added 9/12/2008 by Gene Elston
Medwick (L) speaks with Bill Lee.
1965 was a great year for baseball in Houston. The Astrodome opened with a flourish as the newly named Astros took on the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles on an April weekend of exhibition games. It was a series that not only drew the attention of baseball fans but also intense interest from the world-wide press. Baseball being played indoors in an air-conditioned domed stadium was more than a novelty; it was an outstanding event. With only a month remaining and attendance pushing the 2,000,000 mark, Astros management looked to find an exclamation point to end the first season of the "Eighth Wonder of the World".
An "Old Timers Day" was suggested but not many thought it was a good idea. An Old Timers Game for a franchise only four years old? Crazy idea! However, the final decision came from the brass, "let’s do it, but do it big league".
Invitations were sent out to the biggest names in baseball history including their wives and children, with all expenses paid by the Astros. There would be a two-inning game pitting the Baseball Immortals against the Texas All Stars to be played on Labor Day, September 6th, 1965. The number of players accepting the invitation was an unbelievable 58 - 12 of those were already in the Hall of Fame and seven others would later by inducted into the Hall. Following the old-timers game, the Astros would play their regular league game with the Chicago Cubs.
On the Sunday before the Old Timers Game, the locals and visitors from around the country - Arkansas, California, Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Florida, Alabama and North Carolina - attended a league game with the Astros hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers. It couldn’t have been planned any better as Sandy Koufax and Robin Roberts, two future Hall of Famers themselves, hooked up in a 4-2 Dodger win. Roberts took the loss and Koufax did not figure in the decision. In those days, games were run off faster, this one lasted 2 hours, 5 minutes and attendance was 49,442 paid and 51,839 total. Ironically, both Roberts and Koufax would retire following the 1966 season.
Following that game, a hospitality room was held for players, family and press at the Shamrock Hotel. Monday morning there was a specially arranged tour of NASA, followed by a luncheon at the Crest Hotel at NASA with astronauts and their wives.
|Dizzy Dean signs for fans.||Frank Mancuso (L) with Howie Pollet.|
OLD TIMERS GAME AT ASTRODOME SEPTEMBER 6, 1965 STARTING LINEUPS THE BASEBALL IMMORTALS THE TEXAS ALL-STARS SS - Luke Appling - White Sox - HOF 2B - Jimmy Adair - Cubs 2B - Lou Boudreau -Cleveland - HOF LF - Joe Moore - Giants 3B - Gil McDougald - Yankees RF - Homer Peel - Giants CF - Joe DiMaggio - Yankees - HOF CF - Joe Medwick - Cardinals - H0F 1B - Johnny Mize - Giants - HOF 1B - Eddie Robinson - White Sox RF - Tommy Henrich - Yankees 3B - Dutch Meyer - Tigers LF - Babe Herman - Dodgers SS - Heinie Schuble - Tigers C - Ernie Lombardi - Reds - HOF C - Gus Mancuso - Cardinals P - Dizzy Dean - Cardinals - HOF P - Carl Hubbell - Giants
RESERVES RESERVES C - Bill Dickey - Yankees - HOF C - Frank Mancuso - Senators P - Lefty Gomez - Yankees - HOF P - Tex Carleton - Cardinals P - Burleigh Grimes - Dodgers - HOF P - Paul Dean - Cardinals P - Lefty Grove - Red Sox - HOF P - Ray Benge - Phillies P - Ted Lyons - White Sox - HOF P - Harry Gumpert - Giants P - Satchel Paige - Cleveland - HOF P - Ed Head - Dodgers P - Bill Lee - Cubs P - Al Hollingsworth - Reds P - Allie Reynolds - Yankees P - Red Munger - Cardinals P - Bob Feller - Cleveland - HOF P - Howie Pollet - Cardinals IF - Jimmy Foxx - Red Sox - HOF P - Ted Wilks - Cardinals IF - Alvin Dark - Giants P - Tex Hughson - Red Sox IF - Frankie Frisch - Cardinals - HOF P - Monte Stratton - White Sox OF - Heinie Manush - Senators - HOF Manager - Bill McKechnie IF - Cary Selph - White Sox IF - Joffre Cross - Cardinals OF - Beau Bell - Cleveland OF - Larry Miggins - Cardinals OF - Jim Busby - White Sox OF - Bibb Falk - White Sox OF - Stan Hollmig - Phillies OF - Tom McBride - Red Sox OF - Randy Moore - Braves OF - Johnny Rizzo- Pirates OF - Enos Slaugher - Cardinals - HOF OF - Ernie Koy - Dodgers Manager - Paul Richards
|Allie Reynolds (L) warms up.||Stan Hack (L) chats with Dave Bristol.|
To say the game was a success is an understatement even though the pressure was on the two managers in their attempt to handle 58 players including 21 pitchers to fit into only two innings which became a parade of cameo appearances. Next on the program was the Astros-Cubs regular game that featured Turk Farrell pitching a compete game 2-1 victory. Both runs came in the sixth inning on a base hit by Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn’s 19th home run of the season. Like the Old Timers Game that featured Hall of Famers, there were two future hall-of-famers in this one - Morgan and Ernie Banks. The game was run off in 1 hour and 51 minutes before a paid crowd of 31,814 and a total of 33,584.
This ended the two-day festivities that included more than the games for thousands of fans, proving the decision to play an Old Timers Game this early in the franchise’s history was not a mistake. Showing off some of the greatest players in the game, and welcoming them along with their families was the high priority of Judge Roy Hofheinz and his staff.
|Monte Stratton warms up.||Joe "Ducky" Medwick in the cage.|
The season ended three weeks later in Houston’s first year in the Astrodome with not much success on the field - a record of 65-97, in ninth place, 32 games behind the champion Dodgers and topping it off with an attendance record of 2,151,470.
Houston started their first season in their new home hosting the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles with a weekend exhibition series and topped off the Astrodome in style with the now-forgotten Old Timers Game of September 6, 1965.
Gene Elston is the former play-by-play voice of the Houston Colt .45s and Houston Astros (1962-1986) and the 2006 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award given by the Baseball Hall of Fame. For more of Gene's remembrances and historical perspectives, visit Gene Elston's Journal.
All photos property of Gene Elston.