The Indoor Era Begins
by Bob Hulsey
"It reminds me of what I imagine my first ride would be like in a flying saucer."
You didn't have to be a hayseed from the backwoods of Oklahoma like Mickey Mantle to stand in awe of the newly-finished Astrodome. Folks like President Lyndon Johnson, the Rev. Billy Graham and many others also spoke of it in awe. 40 years later, it is hard to describe just how revolutionary the stadium was to those who now take such amenities for granted. It would be like describing the wonders of color television or air travel.
For the first time, baseball was played under a roof, in air-conditioned comfort. Fans sat not on hard slabs of wood but cushioned seats like you'd expect at a movie theatre. Everything from the dugouts to the outfield scoreboard reflected that "bigger in Texas" motif. For Houston fans who had endured three seasons of hot, humid, mosquito-plaqued frill-free Colt Stadium, it was a whole new world.
A lot of Houstonians immediately sensed the pride that went into showing off the new ballpark. One of them was the manager of the Yankees, Johnny Keane. The 54-year-old Keane was going through the peak of his baseball life. He had just managed a world champion team, but it wasn't with the Yankees. It was with the St. Louis Cardinals that had defeated the Yankees in seven games to close the 1964 season. In a style much like the Yankees of later decades, if New York couldn't beat you, they bought you. Keane was foolishly fired by the Cardinals and the Yankees snatched him up, firing their own skipper Yogi Berra. Keane had reached the peak of his profession, in charge of baseball's perennial dynasty. Now he watched his home city, from the visitors dugout, open the ballpark that surely made it feel "big league" at last.
Keane, sensing the history of the moment, put his injured star Mickey Mantle first in his lineup and left many of his best players in the game long after they would normally take a bow and sit during the exhibition season. So did the Astros, providing a game that felt more like the World Series than the rather pointless exhibition that was actually at stake.
The governor, the mayor and countless politicians and luminaries attended and basked in the glow of what Judge Hofheinz and others had erected. Flashbulbs popped as if it were a Hollywood premiere.
Mantle slapped Turk Farrell's second pitch past Joe Morgan into center field and the game was on. Farrell walked Roger Maris to put two men aboard then settled down and escaped the inning.
Ron Brand gave the crowd of almost 48,000 their first chance to let loose when he smacked a one-out triple off Mel Stottlemyre in the third. Houston could not advance him. The newly-named Astros threatened again in the fourth on a single by Al Spangler and a double to left by Walt Bond to no avail.
The blast seemed to mesmerize his teammates as well. Stottlemyre walked Farrell to start the bottom of the sixth then Morgan spanked one to first baseman Joe Pepitone who overthrew second base while trying to start a double play. Instead, Farrell stood at third and Morgan at first with nobody out. Spangler then bunted a roller down the third base line which refused to turn foul. The sacks were full. Rusty Staub plated Farrell on a fielder's choice to tie the game before Bond grounded into a double play.
Yankee catcher Johnny Blanchard ripped a two-out double in the seventh and Stottlemyre followed with a single but Astros center fielder Jim Wynn gunned Blanchard down at the plate. That was all for Farrell, handing the ball to Hal Woodeshick from the bullpen. The Yankees and Astros both put threats together in the eighth and ninth but the tie stood going into extra innings.
Stottlemyre had given way to Hal Reniff and he, in turn, was relieved by Pete Mikkelsen to begin the bottom of the twelfth. Wynn beat out an infield hit and stole second after Bob Lillis could not bunt him over. Brand also struck out.
Woodeshick had tossed five innings and was done for the night. Manager Luman Harris called on one of his coaches to grab a bat. Nellie Fox was the biggest name in a Houston uniform and even though his playing career was nearly done, the former American League MVP was still suited up so he stepped in against Mikkelsen to the cheer of the fans. Fox sliced a pitch over the outstretched glove of shortstop Tony Kubek into left-center as Wynn sped home to win the game, 2-1. The Astros had taken the first game in their new palace.
The stars came out at night in Houston, even if it was under a roof. Mantle and Fox both rose to the occasion, as they so often did. Each would later be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
It was a moment that Keane could appreciate even in defeat. His aging Yankees would fall to sixth place that year and he would be fired early in the 1966 season, one which saw the storied Yankees sink to the basement of the American League for the first time since 1912. Keane would die of a heart attack in Houston in January of 1967.
For the Astros, however, it was a new beginning although it took awhile to shed their losing ways. The Astrodome would see two All-Star Games (1968, 1986), two National League Championship Series (1980, 1986), five division champions (1980, 1986, 1997-99), football, boxing, tennis, basketball, rodeos, political conventions and -- in its finest hour -- housed thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Even as it sits today in virtual emptiness, it is the city's best-known building throughout the world. It was opened in the grandest of style.
Here are some Astrodome firsts:
|First hit:||Mickey Mantle (single)|
|First home run:||Mickey Mantle|
|First extra-inning game:||New York Yankees at Houston Astros, 12 innings (first game)|
|First winning pitcher:||Hal Woodeshick|
|First losing pitcher:||Pete Mikkelsen|
|First run:||Mickey Mantle (on homer)|
(Houston, TEX) Everyone agreed that the Harris County Domed Stadium, for sheer glamor, was everything that had been claimed for it in advance.
An awed crowd of 47,879 was in the lavishly-colored colossus for the opening game, April 9, between the Yankees and the Astros.
President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, arrived just as the second inning got under way. Texan Lyndon was en route to his Johnson City home, but decided to stop over and pay his respects to baseball and Astro President Roy Hofheinz, a campaign manager for Johnson in the 1940s.
That was the kind of solid success the first night was and it even turned out to be a corking good ball game with Nellie Fox coming off the bench and driving in the winning run in the twelfth inning for a 2-1 Houston victory.
By the time the weekend's five games were over, a total of 188,762 fans had paid their way through the turnstiles to usher in the era of Inside Baseball.
The biggest crowd was Sunday afternoon's 48,172.
President In Hofheinz Box
The President and Mrs. Johnson watched the opening night game from behind the glass in Hofheinz' private box high in right field just to the right of the giant scoreboard.
The President munched on hors d'ouerves and ate chicken and ice cream while watching the game.
"Roy, I want to congratulate you; it shows so much imagination," he was heard to say.
Later, he called the stadium "massive" and "beautiful".
Although the President's visit overshadowed all others, dignitaries swarmed through the "eighth wonder of the world" during the three days of the exhibition series and for opening night against the Phillies.
Warren Giles, president of the National League attended the six games. Commissioner Ford Frick arrived for the league opener. Twenty-four of the nation's 28 astronauts were presented lifetime passes, good in all major league parks, preceding the season's inaugural.
Governor Tosses First Ball
The governor of Texas, John Connally, tossed the first ball for the first game ever played indoors. Two hundred and fifty-three writers from all sections of the country covered the opening game.
The dreadful fright that Saturday and Sunday afternoon's games might turn into a farce with outfielders unable to see fly balls gradually abated. Things were going so well that the monstrous stadium flaw - that on a bright day outfielders can't look up into those 1,600 lucite panels and see a fly ball - even had its antidote. A thick cloud cover Saturday and Sunday shut out the glare.
In Saturday's game with Baltimore, three balls were "lost" in the ceiling and fell untouched. Several more were misjudged. But on Sunday, against the Yankees, the cloud cover thickened and the entire game was played without an outfielder misplaying a ball because of poor visibility.
By the time the exhibition games were over, some fans even were able to forget the stadium long enough to note that the Astros were playing excellent baseball. It wasn't until the fifth game (in a 50-hour period) that the Astros finally had a major letdown, losing 5-0 to the Orioles.
Houston split the pair with Baltimore, winning the Saturday afternoon contest, 11-8, and losing, 5-0, in the final exhibition.
The big scoreboard's 45-second "ecstasy" display for a Houston victory or home run was set off at the end of the eighth inning on opening night for the President's benefit, although the Astros were locked in a tie at the time.
Cowboy Starts Shooting
The display, all done with lights, starts with a ball bursting through the dome ceiling and going across the scoreboard to set off more explosions. A cowboy at each side of the scoreboard fires bullets that ricochet all over the scoreboard. A steer's head appears at each end of the scoreboard with a Texas and U.S. flag on his horns.
The show ends with rockets and fireworks bursting across the scoreboard. All of this is accompanied by an awesome soundtrack that includes everything from The Eyes of Texas to ricocheting bullets.
Jim Beauchamp set off the scoreboard with a three-run blast Saturday afternoon. Leon McFadden, who joined the Amarillo club the next day, followed with a blast on Sunday.
After each Houston victory, the "ecstasy" button was pressed to give the highly-appreciative fans the show.
Astro Bosses Praise Keane
Houston baseball officials were highly complimentary of New York Manager Johnny Keane for helping make the Astrodome exhibition series a success by using his top-draw players in the games.
Although Mickey Mantle had not been in the lineup for several days, Keane played him 14 innings in the first two exhibition games and used him as a pinch-hitter in the third.
Roger Maris played all 26 innings of the first two games and pinch-hit in the other.
Keane also started three frontline pitchers, Mel Stottlemyre, Whitey Ford and Al Downing, in the contests.
"Johnny's a real class gentleman. He always has been," Houston President Roy Hofheinz said.
Watch a highlight feature of the Dome's opening. (MLB Productions)
Listen to the start of the game. (Elston, Astros Network)
Listen to the game-winning hit. (Elston, Astros Network)
Listen to the scoreboard's home run celebration. (Astros)
Houston Astros 2, New York Yankees 1 Game Played on Friday, April 9, 1965 (N) at Astrodome NYY A 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 1 9 3 HOU N 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 - 2 8 0 BATTING New York Yankees AB R H RBI BB SO PO A Mantle lf 3 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 A Lopez pr 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 H Lopez lf 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 Richardson 2b 5 0 0 0 0 1 3 2 Maris rf 3 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 Pepitone 1b 5 0 2 0 0 0 15 1 Kubek ss 5 0 0 0 0 1 4 8 Tresh cf 5 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 Boyer 3b 4 0 1 0 1 1 2 5 Blanchard c 3 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 Linz ph 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 Schmidt c 1 0 0 0 0 1 4 0 Stottlemyre p 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 Gonzalez ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Reniff p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 Moschitto ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Mikkelsen p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Totals 42 1 8 1 3 6 35 17 FIELDING - DP: 3. E: Kubek, Pepitone 2. BATTING - 2B: Blanchard (off Farrell). HR: Mantle (6th inning off Farrell 0 on, 0 out). SB: Pepitone (off Woodeshick, Brand) HBP: Maris (by Woodeshick) Team LOB: 9. Houston Astros AB R H RBI BB SO PO A Morgan 2b 5 0 1 0 0 0 3 4 Spangler lf 5 0 2 0 0 0 5 0 Staub rf 5 0 0 1 0 1 2 0 Bond 1b 5 0 2 0 0 0 9 0 Aspromonte 3b 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 Wynn cf 5 1 2 0 0 1 7 1 Lillis ss 5 0 0 0 0 1 2 6 Brand c 5 0 1 0 0 1 8 0 Farrell p 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 Woodeshick p 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 Fox ph 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 Totals 43 2 9 2 2 5 36 12 FIELDING - DP: 1. BATTING - 2B: Bond (off Stottlemyre). 3B: Brand (off Stottlemyre) SB: Morgan (off Reniff, Schmidt); Wynn (off Mikkelsen, Schmidt) Team LOB: 8. PITCHING New York Yankees IP H R ER BB SO HR Stottlemyre 8 4 1 0 2 1 0 Reniff 3 3 0 0 0 2 0 Mikkelsen (L) 0.2 2 1 1 0 2 0 Totals 11.2 9 2 1 2 5 0 Houston Astros IP H R ER BB SO HR Farrell 7 6 1 1 1 1 1 Woodeshick (W) 5 2 0 0 2 5 0 Totals 12 8 1 1 3 6 1 HBP: Woodeshick (Maris). Umpires: Mel Steiner, Larry Knapp, Stan Landes, Al Salerno Time of Game: 2:35 Attendance: 47876
Play by Play
Starting Lineups: New York Yankees Houston Astros 1. Mantle lf Morgan 2b 2. Richardson 2b Spangler lf 3. Maris rf Staub rf 4. Pepitone 1b Bond 1b 5. Kubek ss Aspromonte 3b 6. Tresh cf Wynn cf 7. Boyer 3b Lillis ss 8. Blanchard c Brand c 9. Stottlemyre p Farrell p YANKEES 1ST: Mantle singled to left; Richardson grounded into a force play (short to second) [Mantle out at second]; Maris walked [Richardson to second]; Pepitone flied out to left; Kubek flied out to center; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Yankees 0, Astros 0. ASTROS 1ST: Morgan grounded out (second to first); Spangler flied out to center; Staub flied out to right; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Yankees 0, Astros 0. YANKEES 2ND: Tresh flied out to left; Boyer singled to center; Blanchard flied out to center; Stottlemyre flied out to center; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Yankees 0, Astros 0. ASTROS 2ND: Bond grounded out (first unassisted); Aspromonte flied out to center; Wynn struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Yankees 0, Astros 0. YANKEES 3RD: Mantle grounded out (second to first); Richardson grounded out (second to first); Maris flied out to center; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Yankees 0, Astros 0. ASTROS 3RD: Lillis grounded out (third to first); Brand tripled to right; Farrell grounded out (second to first); Morgan grounded out (first unassisted); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Yankees 0, Astros 0. YANKEES 4TH: Pepitone flied out to center; Kubek flied out to left; Tresh popped out to short; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Yankees 0, Astros 0. ASTROS 4TH: Spangler singled to left; Staub grounded into a double play (second to short to first) [Splangler out at second]; Bond doubled to left [Bond to third on error by Kubek]; Aspromonte grounded out (third to first); 0 R, 2 H, 1 E, 1 LOB. Yankees 0, Astros 0. YANKEES 5TH: Boyer struck out; Blanchard fouled out to catcher; Stottlemyre flied out to right; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Yankees 0, Astros 0. ASTROS 5TH: Wynn grounded out (short to first); Lillis grounded out (short to first); Brand flied out to center; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Yankees 0, Astros 0. YANKEES 6TH: Mantle homered to center; Richardson grounded out (short to first); Maris popped out to short; Pepitone singled to center; Kubek flied out to center; 1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Yankees 1, Astros 0. ASTROS 6TH: Farrell walked; Morgan safe on error by Pepitone [Farrell to second]; Spangler singled to third [Farrell to third, Morgan to second]; Staub grounded into a force play (first to shortstop)[Farrell scored, Morgan to third, Spangler out at second]; Bond grounded into a double play (shortstop unassisted to first) [Staub out at second]; 1 R, 1 H, 1 E, 1 LOB. Yankees 1, Astros 1. YANKEES 7TH: Tresh grounded out (second to first); Boyer flied out to left; Blanchard doubled to left; Stottlemyre singled to center [Blanchard out at home, center fielder to catcher]; 0 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Yankeees 1, Astros 1. ASTROS 7TH: Aspromonte fouled out to third; Wynn grounded out (third to first); Lillis lined out to second; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Yankees 1, Astros 1. YANKEES 8TH: WOODESHICK REPLACED FARRELL (pitching); Mantle walked; A LOPEZ RAN FOR MANTLE; Richardson struck out; Maris flied out to right; Pepitone singled to center [A Lopez to third]; Pepitone stole second; Kubek struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Yankees 1, Astros 1. ASTROS 8TH: H LOPEZ REPLACED A LOPEZ; Brand grounded out (third to first); Woodeshick walked; Morgan safe on throwing error by Pepitone [Woodeshick to third]; Spangler grounded into fielders choice (shortstop to catcher) [Woodeshick out at home, Morgan to second]; Staub flied out to right; 0 R, 0 H, 1 E, 2 LOB. Yankees 1, Astros 1. YANKEES 9TH: Tresh struck out; Boyer walked; LINZ PINCH-HIT FOR BLANCHARD; Linz singled to center [Boyer to third]; GONZALEZ PINCH-HIT FOR STOTTLEMYRE; Gonzalez grounded into a double play (short to second to first) [Linz out at second]; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Yankees 1, Astros 1. ASTROS 9TH: SCHMIDT REPLACED LINZ; RENIFF REPLACED GONZALEZ (pitching); Bond singled to center; Aspromonte grounded into a double play (pitcher to shortstop to first) [Bond out at second]; Wynn singled to center; Lillis grounded into a force play (third to second) [Wynn out at second]; 0 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Yankees 1, Astros 1. YANKEES 10TH: H Lopez struck out; Richardson grounded out (short to first); Maris hit by pitch; Pepitone grounded into a force play (short to second) [Maris out at second]; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Yankees 1, Astros 1. ASTROS 10TH: Brand grounded out (short to first); Woodeshick struck out; Morgan singled to center; Morgan stole second; Spangler fouled out to third; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Yankees 1, Astros 1. YANKEES 11TH: Kubek grounded out (first unassisted); Tresh flied to left; Boyer grounded out (third to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB Yankees 1, Astros 1. ASTROS 11TH: Staub struck out; Bond grounded out (first unassisted); Aspromonte grounded out (short to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB Yankees 1, Astros 1. YANKEES 12TH: Schmidt struck out; MOSCHITTO PINCH-HIT FOR RENIFF; Moschitto grounded out (short to first); H Lopez flied out to center; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB Yankees 1, Astros 1. ASTROS 12TH: MIKKELSEN REPLACED MOSCHITTO (pitching); Wynn singled to shortstop; Lillis struck out; Wynn stole second; Brand struck out; FOX PINCH-HIT FOR WOODESHICK; Fox singled to center [Wynn scored]; 1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB Yankees 1, Astros 2. Final Totals R H E LOB Yankees 1 8 3 9 Astros 2 9 0 8