Baseball History: Astrodome

The Houston Astrodome in 1965

Playing baseball indoors has become routine as stadiums have retractable roofs to prevent rain outs. However in 1965, being inside what would become known as the Astrodome for a baseball game was unique.

After playing their first two seasons as the Houston Colt .45s, the renamed Astros officially opened their new facility known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” on April 12, 1965.

Bob Bruce was the starting pitcher that day for the Astros with the honor of throwing the first indoor toss in major league history to Tony Taylor of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Taylor would eventually double for the first hit. It would only take two more innings for Dick Allen of the Phillies to make history.

Allen blasted a two-run homer for the only score in the contest. It would be the first official long ball to occur in indoors.

The Phillies would win 2-0 as Bruce would end up as the losing pitcher. Chris Short threw a complete game to get the win as he limited the Astros to four hits. Rookie Joe Morgan had two of the hits for Houston.

Bruce would finish the 1965 season with a 9-18 record after having his best year in 1964 at 15-9. He spent nine years in the majors beginning in Detroit in 1959. He was with Houston from 1962 to 1966 before finishing his career with the Atlanta Braves in 1967 with a 49-71 record.

Perhaps the top moment of Bruce’s career came in 1964. The righthander fanned Bill White, Charlie James and Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals with nine pitches on April 19. He added three more strikeouts in the ninth to end with six on two innings, but the Astros lost 6-1.

Bruce died on March 15, 2017.

Allen would become an all-star for the first time in 1965 as he hit 20 homers and knock in 85 runs to follow up his rookie-of-year season in 1964.

A seven-time all-star, Allen would play 15 years in the big leagues and finish with 351 home runs. He was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1972 with the Chicago White Sox.

The First Victory

After eight road games, the Astros returned home and picked up their first win with a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh on April 23.

Ironically, it was Bruce that started for Houston. He had a chance for a win but the Pirates scored three times in the eighth inning to tie the game.

Dave Guisti would get the win for the Astros after he had two scoreless innings in the 10th and 11th to set the stage for Rusty Staub to bring home the game-winning run in the bottom of the 11th with a single.

Bruce also had a hit and knocked in a run.

The win was first of nine straight at home for the Astros. Unfortunately, that trend didn’t continue as the they finished 36-45. Overall, Houston finished ninth in the National League with a 65-97 record.

The First Games

Prior to the regular season opener, the Astros played exhibition contests a few days before the Phillies arrived of the initial official game.

In the very first indoor battle, Houston defeated the New York Yankees 2-1 in 12 innings as Nellie Fox had a walk-off single to win it for the Astros.

New York’s Mickey Mantle hit the first homer in the building off Dick Farrell. The Astros played four more games over the three-day span as they won three of the five contests.

The First Houston Blast

Houston’s first home run finally came in the third contest as Bob Aspromonte tagged Pittsburgh’s Vern Law with a blast to left field in the sixth inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s Jim Wynn added another homer when he hit a solo shot. Farrell went the distance for the Astros to get the win in Houston’s 5-0.

The Rain In

Playing indoors was supposed to eliminate rain outs, but in 1976 the Astros were rained in. Flooding in the area of the stadium wouldn’t allow fans to reach the venue even though the players from both teams were inside on June 15.

The Final Game

Houston played its final contest in the Astrodome during the post-season of 1999 as they lost to the Atlanta Braves on Oct. 9.