Major League Baseball Park #22 out of 39
Saturday, June 12, 1999
Houston 3, San Diego Padres 2
W– Jose Lima
L – Donne Wall
Attendance – 39,893
Sunday, June 13, 1999
Houston 4, San Diego Padres 1 (8 innings)
W– Shane Reynolds
L – Heath Murray
Attendance – 39,773
The first ballpark to have a roof over its playing field is at the bottom of my ballpark list.
I'm so glad I won't have to watch another sporting event inside the building.
The Astros' original owner, Judge Roy Hofheinz, called the Astrodome the "Eighth Wonder of the World" when it opened for baseball in April of 1965.
Well, after I'd seen a baseball game there, the only thing left for me to wonder was why anyone thought it would be a good idea to play baseball in there. I never thought I'd see a place worse for baseball than the Kingdome, but there it was.
The Astrodome used to have a natural playing surface, but it was too difficult to pick up a fly ball while looking up at the translucent ceiling. So the ceiling was painted. Then the grass died. Then AstroTurf was born -- -- and 10,000 ACLs groaned in anticipation of what was to come.
The stadium has at least four separate levels of seating, vertical columns on the main level in center field, and a lot of the seating is covered by the overhang of the section above it. Behind the seats, the walls and floor are painted black and smoking is allowed behind yellow lines -- inside the stadium. Two exterior pedestrian ramps were added in 1989 and they resemble castle towers where princesses are imprisoned. Just plain gruesome. One game in 1976 was rained out due to flooding.
The Astros had won six division titles in their 35 seasons in the building, but have yet to appear in a World Series. Mike Scott pitched a no-hitter on the last day of the 1986 season, but other than that, I can't find a single historically significant thing that happened during a baseball game in the Astrodome.
At the trading deadline of the 1998 season, the Mariners traded future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and John Halama. All of them helped Seattle more than Randy would have during the next few years. Randy was 9-10 (4.33 ERA) for the M's that year and went 10-1 (1.28 ERA) for the Astros, but only received a total of two runs in his two NLDS appearances that year. The Astros offered him a three-year, $33-million contract after the season to pitch for a contender in a pitcher's ballpark, but he turned it down to pitch for the second-year Arizona Diamondbacks.
Before the Saturday game, we visited NASA's Johnson Space Center. It wasn't as cool as the Space Center in Orlando, but it was damn close. How come we haven't been back to the Moon since 1972?
During the Houston part of our Texas two-step, we stayed at an Extended StayAmerica and it spoiled us with a decent price and a lot of amenities. On our earlier trips, we usually looked for the cheapest places we could find and ate at fast-food restaurants. After Houston, we decided to spend a little more to have a place with a kitchen and try to eat cheaper and better.
On our way to the Sunday game, we just missed getting dumped on by a serious Texas thunderstorm. There's a picture of me in a scrapbook with bright sunlight in my eyes and black clouds behind me. We made it inside the stadium just before the skies opened up.
Unfortunately, the game was over before it was supposed to end. Jeff Bagwell was leading off the bottom of the 8th when then-manager Larry Dierker collapsed in the dugout. After about a 25-minute wait, ambulances rolled out on the field and took Dierker to a local hospital. The game was made up later and the score didn't change. Larry turned out to be OK and continued to manage the team until 2001. The whole event was even spookier when I realized that the ex-player throwing out the first pitch was J.R. Richard. J.R. had suffered a stroke during the 1980 season and never pitched again. It was certainly strange to tune into the postgame radio show and hear virtually nothing but fans complaining about the perceived slow reaction of the paramedics. We took a side trip down to Galveston after the game and stuck our toes in the Gulf.
We've already visited Minute Maid Park and it's a much better place to watch a baseball game.
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