Opening Day

added 4/1/2003 by Gene Elston

Opening days keep popping up quite often – this the franchises’ 41st and the 2nd anniversary of the Colt .45s on April 9, 1963 at Colt Stadium. It turned out to be a 9-2 loss to San Francisco in front of a mere 19,591 fans.

I point this out as another attempt to keep the early years of Houston’s first major league teams as a remembrance of days long forgotten - unfortunately by most.

I recall 1963 as a season that Bob Bruce pitched a one-hitter in a 2-0 win over Cincinnati on April 26... Don Nottebart racking up the teams’ first no-hitter against the Phillies on May 17 at Colt Stadium . . Carl Warwick finishing the season with 134 hits to pace .45s . . Dick Farrell a 14 game winner with an ERA of 3.03 with the staff throwing 16 shutouts, setting a record that wasn’t broken until 1974 and Hal Woodeshick represented the National League in the All-Star game.

1963s starting line up was: Ernie Fazio 2B, Al Spangler LF, Pete Runnels 1B, Rusty Staub RF, Bob Aspromonte 3B, Howie Goss CF, Jim Campbell C, Bob Lillis SS and Turk Farrell P.

For the first 13 years I was in charge of all statistics since this was before the leagues became involved in supplying the daily stats to all clubs. And, from 1962 through 1975 compiled and edited what we then referred to as the Press, Radio, T.V. Guide.

As a preview to the 1963 guide I contacted a well known Houstonian and baseball fan hoping he would write a preface following Houston’s entrance into the major leagues. On page one of our guide that year he wrote the following:

Professor of History, Rice University

Every Big League city has a special sort of pride. Impressive statistics can be paraded to show a city’s greatness – census figures, industrial potential, banking capital, educational facilities – but all these are assumed if the city is in the Majors. By definition, a city in the Majors is at the top of the heap, it’s the most. And this is still true, despite all kinds of stories about the so-called "decline" of the Great American Sport.

Baseball is simply not declining. Houston found that out in 1962, its first year in the Majors. For a longtime Houstonians had thought of their city as one of the nation’s foremost, as a booming, vital metropolis, destined for great things. But greatness arrived the day the Colt.45s took the field for the first game of the season – the waiting was over.

And that feeling shows pretty clearly the magic lingering in major league baseball. Houstonians supported the .45s with growing zest. In a few short weeks after the season began members of the team were cussed and discussed all over town; heated arguments about averages, the wisdom of assorted coaching decisions, the idiocy of umpires, raged wherever people gathered. Heroes rose and fell with each game, but the team worked a firm hold in Houston’s life.

In some ways, the .45’s affirmed a new life for Houston. The old rags-to-riches story of baseball—the sandlot kid making it to the top—reflects an ancient American dream. Boys work for perfection through the Little Leagues and the minors, just for the day they can step out on a Big League field and fight to reach and win the World’s Series. That type of striving— for most Americans, indeed—is going on in Houston, and in every Major League city.

At one game during the first season, the Astronauts were guests in Colt Stadium. And it seemed altogether proper to the fans present that this was so. The Astronauts were just as concerned about the .45’s struggling for the top as they were about nudging the frontiers of space - the two types of competition; both of a Major League variety. And in some curious way, it seemed unthinkable that a city in the Majors would strive for anything less than new frontiers.

The conviction firmly felt in every Houston heart that someday—probably soon under Paul Richards’ wizardry—the 45’s will sweep a World’s Series, is matched by the certainty that our Astronauts will conquer space and reach the moon, that Houston will meet and beat all challenges.

The Colt .45’s are most important to Houston. They are the city’s token of Big Leagueness, a symbol of successful striving, a source of civic pride. And more important, they play exciting baseball!

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