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Houston Astros

For current information on this topic, see
2008 Houston Astros season
Houston Astros
Established 1962

Team Logo
Cap Insignia
Major league affiliations Current uniform Retired Numbers 5, 24, 25, 32, 33, 34, 40, 42, 49 Name
  • Houston Astros (1965–present)
Other nicknames
  • The 'Stros
Ballpark Major league titles World Series titles (0) none NL Pennants (1) 2005 Central Division titles (4) 2001 • 1999 • 1998 • 1997 West Division titles (2) [1][2] 1986 • 1980 Wild card berths (2) 2005 • 2004

[1] - In 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.
[2] - In 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.

Owner(s): Drayton McLane, Jr. Manager: Cecil Cooper General Manager: Ed Wade "Astros" redirects here. For other uses, see Astros (disambiguation).

The Houston Astros are a Major League Baseball team based in Houston, Texas. The team is in the Central Division of the National League.

Contents

Franchise history

Main article: History of the Houston Astros

Beginnings: The 1960s

Subsequent to the Giants and Dodgers leaving for California, an abortive attempt was made to start a third Major League. It was to be called the Continental League. Though the league never got off the ground, it nonetheless established the demand for Major League baseball in other markets.

The driving force behind the effort to obtain a franchise for Houston was oilman Craig F. Cullinan, Jr. and Marco A. Perez who had been involved with the Continental League and who was chairman of the Houston Sports Association, a syndicate of local businessmen dedicated to bringing a pro baseball team to southeastern Texas. Cullinan's group consisted of George Kirksey, Judge Roy Hofheinz, Robert E. "Bob" Smith, and Kenneth S. "Bud" Adams. On October 17, 1960, Houston was awarded a franchise in the ten-team National League and was to play in the west division. The team was to be named the Houston Colt .45s, in honor of The Gun That Won the West [1], with Craig F. Cullinan, Jr. the team's first president.

Houston Colt .45s logo, 1962–64

In addition to the Houston Colt .45s, the New York Mets would also join the NL in 1962, a year after the 1961 expansion of the American League, which resulted in new AL teams in Los Angeles (Los Angeles Angels) and Washington, D.C. (a new Washington Senators franchise to replace the team that had left D.C. to become the Minnesota Twins the same year).

The "Colts" began play on April 10 1962, defeating the Chicago Cubs 11-2, and for the next three years, the team would play in Colt Stadium. As a condition of their entry in the National League, the Astros committed to building a new domed stadium, designed as a defense against the oppressive heat and humidity of the Houston summer.

As was typical of most expansion teams, the Colts struggled at first, losing 96 games in each of their first three years. However, those years weren't without highlights. On Sunday, September 29, 1963, the final day of the regular season, Colt 45's outfielder John Paciorek would have a career day, going 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs, 2 walks and 4 runs scored as the team beat the Mets 13-4. Because of chronic injuries, the game would mark Paciorek's only Major League appearance. Through 2006, Paciorek still holds the record of having a perfect 1.000 average with the most at-bats. September 29, 1963 would also mark the last Major League game for the winning pitcher of that game, Astros pitcher Jim Umbricht. Stricken with cancer, Umbricht would pass away on April 8, 1964. His number 32 was the first jersey number retired by the Astros.

The Colts became the first (and, so far, only) team in history to lose a game when their pitcher achieved a nine-inning complete-game no-hitter. Ken Johnson gave up no hits to the Cincinnati Reds on April 23, 1964, but lost when Pete Rose reached on an error, moved to second on a groundout, and scored on another error in the top of the 9th. He only surrendered two walks before that fateful inning.

The franchise's first decade displayed some great hitters (for example, Joe Morgan, Jimmy Wynn) and many good pitchers (for example, Bob Bruce, Ken Johnson, Mike Cuellar, Don Wilson, Larry Dierker, Dave Giusti, and Denny LeMaster.)

New venue, new name

On April 9, 1965, the Houston Colt .45s became the Houston Astros, to show support for the space program based in Houston [1], and inaugurated indoor baseball in the Astrodome with a 2-1 exhibition win over the New York Yankees on April 9 in the Astrodome.

Houston Astros Logo, 1965-1974

The Sporting News Official Baseball Guide for 1965 had this to say about why the team was renamed: "Late in the year 1964 the Harris County Domed Stadium was officially named the Astrodome after the Houston club changed its nickname, December 1, from Colt .45s to Astros. The move resulted from objections by the Colt Firearms Company to the club's sales of novelties bearing the old nickname." The old nickname also bore violent overtones, which did not sit well with some people.

Regardless of trademark issues, "Astros" was a good fit for the futuristic ambiance of the revolutionary domed stadium and also since Houston was by then the home of NASA's astronaut program. The scoreboard retained subliminal references to the old nickname, as it featured electronically animated cowboys firing pistols, with the "bullets" ricocheting around the scoreboard, when an Astros player would hit a home run. Early on, the groundskeepers also wore astronaut spacesuits to promote that futuristic image.

Loosely based on the old Roman Colosseum, the Astrodome was like no venue that had come before it, and it was dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World. As with many stadiums of that era, such as RFK Stadium and Shea Stadium, the Astrodome was a multi-purpose stadium, designed for both football as well as baseball. However, because it was enclosed, it could also be used for events traditionally held in indoor arenas, such as basketball, concerts and political conventions, allowing outdoor-sized crowds in an indoor venue.

Besides its roof, the Astrodome was revolutionary for a number of other reasons. It was one of the first stadiums to have individual, theatre-type seats for every seat in the venue. Additionally, it was one of the first stadiums to have luxury seats and club seating, at the time a relatively new concept in sports venues. It also had an "exploding scoreboard", which would show various animations after a home run or a win, as well as messages and advertising.

The Astrodome was also one of the first stadiums in the country to use an artificial playing surface. The creation of an artificial surface came across based on necessity. Originally the Astrodome had a grass field and a transparent roof. However, during the 1965 season, players complained about the glare on the field which made tracking fly balls difficult. As a result, the transparent Lucite roof panels were painted with a translucent white paint. This solved the glare problem but killed off the grass. As a solution the Astros deployed a product from Monsanto Corporation called AstroTurf, a surface that could be used in any condition, and a surface that was, compared to grass, low maintenance.

The surface did prove resilient to routine game play and was relatively safe, resulting in a number of colleges and pro teams switching to artificial surface fields. Additionally, AstroTurf made possible a number of other domed stadiums, such as the Louisiana Superdome, the Carrier Dome, and the Pontiac Silverdome.

The new venue didn't lead to a change in the team's on-field fortunes. They would not finish higher than eighth in the league from 1965 to 1968, and wouldn't get to .500 until 1969. This was at least in part due to Hofheinz' financial problems. The Astrodome's construction costs, as well as the construction of several nearby hotels and an entertainment complex left the Astros $30 million in debt by 1970. Late that year, Hofheinz was forced into bankruptcy. His creditors, led by Ford and General Electric, took control of Hofheinz' interests, including the Astros.

1970s

In 1975, former Astros pitcher Don Wilson, who had pitched two no-hitters for the club, had 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 would have their best showing to date. Under three different managers - including legendary manager Leo Durocher, (whose last managerial job would be with these Astros), the Astros finished the 1972 season 84-69, and in second place in the NL West.

It was with the Astros that Bob Watson scored the 1,000,000th 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.

Former Pittsburgh Pirates player and manager Bill Virdon arrived in May, 1975 as the team's new manager.

1979–85: The start of something big; Taste of October

Nolan Ryan pitching

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 Cabell and 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. Yet they were unable to hold off the Cincinnati Reds, who edged the Astros on the last weekend for the National League West title, ultimately winning the division by 1.5 games.

Following the 1979 season, Nolan Ryan signed with the Astros as a free agent, agreeing to MLB's first million-dollar per year salary. They also brought back popular Texas native Joe Morgan (who began his Hall of Fame career with the Astros) to bring leadership to this 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. In the game in Los Angeles, Joe Niekro won 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 National League Championship Series, the Astros would push 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 would take a 5-2 lead into the top of the 8th against the Phillies. However, Nolan Ryan would be unable to hold the lead. The Astros would go on to lose to the Phillies in 10 innings, 8-7.

In 1980, J.R. Richard, considered to be a front-runner for the National League's Cy Young Award and 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. The stroke nearly killed him and although Richard survived, he never would pitch 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 ballclub 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." The Astros got to face 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 Expos at Olympic Stadium. Ryan and Steve Carlton would battle for the lead until Carlton retired and Ryan earned it for good. The next season, shortstop Dickie Thon was beaned in the head by Mets pitcher Mike Torrez, derailing what many thought would be an extremely promising career.

1986 season

After a mediocre 1985 season, the Astros fired general manager Al Rosen and 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 Lanier whose "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 Game, 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 8 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 with it.

Their opponents in the NLCS were 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 National League Championship Series 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 Wilson in 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 Knepper would give two runs, and once again the Astros would look to Dave Smith to close it out. However, Smith would walk Gary Carter and 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 Backman single 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 NLCS history, 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 Orosco would 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 Braves 7-6 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.

1987–93: Destroy, fire sale, and rebuild

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 went on a fire sale. Additionally, franchise icon Nolan Ryan left the Astros to join the Texas Rangers in 1989, after being considered "too old" by then-owner McMullen. Ryan would go 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 would also record 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.

Many people consider the best trade the Astros ever made was their trade for Jeff Bagwell at the trading deadline in 1990. The Boston Red Sox, in a tight race for the American League East title, needed relief pitching help. The Astros gave the Red Sox journeyman Larry Andersen in exchange for minor-leaguer Jeff Bagwell, who would win the 1990 Eastern League MVP award for the AA New Britain Red Sox. With Mo Vaughn in their system, the Red Sox figured that Bagwell was expendable, and while Andersen did help the Red Sox to the divisional title, Bagwell would go 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 in virtually any list of Best (Worst) trades in MLB history, and "Larry Anderson" became a popular phrase in Boston to describe the futility of their 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 by sending outfielder Kenny Lofton to the Cleveland Indians for catcher Eddie Taubensee. Lofton would prove to be one of the best center fielders of the 1990s, earning 5 AL stolen base titles, 6 All-Star appearances and 4 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 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.

1994-99: A new owner, a new look, a new success

Houston Astros Logo, 1994 Houston Astros Logo, 1995-1999

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 Padres and 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 1993 season in order to go for a new, more serious image. The team's trademark "rainbow stripes" were retired, and the team's colors changed to midnight blue and metallic gold. The "Astros" font 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 American general managers, former franchise player Bob Watson. Watson would leave the Astros after the 1995 season to become general manager of the New York Yankees and 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, like the team's previous owner, McLane wanted his team out of the Astrodome and was asking Houston to build them a new stadium. When things didn't 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.

The late nineties also saw the formation of the Killer Bs, a notation for great Astros players with last names beginning with the letter B.

2000s: New stadium; First pennant

Houston Astros Logo 2000-present

After years at the outdated Astrodome, the Astros moved into their new stadium in 2000. Originally called Enron Field, 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.

2001 season

In 2001, the Astros won another NL Central title, but were again eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by the Braves. Despite four NL Central division titles in five years, the Astros lost in the first round each year (three times to the Braves) Dierker resigned and was replaced by former Boston Red Sox manager Jimy Williams. After the Enron scandal made headlines across the nation, the stadium's naming rights were eventually resold to Coca-Cola, which dubbed the park Minute Maid Park, also known by fans as "The Juice Box" [2]. The Tampa Bay Rays Tropicana Field is sometimes referred to as "The Juice Box".

2004 season

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 Pettitte and Roger Clemens to a team that already included stars like Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent as 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 Cardinals in seven games, most dramatically on a walk-off home run by Jim Edmonds in 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 2003 season from the New York Yankees. However, after the Astros signed his former Yankee teammate Andy Pettitte and 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 Beltrán in a trade with the Kansas City Royals helped 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 Mets on January 9, 2005.

The Astros and Nolan Ryan would also re-establish their relationship, thanks to Ryan's longtime friendship with Astros owner Drayton McLane. Ryan's minor league team, the Round Rock Express (who played outside of Austin, Texas) would become an Astros minor league affiliate, first in the AA Texas League and eventually in the AAA Pacific Coast League. Additionally, Ryan was a frequent special guest of the Astros throughout the 2004 and 2005 playoffs and would also drop by Astros camp as a guest instructor. He also had a personal-services contract with the Astros.

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 Astacio and Wandy Rodríguez were 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 Braves in 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 Clemens who 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.

National League Championship logo

It is also notable that both the grand slam Lance Berkman hit in the 8th inning and the solo shot hit by Chris Burke in 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 Fame as 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 Pujols off 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.

Current honorary National League President 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 1951 to 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 Field in 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.

2006 season

After losing the World Series, the Astros prepared for the offseason. They signed Preston Wilson and moved Lance Berkman to first base, ending the long tenure by Jeff Bagwell due to injuries and a degenerative arthritic shoulder. The Astros resigned pitcher Roger Clemens on June 22, 2006. For their first pick in the 2006 draft, the Astros drafted high school catcher Maxwell Sapp, who ranked second among all high school catchers. On July 12, 2006, Houston traded two minor league prospects to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for left-handed hitter Aubrey Huff and cash. In August of 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 to Preston Wilson not getting enough playing time, the Astros released Preston, 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, (despite the fact that five out of the 22 teams that failed to reach the postseason in Major League Baseball had a better record than the Astros), the 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 Clemens and Andy Pettitte filed 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 Biggio worth $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 Lee to 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 1 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 Garland from the Chicago White Sox in return for Willy Taveras, Taylor Buchholz, and Jason Hirsh but the deal was nixed by the White Sox because right-hander Taylor Buchholz reportedly failed a physical that he never took.

On December 12, the Astros traded 3 for 2 when they traded Willy Taveras, Taylor Buchholz, and Jason Hirsh to the Colorado Rockies for Rockies pitchers Jason Jennings and 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.

2007 season

Main Article: 2007 Houston Astros season

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 Reds on 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 Athletics for the first time in team history.

On June 28, second baseman Craig Biggio became the 27th player to accrue 3000 career hits. On the same night in the bottom of the 11th inning Carlos Lee hit 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 Wheeler to Tampa Bay for right-handed slugger 3B Ty Wigginton and cash considerations. He is now signed through 2009. On July 29, long time and former All-Star third baseman Morgan Ensberg was 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 Garner and General Manager Tim Purpura were relieved of their duties. Cecil Cooper and Tal Smith were named as interim replacements, 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 Wade was named as the new General Manager of the Astros. He made his first move as GM by trading Jason Lane to 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 Bruntlett to the Philadelphia Phillies for OF Michael Bourn, RHP Geoff Geary, and minor leaguer Mike Costanzo. Also UTIL Mark Loretta accepts 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 Qualls to the Arizona Diamondbacks for RHP Jose Valverde.

On December 27, the Astros came to terms on a deal with All-star, Gold Glove winner Darin Erstad.

2008 Season

On January 11, the Astros started off 2008 by signing Brandon Backe to a one-year deal. During the rest of the month they also signed Ty Wigginton and Dave Borkowski to one-year deals.

In February the Astros signed Shawn Chacon to a one-year contract.

The Astros started off their Spring Training campaign with a loss to Cleveland on the 28th.

Season-by-season results

For the past five seasons. To see entire season results, see Houston Astros Record-by-Year

World Series Champions
(1903–present) NL Champions
(1901–present)[2]Division Champions
(1969–present) Wild Card Berth
(1994–present)
Regular season Attendance Playoffs Season Team League Division Finish Won Lost % GB Attendance Average 20042004NL Central 2nd 92 70 .568 13 3,087,872 38,121.9 Won NLDS(3-2) (Braves)

Lost NLCS (3-4) (Cardinals)

20052005NL Central 2nd 89 73 .549 11 2,804,760 34,626.7 Won NLDS(3-1) (Braves)

Won NLCS (4-2) (Cardinals)
Lost World Series (0-4) (White Sox)

20062006NL Central 2nd 82 80 .506 1½ 3,022,763 37,318.1 20072007NL Central 4th 73 89 .451 12 3,020,405 37,288.9 20082008NL Central 2nd 30 26 .536 4.5 201,147 33,524.5 Totals 366 330 .518 2005 National League Champions

Quick facts

Founded: 1962 (National League expansion)
Uniform colors: Brick red, black, and sand
Logo design: Red five-pointed star with the word "Astros" below it in script
Owner: Drayton McLane, Jr.
General Manager: Ed Wade
Manager: Cecil Cooper
Team motto: The Return of the Good Guys
Playoff appearances (9): 1980, 1981, 1986, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005
World Series appearances(1): 2005
Television Stations: FSN (Houston), KTXH(My 20)
Radio Stations: KTRH-AM 740 (flagship); KLAT-AM 1010 (Spanish); KBME-AM 790 (used to broadcast games in emergencies, power knockouts, weekday spring training games, or when KTRH can not broadcast said game).
Announcers (Radio): Milo Hamilton (Home games only), Dave Raymond, Brett Dolan
Announcers (TV): Bill Brown, Jim Deshaies
Spring Training Facility: Osceola County Stadium, Kissimmee, FL
Rivals: St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves
Famous Fans: George H. W. Bush, Barbara Bush, Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, Hilary Duff, Jessica Simpson, Matthew McConaughey, Tracy McGrady

See also: Lone Star Shootout (Rangers-Astros rivalry)

Traditions

Despite being a relatively young team, the Astros have established many traditions among players and fans.

The Killer Bs

The Killer Bs are a group of players of the Houston Astros. They earned this nickname from all having a last name starting with the letter "B" and all performing commendably. The original Killer Bs were nicknamed in the '90s, and consisted of Craig Biggio, Derek Bell, Jeff Bagwell, and Sean Berry. Since the formation of the original Bs, newer members have been added to the list during their time with the Astros, including Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltrán, Chris Burke, Brandon Backe, and Michael Bourn. The ones of unusual note in the Killer B's group is Backe, Burke, and Bourn. Burke, achieved fame as a B when he delievered greatly for the Astros in the playoffs multiple times. Backe has hit home runs as a pitcher, and is good at bunting, as well as driving the ball for singles. Bourn is not a high batting average player, but is one of the fastest members of the Astros, next to Willy Taveras. These three players are unusual to be considered Killer B's, but in many fans eyes have earned the title.

The O's Bros

The O's Bros are a group of fans who attend every Roy Oswalt home game (some road games as well). Created in May of 2002, the O's Bros would hang "O's" instead of the traditional "K" for every strikeout Oswalt would get, along with performing a strikout dance. They originally had two signs they would hang, one saying "Wizard of O's" and the second saying "O's Bros". In 2004, the Bros revealed a new and improved O's Bros sign. Section 337 of the Upper Deck at Minute Maid Park was the home of the O's Bros for 5 plus years, but has recently relocated to section 255 of the Mezzanine due to obstructed viewing in the upper deck. The O's Bros are always looking for new members and joining is simple: just show up.

Los Caballitos

The newest tradition is Los Caballitos, a group of devoted Carlos Lee fans that attend every Astros home game, usually standing in a balcony above the Crawford boxes near the Home Run Pump. Their name in Spanish means "The little horses," a name that pays homage to Carlos Lee's nickname El Caballo, meaning "the horse." This is due to his speed and large build. They traditionally have wood-stick horses that they hold as they cheer. They are often dressed as Mexican cowboys, complete with sombreros. This is another homage to Lee, as one of his life interests is ranching.[3]

The Little Pumas

The Little Pumas formed following the 2008 offseason when Lance Berkman was given the nickname "Big Puma" by a local sports radio talkshow. They are a group of friends that are devoted Big Puma fans that dress up in puma costumes to cheer on their favorite player.[4] At games they can be found cheering on the "Conoco Home Run Porch".

Former players

Baseball Hall of Famers

Retired numbers


Jeff
Bagwell

1B

Jimmy
Wynn

OF

Jose
Cruz

OF

Jim
Umbricht

P

Mike
Scott

P

Nolan
Ryan

P

Don
Wilson

P

Larry
Dierker

P,M

Jackie
Robinson

-

While not officially retired, the Astros have not reissued number 57 since 2002, when former Astros pitcher Darryl Kile died as an active player with the St. Louis Cardinals.


Additional players of note

     

Current Roster

Houston Astros roster view • talk • editActive (25-man) roster Inactive (40-man) roster Coaches/Other Starting rotation

Bullpen

Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders

Pitchers

Catchers

Outfielders

Manager

Coaches


† 15-day disabled list
* Suspended list
# Bereavement list
Roster updated 2008-06-07
TransactionsDepth Chart


"The Homegrown Heroes"

The Astros are unique among many major-league teams in the sense that a large portion of their roster is team-area natives. Even Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan, whose number was retired by the Astros, was raised in the Houston suburb of Alvin since he was six-months old. A list of several current Astros that hail from the immediate Houston area includes:

Several other Astros are native to Texas. These players include:

Minor league affiliations

Radio and television

As of 2006, 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-play announcer for home games. Brett Dolan and Dave Raymond 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 TV affiliate KTXH, with the games produced by FSN Houston. Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies compose the broadcast team on TV.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Houston Astros Houston Portal


Preceded by
St. Louis Cardinals
2004National League Champions
Houston Astros
2005Succeeded by
St. Louis Cardinals
2006

References

  1. ^ American History: A Stitch in Time
  2. ^ For lists of all National League pennant winners see National League pennant winners 1901-68, and National League Championship Series
  3. ^ http://seattle.mariners.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070523&content_id=1981054&vkey=news_hou&fext=.jsp&c_id=hou 'Los Caballitos' riding high in Houston]
  4. ^ The Little Pumas
  • Houston Astros Official Website
  • A Six-Gun Salute: An Illustrated History of the Houston Colt .45s, by Robert Reed (Rowman-Littlefield Publishing, Boston, 1999)
v • d • eHouston Astros Formerly the Houston Colt .45s • Based in Houston, TexasThe Franchise HistorySeasonsRecordsAwardsPlayersManagers and OwnersBroadcastersAll articlesBallparks Colt StadiumAstrodomeMinute Maid ParkCulture AstroTurfJunction JackLone Star SeriesCrawford BoxesRainbow GutsHouston Sports CurseImportant Figures Jeff BagwellCraig BiggioNolan RyanJimmy WynnBrad AusmusBob WatsonLarry DierkerCesar CedenoJosé CruzJoe NiekroBilly WagnerRoy OswaltLance BerkmanRoger ClemensMike ScottRetired Numbers 52425323334404249Key Personnel Owner: Drayton McLane, Jr.• General Manager: Ed Wade• Manager: Cecil CooperNational League
Pennants (1) 2005Division Titles Western: 19801986• Central: 1997199819992001• Wild Card: 20042005Minors Round Rock Express(AAA) • Corpus Christi Hooks(AA) • Salem Avalanche(A) • Lexington Legends(A) • Tri-City Valley Cats(A) • Greeneville Astros(Rookie)   Seasons (47) 1960s 1960 • 1961 • 196219631964196519661967196819691970s 19701971197219731974197519761977197819791980s 19801981198219831984198519861987198819891990s 19901991199219931994199519961997199819992000s 200020012002200320042005200620072008 v • d • eHouston Astros managers

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