game postseason playoff game—the first such playoff since the National League switched to two-division format in 1969. At
Dodger Stadiumin Los Angeles, Joe Niekrowon his 20th game as the Astros cruised to an easy 7–1 victory over the Dodgers, clinching the team's first divisional title with a 93–70 record.
In the ensuing National League Championship Series, the Astros pushed the Phillies to five games in what is widely regarded as one of the best postseason series in baseball history. The last four games all went to extra innings, with the final game decided by one run after many twists and turns in the late innings. In the decisive fifth game the Astros took a 5–2 lead into the top of the 8th against the Phillies. However, Nolan Ryan was unable to hold the lead, and the Astros lost to the Phillies in 10 innings, 8–7.
J.R. Richard, considered to be a front-runner for the National League's Cy Young Awardand one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball, had a 10–4 record and an ERA of 1.73 on July 30, 1980 when he suffered a stroke before a game. In the days and weeks previous, Richard had complained of a "dead arm" and shoulder and neck pains. Additionally, in his last start on July 14, he said he was unable to read the catcher's signs. Although Richard survived the near-fatal stroke, he never pitched in the Major Leagues again.
In the strike-shortened 1981 season, the Astros made the playoffs once again as the second half Western Division champions. This ball club succeeded thanks to free agent acquisition
Don Sutton. Even if their pitching was excellent, the Astros' " Chinese Water Torture" offense was so slow that it went "drip, drip, drip." They faced the Dodgers in the special pre-LCS playoffs. After winning the first two games, the Dodgers went on to win the final three games, thus making the Astros the first team in baseball history to lose a five-game series after winning the first two games.
After that loss to Los Angeles, the Astros' fortunes began to change for the worse. However, there were some shining moments that stood out—like in 1983 when Nolan Ryan became all-time strikeout leader in a game against the
Montreal Exposat Olympic Stadium. Ryan and Steve Carltonbattled for the lead until Carlton retired and Ryan earned it for good. The next season, shortstop Dickie Thonwas beaned in the head by Mets pitcher Mike Torrez, derailing what many thought would be an extremely promising career.
After a mediocre 1985 season, the Astros fired general manager
Al Rosenand manager Bob Lillis. The former was supplanted by Dick Wagner, the man whose Reds defeated the Astros to win the 1979 NL West. The latter was replaced by Hal Lanierwhose "box-office baseball" took Houston by storm. Before Lanier took over, fans were accustomed to Houston's occasional slow starts. But with Lanier leading the way, Houston got off to a hot start, winning 13 of their first 19 contests.
The Astros had many highlights. After the Astrodome hosted the
Major League Baseball All-Star Gamein July, the Astros went on a streak with five straight come-from-behind wins (two against the Mets and three against the Montreal Expos). In a game against the Dodgers] , pitcher [Jim Deshaies (who came from the Yankees in exchange for Joe Niekro) started the game with eight straight strikeouts. On September 25, Mike Scott helped his team clinch the NL West by no-hitting the surprising San Francisco Giants. This was the only time in MLB history that any division was clinched via a no-hitter. Scott would finish the season with an 18–10 record and a Cy Young Award to go along with it.
Houston's opponents in the NLCS were their expansion cousins the
New York Mets, a team that with 108 wins was considered a team for the ages, destined to win a World Championship. To add a hint of flavor to the matchup, both teams were celebrating their 25th season as MLB franchises that season.
The 1986 NLCS was noted for great drama and is considered one of the best postseason series ever. In Game 3, the Astros were ahead at
Shea Stadium, 5–4, in the bottom of the 9th when closer Dave Smith gave up a two-run home run to Lenny Dykstra, giving the Mets a dramatic 6–5 win.
A historic bet on the series was made on live television between
New York's famous talk show host, David Letterman, and former Houston mayor Kathryn J. Whitmire. Letterman agreed to pay $2000 if the Astros won, and Whitmire agreed to hang a picture of Mookie Wilsonin her office if the Mets won. When the Mets won, Whitemire displayed a 10' x 10' photo of Wilson in her office.
However, the signature game of the series was Game 6. Needing a win to get to Mike Scott (who had been dominant in the series) in Game 7, the Astros jumped off to a 3–0 lead in the first inning but neither team would score again until the 9th inning. In the 9th, starting pitcher
Bob Knepperwould give two runs, and once again the Astros would look to Dave Smith to close it out. However, Smith would walk Gary Carterand Darryl Strawberry, giving up a sacrifice fly to Ray Knight, tying the game. Despite having the go-ahead runs on base, Smith was able to escape the inning without any further damage.
There was no scoring until the 14th inning when the Mets would take the lead on a
Wally Backmansingle and an error by left fielder Billy Hatcher. The Astros would get the run back in the bottom of the 14th when Hatcher (in a classic goat-to-hero-conversion-moment) hit one of the most dramatic home runs in NLCShistory, off the left field foul pole. In the 16th inning, Darryl Strawberry doubled to lead off the inning and Ray Knight drove him home in the next at-bat. The Mets would score a total of three runs in the inning to take what appeared an insurmountable 7–4 lead. With their season on the line, the Astros would nonetheless rally for two runs to come to within 7–6. Kevin Bass came up with the tying and winning runs on base; however Jesse Oroscowould strike him out, ending the game.
This 16-inning game held the record for the longest in MLB postseason history until October 9, 2005 when the Astros defeated the
Atlanta Braves7–6 in an 18-inning Division Series game. However, the 1986 game still holds the record for longest League Championship Series game. Also, Game 3 of the 2005 World Series would tie the record for longest World Series game at 14 innings, meaning that the Astros, despite having been to only 2 LCS and 1 World Series, have played in the longest game for each of the 3 levels in the modern MLB playoffs.
Following the 1988 season the Astros experienced significant change. Manager
Hal Lanier, unable to build on the Astros' success in 1986, was dismissed following the season, and the team conducted a fire sale. Additionally, franchise icon Nolan Ryan left the team to join the Texas Rangers in 1989, after being considered "too old" by then-owner McMullen. Ryan went on to pitch two more no-hitters for the Rangers in the early 1990s to achieve a grand total of seven, more than anyone else in Major League history. Ryan also recorded his 5,000th strikeout and 300th win with the Rangers, and entered the Hall of Fame as a Ranger.
1989 would mark the rookie season of
Craig Biggio, who would set team records in many offensive categories. Biggio started his career as a catcher, but was moved to second base so as to take full advantage of his speed and other offensive talents as well as to elongate his career.
1990–99: Rebuild, new owner, a new look, and a new success
Many people consider the best trade the Astros ever made to be their deal for
Jeff Bagwellat the trading deadline in 1990. The Boston Red Sox, in a tight race for the American League Easttitle, needed relief pitching help. The Astros gave the Red Sox journeyman Larry Andersenin exchange for minor-leaguer Bagwell, who would win the 1990 Eastern League MVP award for the AA New Britain Red Sox. With Mo Vaughnin their system, the Red Sox reasoned that Bagwell was expendable, and while Andersen did help the Red Sox to the divisional title, Bagwell went on to become the Astros' all-time home run leader and, in most people's minds, the best overall player in Astros history. The trade was so lopsided that it appears on virtually any list of the best/worst trades in MLB history, and "Larry Andersen" became a popular phrase in Boston to describe the futility of the Red Sox front office during the 86-year " Curse of the Bambino." However, after the 1991 season, the Astros made one of the worst trades in franchise history, sending speedy outfielder Kenny Loftonto the Cleveland Indiansfor catcher Eddie Taubensee. Lofton would prove to be one of the best center fielders of the 1990s, earning five AL stolen base titles, six All-Star appearances, and four Gold Gloves.
The early 1990s were marked by the Astros' growing discontent with their home, the
Astrodome. After the Astrodome was renovated for the primary benefit of the Houston Oilers, the Astros began to grow increasingly disenchanted with the facility. Faced with declining attendance at the Astrodome and the inability of management to obtain a new stadium, in the by|1991 off-season Astros management announced its intention to sell the team and move the franchise to the Washington, D.C.area. However, the move was not approved by other National League owners, thus compelling the Astros to remain in Houston. Shortly thereafter, McMullen (who also owned the NHL's New Jersey Devils) sold the team to Texas businessman Drayton McLane in 1993, who committed to keeping the team in Houston.
Shortly after McLane's arrival, which coincided with the maturation of Bagwell and Biggio, the Astros began to show signs of consistent success. After finishing second in their division in 1994 (in a strike year), 1995, and 1996, the Astros won consecutive division titles in 1997, 1998, and 1999. In the 1998 season, the Astros set a team record with 102 victories. However, each of these titles was followed by a first-round playoff elimination, in 1998 by the
San Diego Padresand in 1997 and 1999 against the Atlanta Braves. The manager of these title teams was Larry Dierker, who had previously been a broadcaster and pitcher for the Astros.
Coinciding with the change in ownership, the team switched uniforms and team colors after the by|1993 season in order to go for a new, more serious image. The team's trademark "Rainbow Guts" uniforms were retired, and the team's colors changed to midnight blue and metallic gold. The "Astros" font on the team logo was changed to a more aggressive one, and the team's traditional star logo was changed to a stylized, "flying" star with an open left end. It marked the first time since the team's inception that orange was not part of the team's colors. Despite general agreement that the rainbow uniforms identified with the team had become tired (and looked too much like a minor league team according to the new owners), the new uniforms and caps were never especially popular with fans.
Off the field, in 1994, the Astros hired one of the first
African Americangeneral managers, former franchise player Bob Watson. Watson would leave the Astros after the 1995 season to become general manager of the New York Yankeesand helped to lead the Yankees to a World Championship in 1996. He would be replaced by Gerry Hunsicker, who until 2004 would continue to oversee the building of the Astros into one of the better and most consistent organizations in the Major Leagues.
However, in 1996, the Astros again nearly left Houston. By the mid-1990s, McLane (like McMullen before him) wanted his team out of the Astrodome and was asking the city to build the Astros a new stadium. When things did not progress quickly toward that end, he put the team up for sale. He had nearly finalized a deal to sell the team to businessman William Collins, who planned to move them to
Northern Virginia. However, Collins was having difficulty finding a site for a stadium himself, so Major League owners stepped in and forced McLane to give Houston another chance to grant his stadium wish. Houston voters responded positively via a stadium referendum and the Astros stayed put.
In the 14 years since Drayton McLane has taken ownership of the Houston Astros, they have had the fourth best record in all of Major League Baseball. Only the Yankees, Red Sox, and Braves have done better overall.
2000s: New stadium; First pennant
After years at the outdated Astrodome, the Astros moved into their new stadium in 2000. Originally called
EnronField, the stadium was one of the first to feature a functional retractable roof, considered a necessity in Houston. Additionally the ballpark featured more intimate surroundings than the cavernous Astrodome. It is believed by some that the departure of the NFL's Houston Oilers after Houston refused to build them a new stadium contributed to the construction of Enron Field.
The ballpark features a train theme, since the ball park was built on the grounds of the old Union Station. The locomotive also pays homage to the history of Houston, where by 1860, 11 different railroad companies had lines running through the city. This is also represented in the city of Houston's official seal. A train whistle sounds, and a locomotive transverses a wall above the outfield after Astros home run. The ballpark also contains quirks such as "Tal's Hill", which is a hill in deep center field on which a flagpole stands, all in fair territory. This was modeled after a similar feature that was located in
Crosley Field, former home of the Cincinnati Reds. The terrace at Crosley Field was sloped at 15 degrees in left field, while Tal's Hill is sloped at 30 degrees in straightaway center. Over the years, many highlight reel catches have been made by center fielders running up the hill to make catches.
Perhaps most significantly, with its short left field fence (only slightly longer to left field than
Fenway Park), overall shorter dimensions, and exposure to the elements, including the humid Texas air, Enron Field played like a hitters' park. This was a dramatic difference from the Astrodome, which was considered to be an extreme pitchers' park. In a challenge to home run hitters, owner Drayton McLane's office windows, located in the old Union Station above left field, are made of glass and marked as 442' from home plate.
With the change in location also came a change in attire. Gone were the blue and gold uniforms of the 1990s in favor a more "
retro" look with pinstripes, a traditional baseball font, and the colors of brick red, sand and black. The "shooting star" logo was modified but still retained its definitive look.
After two fairly successful seasons without a playoff appearance, at midseason in 2004 the Astros were floundering. Before the season, the Astros had added star pitchers
Andy Pettitteand Roger Clemensto a team that already included stars like Lance Berkmanand Jeff Kentas well as the nucleus of Bagwell and Biggio. They were quickly anointed one of the favorites to win the National League. However, at the All-Star Break, they were 44–44 largely due to an inability to score runs, and a poor record in 1-run games. After being booed at the 2004 All-Star Game held at Minute Maid Park while serving as a coach for the National League, Williams was fired and replaced by Phil Garner, who had been a star for the Astros' second division winner in 1986. Though many people were highly skeptical of Garner, who had a mediocre track record in his prior managerial stints in Milwaukee and Detroit, with only one winning season at either stop (in 1992), the team responded to Garner, who led the team to a 46–26 record in the second half and the National League's Wild Card. They would go on to win their first playoff series in eight attempts, beating the Braves in five games of the National League Division Series to advance to the National League Championship Series for the third time. However, they would lose to the St. Louis Cardinalsin seven games, most dramatically on a walk-off home runby Jim Edmondsin the twelfth inning of Game 6.
The Astros' 2004 success had much to do with the postponed retirement of star pitcher
Roger Clemens(a Houston resident), who ended 2004 with a record seventh Cy Young Award(his first in the NL). Clemens had previously announced that he was retiring after the by|2003 season from the New York Yankees. However, after the Astros signed his former Yankee teammate Andy Pettitteand offered Clemens a number of perquisites (including the option to stay home with his family for certain road trips when he wasn't scheduled to pitch), Clemens reconsidered and signed a one-year deal with the Astros.
Additionally, the mid-season addition of
Carlos Beltránin a trade with the Kansas City Royalshelped the Astros tremendously in their playoff run. Despite rumblings in July and August that the Astros might flip him to another contender, Beltrán would prove instrumental to the Astros' hopes, hitting eight home runs in the postseason. Following the season, after initially asserting a desire to remain with the Astros, Beltrán signed a long term contract with the New York Metson January 9, 2005.
2005: Houston, we have a pennant
In 2005, the Astros got off to a poor start, dropping to 15 games below .500 (15–30) in late May before becoming nearly unbeatable. From that low point until the end of July, Houston went 42–17 and found themselves in the lead for the NL Wild Card. The hitting, largely absent in April and May, was suddenly there, with even the pitchers contributing.
The Astros had also developed an excellent pitching staff, anchored by
Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens(who had a league-low ERA of only 1.87), and Brandon Backe. Rookie starters Ezequiel Astacioand Wandy Rodríguezwere also successful.
In July alone, the Astros went 22–7, the best single month record in the club's history. The Astros finished the 2005 regular season by winning a wild card berth on the final day of the regular season, just as they did in 2004, becoming only the second team to come from 15 games under .500 to enter the post season, the other team being the 1914 Boston Braves, now the
Atlanta Braves. (Those Braves would go on and sweep the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series. Coincidentally, the Astros beat out another Philadelphia team, the Phillies, for the Wild Card, to face the Braves in the first round of the playoffs.)
The Astros won their National League Division Series against the
Atlanta Bravesin four games. The fourth game set a record for a post-season game with most innings (18), most players used by a single team (T-23), most grand slams (2), and longest game time (5 hours and 50 minutes). Chris Burke hit a home run to win the game by a score of 7–6. Another notable performance was had by Roger Clemenswho appeared from the bullpen for only the second time in his career as a reliever with three shutout innings and the win. After winning in the first round, the Astros picked up where they left off in the previous year, facing a rematch against the St. Louis Cardinals.
It is also notable that both the grand slam
Lance Berkmanhit in the 8th inning and the solo shot hit by Chris Burkein the 18th inning to win three hours later were caught by the same fan, Shaun Dean, in the left field Crawford Boxes. Dean, a 25-year-old comptroller for a construction company, donated the balls to the Hall of Fame and he and his son were rewarded with gifts from the Astros and the Baseball Hall of Fameas well as playoff tickets behind home plate.
The National League Championship Series (NLCS) featured a rematch of the 2004 NLCS. The Astros lost the first game in St. Louis, but would win the next three games with one in St. Louis and the next two in Houston. The Astros were poised to close-out the series in Houston, but the Cardinals managed to score three runs in the top of the 9th with a monstrous 3-run home run by
Albert Pujolsoff Brad Lidge with two outs. The stunned crowd was silenced in disbelief. This would take the series back to St. Louis, where the Astros won the final game of the NLCS and the final game played at Busch Stadium.
National LeaguePresident William Y. Giles presented the Astros the Warren C. Giles Trophy, which is awarded to the National League Champion. It was Warren Giles, father of William and President of the National League from by|1951 to by|1969, who in October 1960 awarded the city of Houston the Major League franchise that would become the Houston Astros. Roy Oswalt, who went 2–0 and had an ERA of 1.29, won the NLCS MVP.
The Astros' opponent in their first ever World Series was the
Chicago White Sox. Games 1 and 2 were held at U.S. Cellular Fieldin Chicago, while Games 3 and 4 were played at Minute Maid Park. Game 3 also marked the first Fall Classic game to be played in the state of Texas, and was the longest game in World Series history, lasting 14 innings. Early conventional wisdom held that the White Sox were a slight favorite, but that Houston would be an even match. However, the Astros' situational hitting continued to plague them throughout the World Series. The White Sox swept the Astros in the best-of-seven series with a run differential of only six.
After losing the World Series the Astros prepared for the offseason by signing Preston Wilson and moving Lance Berkman to first base, ending the long tenure by Jeff Bagwell. The Astros resigned pitcher Roger Clemens and traded two minor league prospects to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for left-handed hitter
Aubrey Huffand cash. In August 2006, Preston Wilson said that he wasn't getting enough playing time since Luke Scott returned from AAA ball with the Round Rock Express. In response the Astros released Wilson and the division rival Cardinals signed him for the rest of the season. After a dramatic last two weeks of the season, including a four game sweep of the Cardinals, the Astros did not get to the playoffs losing their last game to the Braves, 3–1. The Astros had managed to win 10 of their last 12 games of the season, and all but erased what had been an 8 1/2 game lead by the front running St. Louis Cardinals. The Astros were within a 1/2 game of the Cardinals on Thursday September 28, but that is as close as the 2005 NL Champions would get.
On October 1 Astros were the last remaining team that still had a chance to reach the 2006 postseason; consequently they were the final MLB team to be officially eliminated from playoff contention.
On October 31, the Astros declined option on
Jeff Bagwell's contract for 2007, subsequently ending his 15-year tenure as an Astro. Bagwell left his name well-known in the Astros history books. On November 11, Bagwell files for free agency. Finally to end his amazing career, Bagwell announced his retirement on December 15.
On November 6,
Roger Clemensand Andy Pettittefiled for free agency on Monday, five days before the Nov. 11 deadline.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, November 10, the Astros made a one-year deal with
Craig Biggioworth $5.15 million to continue his march into the history books as he eyes 70 more hits to reach 3,000. This will mark Biggio's 20th season as an Astro.
On November 24, the Astros Signed outfielder
Carlos Leeto a 6-year contract for $100 million, a franchise record. They also signed pitcher Woody Williams.
On December 8,
Andy Pettitte, who signed with the Astros in 2003, announced that he will be returning to the Yankees accepting a 1 year $16 million contract with player option year also worth $16 million if picked up. "It shocked me that [the Astros] would not continue to go up, when the Yankees continued to push and push and pursue and they [the Astros] really didn't do much," Pettitte said. "It was a full-court press by the Yankees. I've talked to the guys, and obviously they wanted me to come back up there." The Astros reportedly offered a one-year $12 million contract but would not offer a player option for another year.
On December 8, frustrated by the Pettitte negotiations, the Astros were on the verge of acquiring right-hander
Jon Garlandfrom the Chicago White Soxin return for Willy Taveras, Taylor Buchholz, and Jason Hirshbut the deal was nixed by the White Sox because right-hander Taylor Buchholz reportedly failed a physical.
On December 12, the Astros traded 3 for 2 when they traded
Willy Taveras, Taylor Buchholz, and Jason Hirshto the Colorado Rockiesfor Rockies pitchers Jason Jenningsand Miguel Asencio. This trade turned out terribly for the Astros by the end of the 2007 season, as Taveras continued to develop, Hirsh had a strong rookie campaign, and Jennings was oft-injured and generally ineffective.
On April 28, the Astros purchased the contract of
Hunter Pence, the organization's top prospect from Triple-A affiliate, and made his debut that night where he got his first career hit and run scored.
By May 2007, the Astros had suffered one of their worst losing streaks since the 1995 season with 10 losses in a row, losing 4–3 to the
Cincinnati Redson May 30. The Astros were just one loss shy of tying their worst skid in franchise history, before snapping that streak the next day, also against the Reds.
On June 12, the Astros beat the
Oakland Athleticsfor the first time in team history.
On June 28, second baseman
Craig Biggiobecame the 27th player to accrue 3000 career hits. On the same night in the bottom of the 11th inning Carlos Leehit a towering walk-off grand slam to win the game for the Astros.
On July 24, Craig Biggio announced that he would be retiring at the end of the 2007 season, his 20th season with the club (and a franchise record). He hit a grand slam in that night's game which broke a 3–3 tie and led to an Astros win.
On July 28, the Astros traded RHP
Dan Wheelerto Tampa Bay for right-handed slugger 3B Ty Wiggintonand cash considerations. He is now signed through 2009. On July 29, long time and former All-Star third baseman Morgan Ensbergwas designated for assignment to make room for newly acquired Wigginton.
On August 26, former first baseman
Jeff Bagwell's number 5 was officially retired after a 15 year career with the Astros.
On August 27, manager
Phil Garnerand General Manager Tim Purpurawere relieved of their duties. Cecil Cooperand Tal Smithwere named as interimreplacements, respectively.
On September 17, in a 6–0 loss to the Brewers the Astros were officially eliminated from the 2007 playoffs.
On September 20,
Ed Wadewas named as the new General Managerof the Astros. He made his first move as GM by trading Jason Laneto the Padres on September 24.
On September 30, Craig Biggio retired, ending a 20-year career with the Astros.
On November 7, the Astros traded RHP
Brad Lidge,and SS Eric Bruntlettto the Philadelphia Phillies for OF Michael Bourn, RHP Geoff Geary, and minor leaguer Mike Costanzo. Also utility player Mark Lorettaaccepts Houston's salary arbitration.
On November 30, the Astros and 2B Kazuo Matsui finalized a $16.5 million, three-year contract.
On December 12, the Astros trade OF
Luke Scott, RHP Matt Albers, RHP Dennis Sarfate, LHP Troy Patton, and minor-league 3B Mike Costanzo, to the Baltimore Orioles for SS Miguel Tejada.
On December 14, the Astros trade INF
Chris Burke, RHP Juan Gutierrez, RHP Chad Quallsto the Arizona Diamondbacks for RHP Jose Valverde.
On December 27, the Astros came to terms on a deal with All-star, Gold Glove winner
On January 11, the Astros started off 2008 by signing
Brandon Backeto a one-year deal. During the rest of the month they also signed Ty Wiggintonand Dave Borkowskito one-year deals.
In February the Astros signed
Shawn Chaconto a one-year contract.
The Astros started off their Spring Training campaign with a loss to Cleveland on the 28th. Spring Training ended with a loss to the Detroit Tigers at Minute Maid before the Stros went on to face the Padres. Manager Cecil Cooper and General Manager Ed Wade had a tough decision to make before the trip. Astros pitcher Woody Williams had a bad spring going 0–4 throughout the stay in Florida. They released him on March 30 with which he retired.
The Astros also announced their starting pitching rotation. As usual Roy Oswalt was given the ball on opening day. With Jason Jennings in Texas and Woody retired, the Astros named Brandon Backe to the second spot. Wandy Rodriguez would get the ball in the third spot with Shawn Chacon and Chris Sampson following them in the # 4 and 5 spots.
The Astros opened up their season in San Diego without second baseman Kazuo Matsui. Matsui, who had been injured in Spring Training was completing a Minor League rehab assignment. The game that day was bad for Houston because Roy Oswalt gave up four runs in six innings of work. The final was 4-0 Padres. Also the Astros lost the second game of the series with Mark Loretta and Geoff Blum also starting.
On Rodríguez's start, the Astros won their first game with a 9-6 victory over the Padres. Berkman hit a game-winning three-run home run in the 9th. In the final game of the series of the series Shawn Chacon pitched a good game but the Astros lost after Chacon exited with the score tied 2-2.
In May, the Astros have made some roster moves by sending rookie catcher J.R. Towles to the Triple A Round Rock Express and calling up center fielder Reggie Abercrombie. Dave Borkowski was sent down earlier in the month and Chris Sampson was moved to the bullpen and Brian Moheler moving into the starting rotation.
On June 25,
Shawn Chaconwas suspended indefinitely for insubordination. [cite web|url=http://www.khou.com/topstories/stories/khou080625_tj_chaconsuspecneded.3c66f510.html|title=Astros pitcher Chacon grabs GM by neck, tosses him to the ground|publisher= KHOU-TV] The next day the Astros placed him on waivers. [cite web|url=http://houston.astros.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080626&content_id=3009145&vkey=news_hou&fext=.jsp&c_id=hou|title=Astros place Chacon on waivers|publisher=Houston Astros|last=Molony|first=Jim]
On June 28, the Astros beat the
Boston Red Soxfor the first time in team history. They have played Boston previously in 2003, but they were swept when they played in Fenway Park
September 14, the Astros lost a no hitterto the Cubs Carlos Zambranowhile playing in Milwaukee due to Hurricane Ike
For the past five seasons. To see entire season results, see
Houston Astros Record-by-Year
While not officially retired, the Astros have not reissued number 57 since 2002, when former Astros pitcher
Darryl Kiledied as an active player with the St. Louis Cardinals. The number 42 is retired by MLBin honor of Jackie Robinson
Minor league affiliations
Round Rock Express, Pacific Coast League
Corpus Christi Hooks, Texas League
Salem Avalanche, Carolina League
Lexington Legends, South Atlantic League(North)
Tri-City ValleyCats, New York - Penn League(Stedler)
Greeneville Astros, Appalachian League(West)
Radio and television
As of|2008, the Astros' flagship radio station is KTRH, 740AM.
Milo Hamilton, a veteran voice who was on the call for Hank Aaron's 715th career home run in 1974, is the current play-by-playannouncer for home games. Dave Raymond and Brett Dolan share play-by play duty for road games, while Raymond additionally works as Hamilton's color analyst. Spanish language radio play-by-play is handled by Francisco Romero, and his play-by-play partner is Alex Treviño, a former backup catcher for the club.
Television coverage is mainly on FSN Houston (a subfeed of
FSN Southwest), although some games are on My Network TVaffiliate KTXH, with the games produced by FSN Houston. Bill Brown and Jim Deshaiescompose the broadcast team on TV.
* [http://astros.com/ Houston Astros official web site]
* [http://www.chron.com/astros/ Houston Astros news from the Houston Chronicle]
* [http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/HOU/ Astros team page on Baseball-Reference.com]
* [http://www.astrospoint.com/ Astros Point - Your Houston Astros Online Home]
* [http://www.astroskimm.com/ The Daily Astros Update]
* [http://videos.espn.com/baseball/houston-astros.htm Houston Astros Video on ESPN Video Archive]
* [http://houston.astros.mlb.com Houston Astros Official Website]
* A Six-Gun Salute: An Illustrated History of the Houston Colt .45s, by Robert Reed (Rowman-Littlefield Publishing, Boston, 1999)
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