Monday, October 17, 2005


Colt 45s - Astros

1962: On April 10th the Colt .45's get off to a flying start winning their first game 11-2 over the Chicago Cubs. That first year to keep the Colt .45s from appearing bland, Judge Roy Hofheinz, the visionary who ran the franchise, got the inspired idea to deck them out in blue cowboy suits on road trips, with matching hats and boots. Passing through airports, they were a puzzling sight to travelers who did not get the connection to Texas. The players finally refused to wear the outfits and the Judge gave up. The Colts .45's would go on to finish in 8th Place with a 64-96 record.

1963: In their second season the Col .45s manage to avoid last place and 100 losses again as they post a 66-96 record while finishing in 9th place.

1964: Tragedy strikes the Colts as pitcher Jim Umbricht loses his battle with cancer, the team would go on to retire his number 32 in his honor. That year the Colt .45's also made history of dubious nature when, Ken Johnson became the first Major League pitcher ever to pitch a 9 inning No Hitter and lose in an April 23rd game against the Cincinnati Reds. The team would go on to finish in 9th Place with a 66-96 record in their final year known as the Colt .45's.

1965: The newly renamed Astros open up the Astrodome, and become the first professional team to play indoors. The Astros chose to play indoors because of unbearably hot summers in Texas, which in the past caused games to be held up until after sunset. The Astros peeled off a 10-game winning streak, an occurrence so unthinkable that their opponents accused them of tinkering with the air conditioning currents, causing the air to blow out when the home team was at bat. If only winning had been so simple, as the Astros still finished in 9th Place with a 65-97 record.

1966: At first the Astrodome used grass, which was allowed to grow with panels that allowed sun in for the grass to grow, but sunlight glare made seeing the ball impossible to see the roof is painted and the grass died. So the Astros had to search for a grass substitute, the Astros would make a deal for a new type for a surface that would become the Bain to traditional sports fans everywhere. The Astros allowed the new surface to be called Astroturf so the inventor could get more attention, as the Astros could get it for free. Astroturf would soon spread like an out of control virus throughout professional, and colligate sports. By 1986 10 Major League Parks would have Astroturf installed. Astroturf had the advantage of being easy to maintain it was easy to keep clean there was no need for constant mowing and watering. It was tough and durable it was not easily ripped up by cleats, and thus could be used continuously for 10 years or more. However Astroturf would get discolored by sunlight, it would develop creases, it was unforgiving to the bodies of players who attempt to slide on it, and it caused serve knee, and leg injuries that shortened many players' careers. The disadvantages would later hurt teams because many players when faced with free agency would chose to play elsewhere rather than having the burden of playing on Astroturf.

1967: Future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews plays just half of season with Astros but manages to slam his 500th career HR, as the Astros finished 9th again with a 69-93 record.

1968: In the year of the pitcher the Astros have some highlights on the mound themselves. First came on April 15th when the Astros and the New York Mets looked horns in a game at the Astrodome that went 24 innings before the Astros scored the game's only run. On July 14th Don Wilson would make headlines when he struck out 18 batters in a 6-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds. The Astros would also 4 pitchers win 10 games Don Wilson (13), Larry Dierker (12) Dave Guisti (11) and Denny LeMaster (10). However the team would finish in last place with a 72-90 record.

1969: After being no hit by Jim Maloney and the Cincinnati Reds on April 30, Don Wilson returns the favor to the reds the next night. That year would see Larry Dierker become the first Astor pitcher to win 20 games, as the team finally achieved the .500 mark finishing 81-81 and in 5th Place in the NL West.

1970: The Astros still can't manage to put together a winning season as they finish in 4th place with a mediocre 79-83 record.

1971: Cesar Cedeño leads the league with 40 doubles and Roger Metzger and Joe Morgan share the league lead with 11 triples each. However, the Astros still struggle to finish in 4th Place with a 79-83 record.

1972: Jerry Reuss and Larry Dierker hurl back-to-back one hitters on June 18th against the Philadelphia Phillies and June 19th vs. the New York Mets, respectively. The Astros would go to finish with their first winning season at 84-69, and in 2nd Place.

1973: The Astros post their 2nd straight winning season as they post an 82-80 record while finishing in 4th place in what would end up Leo Durrocher's final season in a prestigious managerial career.

1974: Under new Manger Preston Gomez the Astros can only muster a .500 record while finishing in 4th place at 81-81.

1975: Tragedy strikes the Astros a month before spring training as Longtime Ace pitcher Don Wilson commits suicide using Carbon Monoxide Poising. It would be a year as heartache as the Astros finish with their worst record ever at 64-97. That year also saw the appointment of Tal Smith as Club President and General Manager. His first move was to bring in Bill Virdon to replace Preston Gomez as manager in the middle of the season.

1976: J.R. Richard becomes Houston's second 20-game winner, while Cesar Cedeño sets a club mark with 58 stolen bases and earns his fifth-straight Gold Glove. The Astros would go on to finish with a 3rd Place 80-82 record.

1977: Three Astros steal more than 40 bases (Cesar Cedeño, 61; Jose Cruz, 44; Enos Cabell, 42), as the Astros finish 3rd with an 81-81 break even record.

1978: J.R. Richard becomes the first National League right-handed pitcher to top the 300-strikeout mark in a season with 303. However the Astros would struggle to finish in 5th with a 74-88 record.

1979: J.R. Richard tops himself by striking out 313 batters. Meanwhile, Joe Niekro who sets a club record with 21 wins, as the Astros finish just a game and half out of first with an 89-73 record. Following the season the Astros make history by making Nolan Ryan the first player to make a million dollars in one season.

1980: The Astros who looked well on their way to a division title were dealt a serve blow midway through the season when star pitcher J.R. Richard suffers a stroke. The stroke would end Richard's promising career, which saw him win 107 games in his first 10 years. However, the Astros would overcome the loss of Richard and would end the season in a flatfooted tie with Los Angeles Dodgers with a record of 92-70. The Astros would easily defeat the Dodgers in a 1-game playoff to claim their first ever Division Title, and advance on t the playoffs. In the NLCS the Astros would take 2 of the first 3 games from the Philadelphia Phillies to put themselves one game away from a trip to the World Series. However the Astros could not hold leads in the final 2 games and would end up losing the series with a heartbreaking 10-inning loss in Game 5.

1981: The Astros get off to a slow start and sit at 28-29, and are 8 games out of 1st on June 15t when a strike halts the season. When the players returned 50 days later it was determined that they would play a split season giving the Astros new hope for a division title. The Astros would take advantage of their second chance and would win the 2nd half title with a 33-20 record. During the second half run Nolan Ryan breaks Sandy Koufax record by hurling his 5th career No Hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros would face the Dodgers again in a 5-game series for the Western Division Title. The Astros jump out quickly in the series winning the first 2 at the Astrodome, and head to Los Angeles needing just 1 win to advance to the NLCS for the second year in a row. However, the Astros would end up letting the lead slip away as the eventual World Champion Dodgers won all three games at home.

1982: The Astros get off to a slow start, and never recover as Manager Bill Virdon is fired. Bob Lillis would take over in August and the Astros would play 28-23 under Lillis, to slightly improve their season, which ends with a disappointing 77-85 record.

1983: The Astros stumble out of the gate losing their first 9 games. However the team would recover nicely to finish with a solid 85-77 record. During the season Nolan Ryan would pass Walter Johnson in career strikeouts, although at the time he is the 2nd player to do so in the season Ryan would eventual go on to become the all-time strikeout king.

1984: The Astros get off to a slow start again as star SS Dickie Thon is lost for the season after he is struck in the head by a Mike Torrez fastball. The Astros would go on to finish with an 80-82 record, in a 2nd Place tie.

1985: On July 11th Nolan Ryan strikes out Danny Heep of the New York to get his 4,000th career strike out. The Astros would go on to finish in 3rd Place with an 83-79 record.

1986: With Mike Scott dominating the NL on the way to a Cy Young award the Astros easily win the Division with a 96-66 record. The highlight of the season would come on September 25th when Mike Scott pitches a No Hitter to clinch the NL Western Division. In the NLCS the Astros have the heavily favored New York Mets on the ropes with a 3- 0 lead in the 9th inning of Game 6, with Mike Scott who twice shut down the Mets in the series, poised to start game 7. However, the Mets would rally to send the game to extra innings. The Astros would fall behind in the 14th but Billy Hatcher hit a towering HR off the foul poll to send the game to the 15th. The Mets would than score 3 runs in the 16th Inning, and the never say die Astros would score 2 runs in the bottom of the inning, and set up Kevin Bass with tying and winning runs on base. However, Bass would strike out as the Mets went on play in the World Series.

1987: Nolan Ryan leads the majors in strikeouts with 270 and ties for the lead in ERA with a 2.76 mark. However, the Astros would struggle to a 3rd Pace 76-86 finish.

1988: The Astros hover around .500 all season as they finish in 5th place with a record of 82-80.

1989: Despite the loss of Nolan Ryan to their Lone Star State rival Texas Rangers, the Astros manage to put together a strong season finishing 86-76 in 3rd place just 6 games out of 1st.

1990: Despite the superb pitching of Danny Darwin who has the best ERA in the National League, the Astros struggle with a 75-87 record that lands them in 4th Place.

1991: In what is clearly a rebuilding year, the Astros trade away what's left of their 1986 Playoff team, and become one of the worst teams in baseball with a 65-97 record. However, bright days are clearly ahead for the team as 1B Jeff Bagwell wins ten Rookie of the Year, and Craig Biggio make the All-Star team for the first time.

1992: With the Astrodome hosting the 1992 Republican Convention the Astros are forced to go on the road for a grueling 26 days. Despite the long road trip, the Astros have a solid second half, and place 4th with an 81-81 record. That same year the Astros name Bob Watson General Manager making him the first African American to hold such a position in Major League Baseball history. Watson would remain in the post until 1995.

1993: The Astros set several new team records in hitting, as the team continues to improve finishing in 3rd Place with an 85-77 record.

1994: On August 12th the Astros sit at 66-49, only a half game out of 1st in the newly formed NL Central. However, that would end u being the final day of the season as the players went on a strike that would wipe out the entire postseason. Despite the shortened season Jeff Bagwell sets team records in HR with 39, and RBI with 116. Bagwell would go on to become the 3rd player in NL history to be voted MVP unanimously.

1995: The Astros hurt their chances of winning the Division Title by performing poorly in head-to-head match ups with Cincinnati Reds. However the Astros have the Wild Card to fall back on and battle the Colorado Rockies until the last day of the season for the first ever Wild Card spot in the NL. However the Astros would come up 1 game short with a solid 76-68 record.

1996: The Astros hold a two and a half game lead for the NL Central and the end of August. However the Astros would suffer a terrible 8-17 September, and would end the season with an 82-80 record 6 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

1997: The Astros are able to win a weak NL Central with an average 84-78 record. By the time the postseason rolled around it was clear the Astros were overmatched, as they are swept in a 3 game NLDS white washing at the hands of the Atlanta Braves.

1998: The Astros acquire Randy Johnson at the trade deadline and run away from the pack in the final 2 months winning a club record 102 games on the way to their second straight division. Johnson would be unbeatable winning double digits in just months in Houston. However in the NLDS Randy Johnson would lose 2 pitchers duels, as the Astros are stunned in 4 games by the San Diego Padres. Following the season the Astros would also lose the Big Unit to Free Agency.

1999: The Astros bid farewell to the Astrodome in dramatic fashion, clinching their 3rd straight NL Central title with a 97-65 record on the final day of the season before a sold out crowd. Standing-room only crowds were commonplace during the last year of baseball in the Dome as a record 2.7 million fans flocked to the "8th Wonder of the World". In the NLDS the Astros take the first game against the Braves in Atlanta. After the Braves won Game 2 the series shifted to Houston, where the Astros let a bases loaded- no-out opportunity slip through their fingers in the 9th Inning, before the Braves won in extra innings. The deflated Astros would not recover losing the series on the next day in the final baseball game at The Astrodome.

2000: The new state of the art Enron Field opens up as an Astros record 3,056,139 fans passed through the turnstiles. However, the Astros would struggle with their new surroundings, as Enron Field was a polar opposite of The Astrodome. Where in the past the Astros was a pitcher friendly stadium, the new Enron Field was a homer haven. The Astros would suffer through a miserable 1st half as their pitchers were victimized by the longball. The season would go from bad to worse when 2B Craig Biggio suffered a knee injury at the start of August. The Astros would go on to finish with a terrible 72-90 record in 4th Place. However, not all was lost as Jeff Bagwell benefited for Enron by smashing a team record 47 HR.

2001: The Astros rebound nicely, and surge to the front of the NL Central at the end of August, and establish a 6 game lead. However the Astros would struggle down the stretch, and would enter a 3-game series in St. Louis against the Cardinals with division o n the line. However, the series would lose importance as the San Francisco Giants lost on Friday Night assuring the loser of the series the Wild Card Spot. None-the less the Astros take 2 of 3 to end up in a tie for 1st with a 93-69. However, winning that last game would prove important since it gave the Astros the tiebreaker and the number 1 seed in the playoffs. In the NLDS the Astros would face the Atlanta Braves for the 3rd time in 5 years. The Astros would hold a lead in Game 1, but their bullpen could not hold it as the Braves would go on to foil the Astros again sweeping them in 3 straight. Following the season manager Larry Dierker who guided the Astros to 4 division titles in 5 years resigns, as all 4 trips ended with a loss in the Division Series. In those 4 trips the Astros hold a woeful 2-12 record in 14 games.

2002: The Astros get off to a slow start as their young pitching staff suffers early season growing pains. However, OF Lance Berkman would have a breakout year with 42 HR, and 128 RBI, as the Astros had a strong 2nd half to finish in 2nd place with a record of 84-78. Following the season the Astros would strengthen their lineup by signing Free Agent Jeff Kent.

2003: The Astros would get off to a shaky start as Craig Biggio struggled with the transition to CF, as Lance Berkman and Jeff Bagwell sputtered at the plate early in the season. As the weather began to heat up so did the Astros as the rose from a mediocre start to find themselves in the thick of a 3-team race for the NL Central Division Title. On June 11th the Astros made history as 6 pitchers combined to no hit the New York Yankees. The Astros were forced to use the pen early after start Roy Oswalt was forced out of the game with pulled groin. From there Peter Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel, and Billy Wagner each pitched in to keep the Yankees hitless. However over the next few weeks the Astros would miss Oswalt as the struggled badly over the next few weeks. As the season wore on the Astros continued to battle the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals for the division title. As September began the Astros and Cubs would pull away from the Cardinals, but the Cardinals would hurt the Astros taking 2 of 3 in the next to last weekend of the season. Those losses would send the Astros reeling as they lost 6 of their last 9 games including 2 home losses to the last place Milwaukee Brewers dropping them 1 game out of first place with a record of 87-75. Following the season the Astros would sign Houston natives Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens who won a combined 38 games with the Yankees in 2003.

2004: Heading into the season the Astros were one of the top contenders for the World Series in the National League. However, Andy Pettitte would suffer an elbow injury in his first start and it would effect him the entire season as he spent most of the season on the DL posting a 6-4 record in just 15 starts. However Roger Clemens would not disappoint as he was dominant for the start of the season winning his first 9 decisions on the way to a 18-4 record with a 2.98 ERA and 218 strike outs, passing Steve Carlton for 2nd on the career strike out list on the way to winning his record 7th Cy Young. Despite the greatness of Clemens the Astros started struggling in mid May after getting off to a solid 21-11 start. After winning 21 games in their first 32 games they would win just 23 of their next 56. Hoping to jump start things the Astros would trade struggling OF Richard Hidalgo to the New York Mets while acquiring Carlos Beltran in a 3-team deal from the Kansas City Royals. Houston was the center of the Baseball world for the All-Star Game with their hometown hero Roger Clemens was on the mound to start the game for the NL. Meanwhile Astros Manager Jimy Williams a coach on the team got a less then warm reaction from the fans at Minute Maid Park who booed him during pre game introductions. A day after the game with the Astros record at 44-44 Williams would be fired and replaced by Phil Garner. Under Garner the Astros continued to struggle over the next month as they fell below .500 and seemingly out of contention with a 56-60 on August 14th. Slowly the Astros would begin to play better as Beltran began to become accustomed to the NL pitching. As September began the Astros were on fire in the middle of a 12-game winning streak as the Astros won 22 of 26 games to become a late entrant into the race for the Wild Card. Down the stretch the Astros were even hotter winning 9 of their last 10 including their final 7 games to capture the Wild Card berth by 1 game over the San Francisco Giants with a record of 92-70.

2004: Entering their 8th playoff appearance the Astros were still without a playoff series victory as they faced the Atlanta Braves who had beaten them in 1997, 1999, and 2001. The Astros would get off to a good start as they took Game 1 on the road behind Roger Clemens 9-3, with Carlos Beltran providing the offense going 3 for 3 with a Homer and 3 runs scored. After losing Game 2 in the 11th on a 2-run homer by Rafael Furcal 4-2, the Astros rebounded to win Game 3 in Houston behind the pitching of Brandon Backe and the continued hot hitting of Beltran who hit his second homer of the series in an 8-5 win. With a chance to close the series out at home the Astros let a 5-2 lead slip out of their fingers as the Braves won to force a decisive 5th game in Atlanta. Playing with heavy heart in Game 5 were Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell who were mourning the death of former teammate Ken Caminiti who died of a drug induced heart attacked in a run down part of New York. Both would play well in Game 5 as Bagwell homered, but the star of the game was once again Beltran who went 4 for 5 with 2 homers and 5 RBI as the Astros won the 5th game going away 12-3.

In the NLCS the Astros faced the St. Louis Cardinals who had run away with the NL Central. Beltran would stay hot in the NLCS homering in the first inning of the first 2 games. However the Astros lost both and needed a strong performance from Roger Clemens in Game 3 in Houston just to stay alive. Which, they would get as they won 5-2 with Beltran homering again.

In Game 4 the Astros fell behind early as the Cardinals scored 3 times in the first inning. However another amazing game by Carlos Beltran would see the Astros rally to win 6-5 to even the series as the star OF hit a homer for a postseason record 5th straight game while scoring 3 times. Beltran's bat would be kept quiet in Game 5, so were the other 17 hitters on both teams and starting pitchers Brandon Backe and Woody Williams allowed just 1 hit each. By the 9th inning both starters were gone when Beltran led off with a single off Jason Isringhausen then stole second. The steal forced the Cardinals to walk Lance Berkman to set up for the double play, but it would never come into play as Jeff Kent launched a 3-run homer to give the Astros a dramatic 3-0 win and 3-2 series lead.

With a chance to close the series out in Game 6 the Astros tied the game in 9th inning to force extra innings. However the Cards would win in the 12th inning 6-4 on a Jim Edmonds homer. In Game 7 the Astros would get off to a 2-0 lead as Roger Clemens tried to pitch them to the World Series.

However Clemens would tire in the 6th inning as the Cardinals scored 3 runs on the way to a 5-2 win. The Astros heartbreak would get worse in the off-season as the lost postseason hero Carlos Beltran in a free agent bidding war with the New York Mets, while Jeff Kent left to play with his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers.

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