1965 Day by Day: "Astros" and Astrodome inaugural season
To celebrate the season that changed baseball in Houston forever, Astros Daily's Bob Hulsey takes us on a day-by-day replay of the 1965 season, the first for the newly-named Astros and their ballpark billed as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Bob thanks Gene Elston, the Astros' play-by-play voice back then, for his fact-checking and proofreading assistance.
Please select a day of the year from below:
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1 2 3 4
1965 Chronological summary:
Players get to practice inside the Harris County Domed Stadium for the first time. Nicknamed the Astrodome by gregarious owner Judge Roy Hofheinz, the near-finished arena is the first indoor baseball park in the world. Built at a cost of $31 million dollars, the stadium is well-received this day by players and media alike.
Pitchers are relieved to know that curveballs curve and knucklers knuckle just as they do outdoors. The ball travels well off the bat although the fence distances, like Colt Stadium before it, favor the pitchers more than the hitters. While several Colt .45 players, now renamed the Astros by Judge Hofheinz, took their turns at the plate, only first baseman Rusty Staub could muscle the ball over the wall.
It's an overcast afternoon in Houston and players report little trouble following the flight of the ball against the latticed beams and glass panels of the dome's ceiling. Al Spangler comments that playing indoors will be like playing in any other ballpark on a clear day.
250 members of the press witness the proceedings and listen to Hofheinz talk about his plans for the futuristic palace. It's Grand Opening lies two months ahead.
|Founding Fathers: (L-R) Smith,
Kirksey, Cullinan, GM Paul Richards
When the Houston Sports Association received the National League franchise in 1960, there were four principal members: R. E. "Bob" Smith, Judge Roy Hofheinz, Craig Cullinan and George Kirksey. By this point, Kirksey had sold back his shares and Cullinan was marginalized, leaving the other two as virtual co-owners of the Astros. Smith, an oilman and financier, is the money man. He sees the ballclub as both an investment and a gift to his fellow Houstonians.
Hofheinz, a former Mayor of Houston and Harris County Judge, is the creative force with the political connections. He is listed as HSA President and the one in charge of day-to-day operations. He sees the ballclub and the new ballpark almost as his own legacy. He built an apartment in the rafters beyond the right field scoreboard inside the Astrodome which is a place for entertaining clients and to view the action below without needing a ticket. Hofheinz is a showman who wants everyone to know that he lives large and can do the unthinkable, such as building an indoor ballpark.
A rift has been building between Smith and Hofheinz which would reach a boiling point that summer.
The General Manager
Paul Richards took the remnants of the woebegone St. Louis Browns, uprooted to Baltimore, and steered them to American League respectability as both manager and general manager. Richards' formula included a heavy dose of young players which was perfect for the fledgling Colt .45s who were long on youth and short on experience.
While the pitching staff has several grizzled vets, the everyday lineup has few regulars over 30. Richards' job is to horde young talent while putting a competitive product on the field. This put him at odds with Judge Hofheinz who wants big-name players to sell tickets for his glamorous new arena. Richards was hesitant to deal his young players when names like Frank Howard and Frank Robinson were dangled.
This relationship, too, will not last the year.
A former major league pitcher, Luman Harris was a coach with Baltimore under Paul Richards and was promoted to manager when Richards left during the 1961 campaign to go to Houston. Harris assumed the reigns of the Colt .45s late in the 1964 season after Harry Craft was fired.
This is his first full season at the helm but he has been in the organization all three seasons so he knows his team well. He is expected to get the Astros to the .500 mark and has stated this as his goal for the 1965 season.
Harris is itching to use some of his young charges like Jim Wynn and Joe Morgan on the basepaths since the Astros have little home run power in the lineup.
The Personnel Man
Grady Hatton came back from World War II to begin a 15-year career in the majors as an infielder. The Beaumont native joined the Colts as Director of Player Personnel, in charge of coordinating and developing minor league talent. His role with the parent club will grow as the year progresses.
Harris' staff includes Pitching Coach Howie Pollet, Bullpen Coach Clint Courtney and base coaches Jimmy Adair and Jim Busby. All have big league playing experience. Ironically, Courtney and Busby were once traded for each other.
Nellie Fox is listed as player-coach with the primary job of grooming Joe Morgan to take over his spot at second base.
Player Profile: #13 Turk Farrell P (B:R, T:R)
Richard "Turk" Farrell is considered the ace of the Houston staff. The tall righthander from Boston has won 10, 14 and 11 games in the club's first three seasons and has been the team's lone All-Star representative in three of the four classics that have involved Houston. He'll turn 31 just before the season starts and is expected to have another solid year in 1965.
The first group of Astro hopefuls arrive at Cocoa Beach, Florida to open training camp. It's the second year for the Astros near Cape Kennedy after spending their first two season in Apache Junction, AZ. Veterans are expected to begin arriving a week later.
Player Profile: #14 Bob Aspromonte 3B (B:R, T:R)
The subject of off-season trade rumors, "Aspro the Astro" returns for his fourth season in Houston. Chosen in the 1961 expansion draft from Los Angeles, 27-year-old Aspromonte has the most secure job of any regular. Having played through back pain in 1963, he bounced back to bat .280 with career highs in homers (12) and RBIs (69) in 1964. He's hoping to build on those numbers for the coming season.
Player Profile: #11 Eddie Kasko SS (B:R, T:R)
Named team captain, the bespectacled veteran shortstop is ready for his second season in Houston. The 33-year-old former All-Star comes off a .243-hitting season. He is expected to share time with Bob Lillis at short but will also see challenges from youngsters rising up from the minors.
Player Profile: #30 Bob Bruce P (B:R, T:R)
The winningest pitcher on the staff a year ago, 31-year-old Bruce is eager to show that his 15-win season is no fluke. The sturdy righthander authored four shutouts in 1964 and looks forward to pitching in the climate-controlled domed stadium.
Player Profile: #10 Rusty Staub OF/1B (B:L, T:R)
The symbolic leader of the Astros' youth movement, the former bonus baby from New Orleans had a rough sophomore season in 1964 and looks to cement his role with the parent club in '65. Just 21 years old, the flashy redhead already has 239 games under his belt as a big leaguer but knows he will need to raise his batting average (.221) if he hopes to stay in Houston after suffering a mid-season demotion to Oklahoma City.
Player Profile: #23 Walt Bond 1B (B:L, T:R)
The 6-6 giant is coming off the best season of his life, swatting 20 homers and driving in 85 in 1964. Not satisfied, Bond tells reporters he wants 25 homers and 100 RBIs for 1965 and thinks the Astrodome will help him after hitting in the wide open spaces of Colt Stadium. At age 27, he is optimistic his career is ready to take off.
Player Profile: #46 Hal Woodeshick P (B:R, T:L)
Coming off a career-high 23 saves, the 32-year-old lefthander is expected to hold down the closer role out of the bullpen again. Houston's Most Valuable Player in 1963, "Woody" is proving to be a consistent arm that Harris can count on in tight situations.
Veterans arrive for the first time in Cocoa. The best news for the Astros is that closer Hal Woodeshick has arrived at a slender 201 lbs. That's 17 pounds less than what he weighed at the end of the 1964 season. Woodeshick wins an off-season bet with Manager Luman Harris over his weigh-in. The bet? Five dollars. Fellow pitcher Don Nottebart checked in 23 pounds more svelte than the season before.
For the second year in a row, all players on the 40-man roster are signed so Harris expects a full camp when the final day to report comes on March 3rd.
The most open roster battle in camp is at the starting catcher position. Youngsters John Bateman and Jerry Grote are vying for the job as well as Ron Brand, who was plucked from the Pittsburgh organization during the winter draft. Bateman and Grote both spent time with the Colts last season but neither hit above .200 with the parent club. All three are eager to impress Harris with their skills and field leadership.
Reliever Jim Owens arrives a day later than planned after missing his flight to Florida. The versatile righthander is coming off an 8-7 season in Houston where he either started or finished 34 of the 48 games he appeared in.
Player Profile: #24 Jim Wynn OF (B:R, T:R)
The Astros see Wynn as a five-tool product who can be their first home-grown star. After two partial seasons in Houston where he bats .235 and belts 9 homers, Harris pencils in the 23-year-old Wynn as his everyday centerfielder, hoping for more consistency at the plate. At just 5-9 and 160 pounds, the Cincinnati Kid packs tremendous power in his quick bat.
Player Profile: #43 Don Nottebart P (B:R, T:R)
The author of Houston's first no-hitter, "Notty" had a tough year in 1964 (6-11, 3.90 ERA) and is hoping to bounce back in 1965. The 29-year-old righthander hopes to hold down a spot in the Astros' rotation although he's capable of contributing from the bullpen as well.
Player Profile: #18 Joe Morgan 2B (B:L, T:R)
Even smaller than Jim Wynn, big things are expected from Morgan in 1965. He had an outstanding season at AA San Antonio with a .323 average and 90 RBIs. After a September call-up to the big club, 21-year-old Morgan, all 5-7 and 150 pounds of him, is getting a crash course from one of the best in the business, former A.L. Most Valuable Player Nellie Fox. It's hoped that the star pupil can stick with the Astros and provide speed at the top of the batting order.
Player Profile: #31 Don Larsen P (B:R, T:R)
The first thing any baseball fan remembers about Larsen is his perfect game performance in the 1956 World Series. Now 35, the tall righthander is the spot starter and long man out of the bullpen. Acquired from the Giants during the 1964 season, Larsen is coming off a campaign where he sported a nifty 2.45 ERA but his record was just 4-9 to show for it.
In their first intrasquad game, Coach Jimmy Adair's team bests Coach Jim Busby's squad, 8-5, bashing 24 hits. Catchers Jerry Grote and Ron Brand are the offensive stars, each blasting a home run and a single. Grote drives in three. Outfielder Joe Gaines has three hits while Norm Miller, a young second baseman picked up from the Angels' organization in the off-season, chips in two doubles.
John Hoffman, a longshot to win a catching spot, also impresses with a home run that sails over 400 feet.
Player Profile: #21 Al Spangler OF (B:L, T:L)
Acquired from Milwaukee in the 1961 expansion draft, veteran Spangler is not a deep threat but provides a steady bat in the Houston lineup. After a pair of seasons hitting above .280, Spangler slumped to .245 and hopes to bounce back in 1965. At 31 years old, the lefthanded-hitting flycatcher is already hearing talk he may be moved as the organization looks for younger talent.
Player Profile: #16 Mike White OF (B:R, T:R)
26-year-old White got his chance to shine with Houston in 1964, batting .271 in 89 games with the Colt .45s. Another smallish outfielder (5-8, 160 lbs.) who lacks home run power, White is considered the fallback option should either Rusty Staub, Jim Wynn or Al Spangler falter.
19-year-old infielder Norm Miller spends the night in the pediatrics ward of a local Florida hospital after being hit in the head by a pitch from Danny Coombs during an intrasquad game. Told there were no rooms available at the hospital, the woozy player was prepared to go back to the dorms but a spare bed was found amongst the children. Miller was released the next day.
Player Profile: #7 John Bateman C (B:R, T:R)
1963 was a magical year for the big Texan catcher. As a rookie, Bateman led the Colts in home runs (10) and RBIs (59). But he failed to produce much in 1964 and sees this as a make or break season. Still just 22, the receiver is well-regarded for his defensive skills and strong arm but he will need to hit more often in order to earn his place in the lineup.
Fans remember John "Pepper" Martin, star of the 1930s "Gashouse Gang" St. Louis Cardinals who dies unexpectedly at the age of 61 in McAlester, OK. Martin had spent the 1927 and 1929 seasons in Houston while in the minor leagues. He had been coaching and working broadcasts in Tulsa the previous season. The news creates sadness throughout the Southwest, still considered home territory for the Cardinals after decades of being the most southwestern team in the majors.
Player Profile: #11 Bob Lillis IF (B:R, T:R)
Lillis is a versatile infielder who can fill in all over the diamond. The 34-year-old veteran produced a .268 average last year but his strong suit is his ability to substitute at several positions. He is expected to split time at shortstop with Eddie Kasko and hold down second base if Joe Morgan doesn't seem ready for the majors.
Player Profile: #36 Claude Raymond P (B:R, T:R)
The French Canadian reliever had his first campaign in Houston in 1964, carving out a 5-5 record and 2.81 ERA. The 27-year-old righthander hopes to duplicate last year's results and pick up saves should anything happen to Hal Woodeshick.
Player Profile: #9 Ron Brand C (B:R, T:R)
An off-season draftee from the Pirates farm system, 25-year-old Brand is small for a catcher (5-8, 170 lbs.) but has good speed and is looking forward to the opportunity to stick at the major league level. He hopes to impress his new team and beat out either John Bateman or Jerry Grote for a spot on the roster.
Player Profile: #49 Larry Dierker P (B:R, T:R)
Just 18 years old, Dierker possesses a fastball you can't teach and maturity beyond his years. The tall Californian is just looking for a spot with the big club after receiving a brief call up in 1964. While he is slated, at best, for a bullpen role, the righthander has some coaches thinking he can be starting material.
Player Profile: #2 Nellie Fox IF (B:R, T:R)
A 12-time All-Star, the 37-year-old Fox knows his playing career is nearing an end but he's still good for an occasional pinch-hitting assignment or spot infield duty. As he makes the transition to coaching, Fox knows he may be called upon if injuries or inexperience on the part of other players presses him back into service.
Second baseman Ernie Fazio returns from his six-month stint of military service. The one-time bonus baby's chance for the big leagues is dwindling as players like Joe Morgan overtake him. The exhibition season starts tomorrow so Fazio is already starting out behind the others.
Astros lose the exhibition opener to the Minnesota Twins, 11-2, at Cocoa, FL. 34-year-old Bob Turley, a former star with the New York Yankees, is trying to make a comeback with Houston but he allows six runs in the second inning and the rout is on. The Astros struck for two runs in the first, keyed by an RBI double from Jim Wynn. Eddie Kasko is sidelined after suffering a spike in the shin.
The contest with the Kansas City Athletics at Cocoa, FL. is rained out. Outfielder John Paciorek, who has a perfect 1.000 big league average due to one game in 1963, is declared out for the season as he continues to recover from back surgery. Meanwhile, he is taking classes at the University of Houston during his layoff.
The contest with the Athletics at Bradenton, FL is rained out. The Astros announce that they are unable to reach contract terms with infielder Glenn Vaughan who is returning from a military stint. Vaughan quits baseball to pursue other interests. He appeared in nine games with Houston at the end of the 1963 season.
Spring jitters are evident as the Astros allow four unearned runs and lose to the Dodgers, 4-1, at Cocoa, FL. Throwing errors by Hal Woodeshick and Jim Beauchamp set up the scoring tallies. Ron Brand brings home the only Houston run with a double in the eighth off Mike Kekich.
After seven scoreless innings, the Astros break through with four runs in the eighth against the Tigers at Lakeland, FL. But Claude Raymond gives up five runs as Detroit comes away 5-4 winners. Gates Brown's two-run pinch-hit double plates the tying and winning runs. Bob Lillis leads the Astros with three hits. Bob Bruce and Turk Farrell combine for six innings of four-hit ball.
Jim Beauchamp and Bob Aspromonte smack two-run homers during a 10-4 pounding of the Washington Senators at Cocoa, FL. It's the first win in Astros history. Beauchamp has three hits and drives in three. Aspromonte, Jim Wynn and Mike White each contribute two hits. Wynn leads the team with a .385 spring batting average. 40-year-old Hal "Skinny" Brown, trying to win a job, tosses three shutout innings and adds an RBI single.
Astros score four times in the ninth to upend the Mets, 7-4, at St. Petersburg, FL. Bob Aspromonte is the hero with four hits, including the game-winning single. Al Spangler adds three hits and a stolen base. Mike White homers and drives in two. Bob Turley works three innings for the victory.
Don Larsen, Larry Yellen and Darrell "Bucky" Brandon combine on a four-hit shutout, clipping Kansas City, 2-0, at Cocoa, FL. A triple by Norm Miller drives in the first run. Walt Bond brings home Al Spangler for the other tally. Miller has two of the five Astro hits.
The afternoon game against the Athletics at Daytona Beach is rained out. It's the third time in four scheduled contests that a Houston-Kansas City contest has been washed out.
The Astros square off against their own AAA Oklahoma City roster and win, 4-2, at Cocoa, FL. Walt Bond, Rusty Staub, Norm Miller and John Bateman chip in two hits apiece while Sonny Jackson paces the 89ers with three singles and an RBI.
Ron Brand tags a two-run homer to pace a 7-4 triumph over the New York Yankees at Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Houston tallies in four consecutive innings as outfielders Rusty Staub, Al Spangler and Jim Wynn lead the charge with two hits apiece. Don Nottebart works five solid innings but the defending A.L. champs are resting many of their starters.
It's "Home Run Derby" at Pampano Beach, FL as the Astros bomb the Senators, 7-5. Six homers, four by the Astros, set the tone with Walt Bond, Rusty Staub, John Bateman and Jim Beauchamp going deep. Pitchers Bob Bruce and Danny Coombs join the hit parade. Larry Dierker works the final two innings, allowing three hits including a two-run blast by Don Lock.
The homers continue to fly but the Pirates come away with more in a 5-3 decision at Ft. Myers, FL. Willie Stargell leads the way for the Bucs with three hits, including a double and a home run. Manny Mota and Bob Bailey also go deep. Two of Houston's runs are on solo shots from Walt Bond and Bob Aspromonte. Al Spangler adds two doubles.
Defending champion St. Louis tallies three times in the bottom of the ninth for an 8-7 stunner at St. Petersburg, FL. Tim McCarver's two-run pinch double off Dave Giusti is the game-winner. Bob Aspromonte leads the Astros with three hits while Nellie Fox adds two hits and scores three times. Rusty Staub drives in two. Turk Farrell is rocked for five runs to put the visitors in an early hole. Houston also suffers their first major injury when SS Eddie Kasko breaks a toe. He will miss the beginning of the season.
A four-run seventh decides a 6-3 loss to the Reds at Tampa, FL as the Astros' gulf coast tour continues. Joe Nuxhall works seven innings for the win. Art Shamsky swats a two-run pinch homer off Larry Yellen in the decisive frame. Jim Beauchamp paces the Astros with three hits. Shortstop Leon McFadden, slated for AA, joins the parent club and belts a triple and single off Nuxhall in his first two tries.
Houston pushes two runs across in the fifth versus Philadelphia ace Jim Bunning and make it stand up for a 2-0 whitewash at Clearwater, FL. Singles by Eddie Kasko and Leon McFadden preceed an RBI double by John Bateman, who produces three hits on the day. The second run scores on an error by Dick Stuart, also known as "Dr. Strangeglove". Don Nottebart and Claude Raymond scatter eight hits. A sparse crowd attends and the Phillies' experiment of playing night exhibition games appears to be failing.
The bus driver responsible for taking the Philadelphia Phillies to Cocoa takes a wrong turn and ends up in Daytona, 70 miles away. Just as the team arrives, so does the rain to wash out the day's exhibition game with the Astros. One player cracks that the driver must have been the guy leading them to the pennant the previous fall, a season where the Phils made a noted September u-turn.
Veterans on the mound and youngsters at the plate lead the Astros to a 5-1 conquest of the Mets at Cocoa, FL. Don Larsen goes the first five with Jim Owens and Hal Woodeshick combining for four no-hit innings of relief. Jim Wynn and Leon McFadden pace the offense with two hits apiece. Wynn homers and doubles in the contest.
A five-run fifth inning off Dave Giusti is the difference as the Baltimore Orioles drop the Astros, 5-1, at Cocoa, FL. Houston had the early lead as Chuck Harrison plated Joe Gaines but Steve Barber and Dick Hall combine to blank Houston the rest of the way. The Astros whiff a dozen times on the afternoon, with Leon McFadden and Jim Wynn fanning three times each.
Ken Johnson and Larry Dierker team up to three-hit the White Sox, 4-1, at Sarasota, FL. Rusty Staub belts a two-run homer off Joel Horlen for the decisive runs. Bob Lillis, Walt Bond and Leon McFadden chip in two hits each.
Veteran righthanders Bob Turley and Hal Brown are both losing their bids to make the final squad. Turley agrees to stay on as a minor league coach while Brown retires to his home in North Carolina.
Turk Farrell no-hits the Washington Senators while the bats detonate for seven long balls in a 22-0 demolition at Cocoa, FL. Farrell jacks two of the blasts himself and later tells Loel Passe that he threw nothing but vaseline balls the entire game. April Fools! It was actually an off-day but you can bet team prankster Farrell was up to something funny.
After a two-run shot by Harmon Killebrew, Bob Bruce settles down to silence the Twins, 10-2, at Orlando, FL. Danny Coombs closes with the final 2-1/3rd innings of no-hit ball. The bats, meanwhile, explode for 14 hits with Al Spangler delivering three of them. Bob Aspromonte drives in three to take the team lead (12), coupled with a .353 spring average. Leon McFadden plates two.
Bob Aspromonte's sacrifice fly in the eighth plates the only run as Houston blanks the Braves, 1-0, at West Palm Beach, FL. Don Larsen and Denny Lemaster toss goose eggs for the first seven frames. Bob Lillis starts the eighth with a single, is balked to second, bunted over to third by Ron Brand and chased home on Aspromonte's pinch-hit fly to center. Larry Dierker shuts the door with two innings of relief.
Lee Maye smacks a single, double and triple to pace a 3-1 Milwaukee victory at Cocoa, FL. Maye scores twice on singles by Eddie Mathews then Felipe Alou blasts a solo shot off Turk Farrell for insurance. Tony Cloninger tosses a complete game for the Braves. Farrell is plated by Rusty Staub in the third for the only Houston run. Al Spangler takes over the team batting lead with two hits to raise his spring average to .359.
In the minor league camp, outfielder Johnny Weekly swats three home runs and drives in seven during a 21-12 slugfest between the AAA Oklahoma City squad and the AA Amarillo team. So depleted is the pitching that Assistant Farm Director Pat Gillick tosses the final two innings. He's the only hurler able to retire Weekly on the day.
Chuck Harrison's two-run double in the eighth, followed by a Bob Lillis single, allows the Astros to nip the Tigers, 4-3, at Cocoa, FL. Leon McFadden continues his impressive spring with a solo homer. Ken Johnson works a yoeman seven innings while Carroll Sembera takes the victory with two innings of relief.
Chuck Harrison comes through again with a pinch-hit solo shot for a 2-1 victory over the Twins at Cocoa, FL to end the Florida phase of their spring camp. The other Houston run is due to a solo blast from Jim Wynn, his fourth of the spring. Don Mincher goes deep for Minnesota off Don Nottebart. Ken MacKenzie picks up the win in relief.
It's a travel day as the Astros fly to Houston, many to get their first look at the completed Astrodome. The Astros bring 30 players with them for the final five-game exhibition series including infielder Sonny Jackson and catcher John Hoffman, who are slated to be reassigned, and outfielder Gene Ratliff who is being kept rather than being offered back as a winter draftee. Outfielder Joe Gaines gets even better news. He is moved onto the major league roster after impressing Manager Luman Harris during spring training.
The Astros play an intrasquad game at the domed stadium and work on adjusting to the new ballpark. During the contest, Joe Morgan swats a home run off Danny Coombs, staking his claim to being the first Astro to clear the fence in an Astrodome game. The scoreboard spectacular goes off without a hitch.
|Inside the Astrodome as the scoreboard erupts|
A second day of practice and an intrasquad game are held at the new ballpark. This is the first time genuine concern surfaces about the glare from sunlight through the roof's panels as fungo practice looks more like an air raid drill. Debate stirs as to whether to call off the afternoon games slated during the exhibition series that weekend. Judge Hofheinz decides that if the games become a farce because of the glare, he would allow ticket-holders to receive refunds.
With President Lyndon Johnson and other luminaries in attendance, the Astrodome opens for the first time. Mickey Mantle of the Yankees doesn't disappoint, blasting a homer to center field off Turk Farrell but that's all Farrell and Hal Woodeshick would allow over 12 innings as the Astros win a squeaker, 2-1. Player-Coach Nellie Fox comes off the bench to single home Jim Wynn with the game-winner before an official crowd of 47,876 for what seems as much a social event as it is a baseball game.
Gov. John Connally throws out the first pitch. Houston Mayor Louie Welch is on hand as is National League President Warren Giles. One conspicuous absence from Judge Hofheinz' owner's box is majority owner Bob Smith who was not invited to meet the President and his entourage.
The most common comment about the plush air-conditioned arena is that it resembles a spaceship - a fitting residence for a team named after astronauts, several of whom are on hand to take part in pre-game ceremonies.
The Astros stage a day-night doubleheader, opening against the Baltimore Orioles. Jim Beauchamp is the hero with three hits, a homer and five RBIs in an 11-8 slugfest over the Birds. Jim Wynn adds four hits and two steals. Mike White spanks three doubles while Nellie Fox contributes three hits. Baltimore's Boog Powell is the first glare victim, losing two catchable flies in left field. He mentions later that he didn't see Beauchamp's homer that flew over his head into the left field seats.
In the nightcap, another extra-inning thriller takes place between the Astros and Yankees with Clete Boyer serving as the Yankee hero. He belts a homer in the 14th off Darrell Brandon to give the Bronx Bombers a 4-3 decision. Roger Maris also homers for New York. Joe Morgan scores twice and Al Spangler has an RBI double to stake Houston to an early advantage that holds until the seventh inning.
|Yankee legend Mickey Mantle signs autographs inside the Dome|
Another day-night twinbill is scheduled with the Yankees and Orioles. The Yankees make it three extra-inning games in a row under glass yet the crowd leaves happy when Nellie Fox again singles home the winning run. This time, it's a 3-2 Houston triumph after Fox plates Ron Brand in the tenth. Leon McFadden homers and sets off the giant scoreboard spectacular. Jim Wynn produces the other run among his three hits.
In the finale, Baltimore's pitching shuts down the Astros, 5-0, in the weekend's only snoozer. Al Spangler has three of Houston's five hits as Robin Roberts and three relievers handcuff the home team. Almost 200,000 attend the five-game series.
The Astros finish the spring campaign with a 15-10 record (five rainouts) for a .600 winning percentage - tied for fourth among National League clubs. Optimism is high as the new season approaches in the league's newest playpen.
Philadelphia (0-0) at Houston (0-0)
Opening Day is here at last and the Astros make their official National League debut. 22 astronauts from NASA launch "first pitches" simultaneously from the stands to the Houston players as Commissioner Ford Frick and a throng of over 48,000 look on.
Having the Phillies in town wasn't a good choice to get the season off on the right foot. They had beaten Houston 40 of 54 games the previous three seasons and they would spoil the Astros' premiere with a 2-0 whitewash.
Tony Taylor gets the first official hit with a leadoff double against Bob Bruce but a two-run blast by Richie Allen in the third does the real damage. Chris Short handcuffs Houston with a four-hitter, fanning eleven.
The team flies to New York to begin an eight-game road trip. Back in Houston, Judge Hofheinz pronounces the Dome's debut a success and vows to fix the problem with the glare before the team gets back from its trip. The most likely solution is to put a translucent layer of paint over the nearly 4,600 panels atop the roof which will reduce the amount of light but not block it entirely.
Houston (0-1) at New York (0-1)
Houston survives a 7-6 marathon in eleven innings for their first National League win as the Astros. Playing in cool damp weather in what is now the league's second-youngest park, the Astros rally against 43-year-old Warren Spahn to take a 3-2 lead into the ninth. With two outs, Joe Christopher homers off Turk Farrell to send the game into extra innings.
The Astros score four times in the 11th on four walks, two errors, two wild pitches and a bunt. The bunt is a two-run roller from Ron Brand down the third base line that Charley Smith hopes will roll foul but never does. Al Spangler then steals home to complete the inning. But Houston almost gives it back when Farrell and Hal Woodeshick falter for three runs that bring New York back within one. It is up to Jim Owens to strike out Smith for the final out to register his first save of the season.
Houston (1-1) at New York (0-2)
For the fifth straight game (if you count three exhibitions), the Astros go extra innings against a team from New York, this time dropping a 5-4 decision to the Mets in ten on a one-out homer down the left field line from Bobby Klaus off Claude Raymond. Jim Wynn's two-out two-run shot off Jack Fisher in the ninth forces extras this time. Ed Kranepool drives in three to lead New York.
It is the earliest regular-season win in the Mets' short history and they also record a triple play, the third by the Mets in just over three seasons. In the second, with runners at first and third, Wynn lifts a fly ball to right. Walt Bond is nailed at the plate attempting to score then Bob Aspromonte is gunned down at second trying to advance on the throw. As rare as triple plays are, a 9-2-6 model is one for the books.
It's another off day as the squad travels to Pittsburgh for a five-day, six-game swing through Pennsylvania.
Time for a little economics lesson. Wondering what prices were like in 1965 at the new ballpark? Tickets ranged from $3.50 for a box seat to a half-dollar for children's general admission seats. Your program was 25 cents. Those staples of ballpark cuisine, a hot dog and a large cup of beer, would cost you 70 cents total. A large bag of peanuts would complete your meal for another quarter.
At the souvenir shops, an Astro cap would cost $2, a jacket with the Astros' logo would cost $10 and an Astros pennant to wave would cost a buck.
If you think this is nirvana, keep in mind that the entire economy was far less pricey. A new car could cost less than five grand, the gas to fill it up would be under .30 a gallon. An average new home sold for $21,000. Oh, and if you were a major league ballplayer, your average salary was $19,000 a year (the minimum being $6250). That was, needless to say, before free agency.
Houston (1-2) at Pittsburgh (2-1)
Houston loses another extra-inning game, a 3-2 defeat to the Pirates in ten innings. Walt Bond gives the Astros a lead in the first when he singles home Joe Morgan who had tripled off Bob Veale. Pittsburgh goes in front in the third against Don Nottebart on run-scoring hits from Bill Virdon and Dick Schofield.
The Astros tie it in the eighth when Morgan plates pinch-runner Al Spangler and threaten to take the lead but Al McBean relieves Veale and gets a double play grounder off the bat of Bob Aspromonte. Jim Owens takes the loss when Roberto Clemente's single chases home Schofield, who had doubled, to send the 6,000 Pirate faithful home happy.
Houston (1-3) at Pittsburgh (3-1)
John Bateman and Bob Bruce stop the Pirates, 3-1, in the opener of an Easter Sunday twinbill. Bateman belts a two-run shot off Vernon Law in the second then takes Elroy Face deep in the ninth for good measure. Bruce handcuffs the Bucs on a complete-game six-hitter, fanning nine. Bob Lillis adds three hits.
Jim Wynn has three hits (five for the day) and three RBIs to help Houston tie the Pirates at four in the top of the eighth during the nightcap. But Claude Raymond buckles with three walks before Bob Bailey singles home Manny Mota for the game-winner, 5-4, to gain a split. Al McBean takes the win in relief while Ken MacKenzie is tagged with the loss. Bob Aspromonte contributes three hits, including a triple, in a losing effort.
Houston (2-4) at Philadelphia (2-2)
Connie Mack Stadium
Jim Bunning blanks the Astros in an 8-0 whitewash. Jim Wynn stays hot with two of the five Houston hits. Turk Farrell, who had beaten the Phillies six straight times, is tagged for four runs in the third and another in the fifth before hitting the showers. Larry Dierker surrenders the three other runs, including a homer to Richie Allen in the seventh.
Houston (2-5) at Philadelphia (3-2)
Connie Mack Stadium
The Astros lose their third extra-inning game of the road trip, nipped by the Phils, 2-1, in 13 innings. Ray Herbert, making his first major league appearance, holds Houston scoreless for eight innings while driving home the only run of the game to that point but his dream debut is spoiled when Ed Roebuck comes in to close out the ninth. Rusty Staub brings home Jim Wynn after a walk, a single and a passed ball to knot it up and send it to extra innings. In the 13th, Hal Woodeshick issues two walks before Claude Raymond is summoned from the bullpen. His first pitch to Ruben Amaro is smashed for a single that plates Cookie Rojas with the winning run. Jack Baldschun tosses three hitless innings of relief for the victory.
Houston (2-6) at Philadelphia (4-2)
Connie Mack Stadium
Having been held to one run in 31 innings against Philadelphia this season, Houston's bats finally explode in an 11-4 thrashing to finish the road trip. Chris Short clung to a 3-2 lead going into the eighth inning when the Astros loaded the bases. Jim Beauchamp, John Bateman and Bob Lillis then single to plate four runs. In the ninth, Houston tallies five more to put the game away. Dave Giusti picks up the win in relief. Bateman homers and drives in three to take the club lead in home runs (3), RBIs (7) and batting average (.421). Joe Morgan, Walt Bond and Bob Lillis chip in three hits apiece.
It's a travel day for the Astros as they return to Houston three games under .500 and three games behind first-place Cincinnati. They are ninth in the 10-team National League, leading only defending world champion St. Louis who is off to a 2-5 start.
While they were away, the roof of the Astrodome was given a new layer of paint to reduce the sunlight and glare coming through it. The cost of the 700-gallon effort is estimated at $20,000. There is concern that this will eventually kill off the Tifway-419 Bermuda grass but Judge Hofheinz assures that he has a backup plan in the works using an artificial grass being developed by Monsanto.
Judge Hofheinz fielded over 1,000 suggestions on what to do about the glare, including creating an indoor cloud and filling the ceiling with helium balloons which would somehow be brought down after each game.
Pittsburgh (5-3) at Houston (3-6)
Over 25,000 fans see the Astros get their first National League win in their new home, 4-3, over the Pirates in 12 innings. It's their fifth extra-inning game in ten contests this season.
Bob Bruce's single in the third gives him an early 3-0 lead that holds up until the eighth when the Bucs score three to tie it. It stays that way until the 12th when Al Spangler singles off Al McBean. Two outs later, Ron Brand is hit by a pitch, moving Spangler to second. Rusty Staub then ends the night with a single down the left-field line for the game-winner. Dave Giusti gets his second win, tossing the final two frames.
The success of some of the young hurlers gives the Astros confidence to trade veteran Don Larsen to the Baltimore Orioles for utilityman Bob Saverine and cash. Saverine would not make the parent club all season and is selected by the Washington Senators in the winter Rule V draft.
Pittsburgh (5-4) at Houston (4-6)
Bob Aspromonte sets off the $2 million-dollar scoreboard inside the Dome for its intended purpose for the first time - to celebrate an Astro homer. Aspro's two-run shot comes off Vernon Law in the sixth. Jim Wynn follows two innings later with his own four-bagger to light up the scoreboard a second time. Meanwhile, Turk Farrell scatters seven hits in a complete-game shutout, blanking the Bucs, 5-0. It's Farrell's first whitewash since 1962.
Pittsburgh (5-5) at Houston (5-6)
The Astros play still another extra-inning game, the first day game since the new paint job. This didn't stop players and even umpires from losing sight of the ball.
With the score knotted at three in the bottom of the eighth, Jim Wynn's single to center hops past Bill Virdon and rolls to the fence with Wynn scoring on the three-base error. Then Walt Bond bashes a fly to deep right center that hits just at the yellow home-run stripe on the wall. At first, the second base umpire calls it a home run and Bond begins his trot home. But the ball comes back from the outfield and Bond is tagged at third. Next the umpires reverse the call and rule Bond out, satisfying Pirate manager Harry Walker but sending Houston skipper Lum Harris and his coaches into a frenzy.
Once order is restored, the Pirates tie it up in the ninth and send it to overtime. In the 11th, with the count and the bases full and two away, Joe Morgan nullifies the official protest with a single off Elroy Face that plates Bob Aspromonte and sends the crowd away happy. Claude Raymond picks up the 5-4 win.
Pittsburgh (5-6) at Houston (6-6)
Houston completes a four-game sweep with a 2-0 shutout over the Pirates. Dave Giusti gets the start and twirls a four-hitter while striking out nine. Bob Friend matches goose eggs with Giusti until the seventh when the Astros smack successive singles by Jim Wynn, Walt Bond and Bob Aspromonte. Aspromonte's knock scores Wynn, who increased his hitting streak to nine games. Then Bob Bailey boots a grounder by John Bateman, scoring Bond. Giusti now owns three of the team's seven victories.
Wynn, Bond and Bateman are all batting over .300 on the young season with Wynn leading in average (.340) and Bateman leading in homers (4). Over 90,000 fans attend the four-game series.
New York (6-7) at Houston (7-6)
Roy McMillan's two-run double in the second looks like it might stand up until Joe Gaines sends a sacrifice fly in the eighth to score John Bateman and cut the New Yorkers' lead in half. In the bottom of the ninth, Bob Aspromonte chases starter Jack Fisher with a leadoff double. One out later, reliever Dennis Ribant walks Ron Brand before pinch-hitter Eddie Kasko, back after nursing a broken toe, doubles home both runs to beat the Mets, 3-2. Hal Woodeshick wins in relief of Don Nottebart.
New York (6-8) at Houston (8-6)
With Mets broadcaster Lindsey Nelson reporting from the gondola 208 feet above second base, Houston wins their seventh straight, 12-9, in a 3-1/2-hour marathon. Bob Bruce is pounded for four runs in the first two innings but the Mets give it back, two runs crossing on a throwing error by Jim Hickman. John Bateman's single in the fifth puts Houston up, 6-5.
The Mets slap around Larry Dierker to gain a 9-6 advantage in the sixth. Houston answers with four runs of their own, keyed by a two-run single from Bob Aspromonte. Walt Bond's triple in the eighth adds two more to the lead but, by then, Claude Raymond has everything under control. He blanks New York over the final three frames, striking out six of the nine batters he faces for his first save. Jim Owens gets the win. Tug McGraw takes the loss.
An overactive New York media circulates rumors that the Astros are manipulating air currents in the Dome to gain a unique home field advantage. The Astros say the charge is ridiculous but the 6-1 home record has out of town critics mumbling.
Commissioner Ford Frick is concerned enough to send Robert Salinger, an engineer from Chicago, to investigate the claim. Salinger's report would state that air conditioning has no effect on the flight or distance of batted balls.
Chicago (7-5) at Houston (9-6)
Houston stages another comeback to confound the Cubs, 4-3. Trailing 3-0 entering the seventh, the Astros had managed just one hit off Bob Buhl. The home team gets on the board when Bob Aspromonte singles and Rusty Staub breaks an 0-for-15 slump with an RBI double. Joe Gaines ties it with a pinch-hit two-run bomb in the eighth. Joe Morgan is next with his fourth triple of the season, scoring on a sacrifice fly to left by Al Spangler. Turk Farrell gets the win while Hal Woodeshick notches his first save of the year. The Astros end the month just 1/2-game behind the Dodgers, tied with Cincinnati for second place.
Chicago (7-6) at Houston (10-6)
In a day-night doubleheader, the Astros run their winning streak to ten games, a club record that will stay on the books for 34 years. Jim Wynn is the hero in the afternoon game, a 6-4 victory over the Cubs. Wynn spanks two doubles and drives in three. Ernie Banks answers with a homer and three RBIs off Ken Johnson. Joe Morgan adds two hits and a run batted in. Claude Raymond closes the door with 3-2/3rds innings of shutout relief for his second save.
In the nightcap, Dave Giusti runs his record to 4-0 with his second complete-game victory, a 6-1 six-hitter. His ERA shrinks to 0.78. A solo shot by Len Gabrielson in the eighth is the only blemish on his night. Four Astros have multi-hit games. Ron Brand and Joe Gaines drives in two runs each while Bob Aspromonte extends his hitting streak to 11 games. Giusti also drives in a run. Over 50,000 fans enjoy the Saturday twinbill. The Astros sit "tied" for first place but percentage points behind Los Angeles.
Chicago (7-8) at Houston (12-6)
Larry Jackson and Ted Abernathy end the Astros' winning streak in a 6-3 Chicago decision, the only loss in the ten-game homestand. The Cubs strike in the third for four unearned runs off Don Nottebart keyed when Jim Wynn dropped a fly ball by Glenn Beckert. Wynn gets some of it back with a double and two RBIs. Joe Morgan also stays hot with three hits. George Altman and Ron Santo counter with three hits each for the Cubs.
The Astros take to the air to begin a grueling 13-day, 14-game road trip that will take them to the Midwest and the West Coast. Basking in the glow of their sudden surge in the standings, Houston is third in the National League in pitching (2.80 ERA) and sixth in batting (.241). The Houston staff lists seven pitchers with ERAs of 3.00 or less. Jim Wynn leads the club with a .333 average and 13 RBIs. John Bateman continues the team in home runs with four. The Joe Morgan experiment appears to be taking hold with a .273 average and steady glove work around second base. The catching platoon of Bateman and Ron Brand has also exceeded expectations.
The reporters are claiming this trip will be a test as to whether the Astros are truly a better team or just the beneficiaries of a weak opening schedule and the excitement of opening a new ballpark. Anywhere outside of Texas has been a difficult venue during the first three years of their existence where the Astros have had a .326 winning percentage.
Houston (12-7) at Milwaukee (7-8)
The Braves have their passport already stamped for Atlanta but they must play one last lame-duck season in Brewtown. The removal of civic affection has already begun as only 913 fans pay to watch the 9-3 drubbing of the Astros in 45-degree nighttime weather. Milwaukee clobbers Bob Bruce for seven runs in the first three innings, including two home runs by Hank Aaron. Felipe Alou drives in three and Eddie Mathews goes deep. Tony Cloninger sails to a complete-game win marred by a two-run homer by Rusty Staub in the ninth, his first of the year. Struggling teen Larry Dierker tosses 4-1/3rd innings of long relief, striking out seven and surrendering just one run.
Houston (12-8) at Milwaukee (8-8)
Turk Farrell and Wade Blasingame hook up in a pitcher's duel that stays tied at 1-1 through nine innings. Solo shots by Joe Torre in the fifth and Rusty Staub in the seventh provide the only offense. Blasingame continues to work through the 14th inning when the Braves finally reward his effort with a 2-1 victory. Eddie Mathews' double off Claude Raymond plates Mack Jones with the game-winner. Blasingame walks six and fans a dozen in the three-hour marathon.
Farrell isn't around for the finish. He took a line drive off the back of his head from Hank Aaron in the ninth. The ball deflected into short centerfield where Joe Morgan caught it for the first out of the inning. After several minutes of lying in pain on the mound, Farrell got up and stayed in the game long enough to get the other two outs. He spends the night in a Milwaukee hospital for observation before rejoining his teammates in Chicago.
It's another off-day for the Astros who will make the short trip to Chicago for a weekend series with the Cubs. A glance at the National League standings shows Houston in third place, two games behind the Dodgers.
Houston (12-9) at Chicago (10-9)
Dave Giusti runs his record to 5-0 but it is a rocky journey over the Cubs, 5-4. Ernie Banks tags Giusti for a three-run homer in the first and George Altman adds a solo shot in the third but Giusti helps his own cause with a two-run double in the second then gets his winning margin on a three-run blast by Bob Aspromonte off Lew Burdette in the fifth. Jim Owens seals the deal with his second save, a 2-2/3rd inning effort of one-hit relief.
Houston (13-9) at Chicago (10-10)
18-year-old Larry Dierker gets his first big league win and Joe Morgan gets his first major league homer to highlight an 11-6 slugfest in Chicago. Rusty Staub swats a solo bomb and Ron Brand has a run-scoring double to get the Astros started. Don Nottebart surrenders a homer to Ernie Banks and the Cubs score again to make it 3-2. Houston strings together three hits in the third to chase Cal Koonce before Eddie Kasko bloops a single to right. While Walt Bond holds at third, two other Astros are holding down second so Kasko retreats to first only to watch catcher Dick Bertell misfire the throw to Banks back into the outfield, allowing two extra runs. Jim Wynn's two-run shot in the fourth builds the lead to 8-2.
The Cubs aren't finished. Behind a massive blow by Billy Williams in the fifth, Chicago trails by just three and Luman Harris yanks Nottebart one out short of qualifying for the victory. Dierker steps in to pitch the rest of the way, going 4-1/3rd innings, surrendering only a solo blast from George Altman. Morgan goes deep in the sixth, Staub doubles in the seventh and Al Spangler triples in the eighth to highlight single tallies that push the lead back up to five. Wynn and Kasko have three hits but every Houston batter except Dierker joins in the 18-hit assault.
Houston (14-9) at Chicago (10-11)
In an afternoon twinbill, the Astros' bats stay hot in an 11-5 opening victory. Rusty Staub is ablaze with three hits, five RBIs and his fourth long ball of the road trip. Bob Aspromonte and Eddie Kasko also chime in with three hits while John Bateman and Jim Wynn belt homers in another 18-hit bombardment. Bateman snaps an 0-for-22 slump in the process. Ken Johnson gets the win despite allowing five runs. Hal Woodeshick and Jim Owens close the door on the Cubs.
Chicago avoids a series sweep in the nightcap, taking a 7-1 verdict. Bob Bruce is pegged with the loss as the Cubs bang four home runs, two from Ernie Banks, one from Don Landrum and one the first major league homer by Glenn Beckert. A triple by Ron Brand in the eighth plates Staub with the only Houston run. Dick Ellsworth gets the win for the Cubs.
The Astros now sit in third place, two games back of the Dodgers as they fly into Los Angeles for a four-game series.
Houston (15-10) at Los Angeles (16-7)
Danny Coombs gets the surprise start after Turk Farrell is felled by the flu, but he can't last beyond the second inning. The Dodgers put up two early runs against him before Ken MacKenzie holds the fort for four frames. Johnny Podres is purring through a shutout until the eighth when the Astros tie it up. Doubles by Joe Morgan and Bob Aspromonte bring one run across then Jim Beauchamp brings home Aspro with a base hit.
Hal Woodeshick is into his fourth inning of work when the Dodgers win it in the tenth. Lou Johnson, called up from Spokane due to an injury to Tommy Davis singles then steals second. John Bateman's throw sails into centerfield, moving Johnson to third. One out later, Ron Fairly singles to delight the crowd of over 22,000 fans. Rusty Staub runs his hitting streak to ten games in the loss.
Houston (15-11) at Los Angeles (17-7)
Rookie Dave Giusti wins his league-leading sixth game with another complete-game effort, a four-hitter, dropping the Dodgers, 2-1. All the scoring takes place in the second inning. With Jim Beuchamp aboard, Joe Gaines tees off with a two-run homer off Claude Osteen. Los Angeles gets one back when they bunch three singles, John Kennedy plating Johnny Roseboro. From there, Giusti does the rest. He walks one and strikes out six to extend his record to 6-0.
Houston (16-11) at Los Angeles (17-8)
Don Drysdale goes the difference to lift Los Angeles past the Astros, 4-2. Ron Fairly's two-run single breaks a 1-1 tie after Rusty Staub had doubled home Al Spangler in the third. Solo shots by Jim LeFebvre and Walt Bond complete the final margin. For Bond, it is his first homer of the year after a month-long drought.
The Astros also send outfielder Mike White to Oklahoma City and activate Coach Nellie Fox to the player roster.
Houston (16-12) at Los Angeles (18-8)
If the Astros thought facing Don Drysdale was tough, it paled compared to what Sandy Koufax had in store for them. Koufax twirls a three-hit shutout, fanning 13, in a 3-0 whitewash. A double by Jim Wynn and two singles by Eddie Kasko are the only dents made against the lefthander. Lou Johnson homers off Bob Bruce to highlight the Los Angeles attack.
Having lost three of four against the first-place Dodgers, the Astros head north in third place, four games out of the lead. It would be the closest they would come to the top of the standings for the rest of the season.
Houston (16-13) at San Francisco (13-14)
The Astros face their third future Hall-of-Fame pitcher in a row with the Giants sending Gaylord Perry to the hill against Ken Johnson. Houston gets some hope when Eddie Kasko plates Bob Aspromonte in the second. The lead holds until Willie McCovey scores on a double-play ball from Jim Ray Hart in the sixth. The pitcher's duel remains until the bottom of the ninth when Hart suddenly ends it with a leadoff homer for a 2-1 victory.
Houston (16-14) at San Francisco (14-14)
Larry Dierker watches as first-inning homers by Willie McCovey and Willie Mays produce a four-run San Francisco lead and an early end to the teenager's afternoon. Mays is leading the league both in homers (12) and batting average (.382). Houston answers with a bases-loaded single from Ron Brand in the second that chases Giant starter Ron Herbel. Bob Bolin enters and quiets the Astros the rest of the way in an 8-2 decision. Bob Aspromonte and Eddie Kasko remain hot with two hits apiece but the Astros aren't able to cross the plate during Bolin's seven-plus innings of relief.
Houston (16-15) at San Francisco (15-14)
The Giants complete a sweep of the four-game series by winning both halves of a Sunday twinbill, 10-5 and 4-3. Even Dave Giusti can't survive the onslaught, tagged for five runs in the opener before leaving in the second inning. Ken MacKenzie does long mop-up and gives up five more tallies. Home runs by Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, Jim Ray Hart and Tom Haller delight the Candlestick crowd. The Astros answer with three long balls against Juan Marichal. Joe Morgan, Jim Wynn and Rusty Staub go deep but it is not enough. Morgan's blast snaps a personal 0-for-20 slump.
In the nightcap, Houston rallies from a 4-0 deficit on a home run from Wynn and two RBIs from Morgan but can't push the tying run across against Japanese import Masanori Murakami. The losses put an exclamation point to a 4-10 road trip which see the Astros sink back below .500 and slide into seventh place, six games out of first.
Los Angeles (21-10) at Houston (16-17)
Despite the bad road trip, the Astros can still pack the house at home as over 40,000 attend an extra-inning thriller against the Dodgers. Bob Bruce has the dreaded task of facing Sandy Koufax for the second time in a week and holds him to a 1-1 draw through ten innings. But both run out of gas in the 11th. Koufax's own single starts a four-run Dodger rally made worse by two errors during the frame by Joe Morgan. Houston responds with two runs before Bob Miller comes in and closes the door for a 5-3 verdict, the Astros' seventh straight loss.
The Astros can at least look forward to a lot of time in their own beds. They won't need to leave home for the rest of the month.
Los Angeles (22-10) at Houston (16-18)
Ken Johnson finally stops the bleeding, handcuffing the Dodgers for a 4-1 triumph. Johnson no-hits the Dodgers for the first six innings before a Ron Fairly double off the third base bag breaks up the bid. He scores later but it is the only Los Angeles tally. Bob Aspromonte breaks the ice with a two-run single in the third and John Bateman later lights up the scoreboard with a solo blast. Johnson surrenders just three hits in 8-1/3 innings, relying on Hal Woodeschick for the final two outs.
For their first ten home dates, the Astros have averaged 35,113 in attendance.
Los Angeles (22-11) at Houston (17-18)
The Astros and Dodgers go extra innings for the second time in the series. Long after starters Dave Giusti and Claude Osteen had been sent to the showers, each having allowed two runs, the bullpens dueled into the night. Ron Fairly continues his personal torment of the Astros in the 14th with his fourth hit, a two-run homer off Ken MacKenzie to break the tie, 4-2. Just as they had Monday night, the Astros didn't quit without a fight. They put two men aboard and force manager Walter Alston to bring Don Drysdale in from the bullpen. He fans Joe Morgan to snuff out the rally.
Morgan could have been the winning run the previous inning. When a relay throw of a fly ball escaped the Dodger infield, Morgan sped for the plate. First Baseman Wes Parker fetched the errant throw and tossed it to Jeff Torborg guarding home. Morgan tried to slide around the tag and then made a second effort to touch the plate. Umpire John Kibler called Morgan out on the initial tag but the second tag by Torborg caused an eruption from Manager Luman Harris, thinking Kibler called Morgan out even before the tag was applied. Harris bumps Kibler and is ejected.
While the Astros were on the West Coast, the ownership feud back in Houston was bubbling over the surface. Judge Roy Hofheinz owned 33% of Houston Sports Association (HSA) shares with an option for 15% of R.E. "Bob" Smith's shares, who owned 63%. Publicly, Hofheinz and Smith were billed as equal partners but financier Smith truly owned most of the organization. Yet politician Hofheinz seized control and ran the HSA more like it was his own. Smith complains that Hofheinz is autocratic. As Smith felt more and more pushed out and ignored, he gave Hofheinz an ultimatum.
"Buy me out or I will buy you out."
On May 13th, it was announced that Hofheinz intends to buy 53% of the HSA from Smith for $7.5 million dollars, signing a 90-day option for Smith's shares. The Judge has a deadline of August 12th to come up with the money. Smith would later say that challenge was one of the biggest mistakes of his life.
San Francisco (18-16) at Houston (17-19)
The John Kibler controversy reaches a new level when Bob Aspromonte is ejected after disputing a "safe" call by Kibler at third base in the sixth inning. Aspro thought he had the tag on Jim Davenport and exploded when Kibler ruled otherwise. With Luman Harris already suspended, it was up to other Astros to calm down their third-sacker. Bill Giles, the Astros' publicity director and scoreboard operator, flashes "KIBLER DID IT AGAIN" on the big board as fans voice their displeasure.
The game itself wasn't in doubt by this time. The Giants tee off on Don Nottebart and lead, 7-0, by the time of Aspromonte's eruption on their way to an 8-1 decision. Willie McCovey leads the charge with three hits, including a homer and four RBIs. Davenport and Matty Alou also swat three hits apiece. Things are going so well for the Giants that pitcher Ron Herbel gets the first hit of his big league career, snapping an oh-for-55 streak, on a roller through a drawn-in infield. John Bateman's solo shot in the eighth is the only relief for the home crowd.
San Francisco (19-16) at Houston (17-20)
At last, America gets to watch a game inside the new Astrodome. ABC televises the day game of a day-night twinbill against the Giants with Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher supplying the commentary. If they tuned in on time, they got to see Willie Mays smash a mammoth two-run homer in the first off Bob Bruce. Jesus Alou, Tom Haller and Hal Lanier smack four hits apiece in a 10-1 rout. Juan Marichal spins a complete-game six-hitter. Dating back to the previous September, San Francisco has won ten straight over Houston.
In the untelevised nightcap, the Astros squeak out a 3-2 victory. Mays spanks another two-run first-inning homer, his 17th long ball of the season. Houston responds with a run-scoring double by Walt Bond. Joe Gaines belts a home run, pinch-hitting for starter Turk Farrell in the seventh. Houston takes the lead in the eighth when Rusty Staub singles off Masanori Murakami, moves up on a walk to John Bateman and scores on a pinch-hit single by player-coach Nellie Fox. Hal Woodeshick holds on for his second win of the year. Almost 66,000 cross the turnstiles during the doubleheader.
San Francisco (20-17) at Houston (18-21)
Ken Johnson, the only person ever to pitch a complete no-hit major league game and lose that game, gets another bit of bad luck when Jim Ray Hart hits a fly ball to center with two on and two out in the first inning. Jim Wynn loses track of the ball amongst the roof panels and can't locate it until it falls harmlessly behind him. By the time the ball is thrown back in, Hart has a three-run inside-the-park homer which he scores standing up. That's the difference in a 5-2 Astro defeat with Houston's only runs coming on an eighth-inning single by Walt Bond, plating Al Spangler and Joe Morgan.
Johnson is pulled in the fourth inning after allowing all five runs and informed he has been traded to the Braves for outfielder Lee Maye. The lefthanded-hitting Maye led the league in doubles the previous year with 44. For Johnson, it's a new beginning after coming from the Reds in the 1961 expansion draft. In a separate deal, the Braves also acquired outfielder Jim Beauchamp for a player to be named later. Beauchamp had hit .189 in part-time duty and was in an oh-for-12 slump.
Wynn is asked to field flies after the game along with Rusty Staub and Nellie Fox. The decision is made to add a darker layer of paint to the roof panels around home plate.
Cincinnati (21-14) at Houston (18-22)
Dave Giusti is pulled during a three-run second inning and the Reds never look back in a 5-2 verdict to begin a three-game series. Giusti's loss drops his mark to 6-2. Jim Maloney runs his record to 5-0 with seven innings of four-hit pitching. Maloney also helps himself at the plate with a double and a single. Walt Bond paces the Astros with two hits and an RBI. Lee Maye bats third in his Astro debut but goes hitless and commits an error in left field.
Cincinnati (22-14) at Houston (18-23)
Reds rookie Tony Perez blasts a three-run pinch-hit shot off Jim Owens in the ninth as Cincinnati tops Houston, 7-4. Owens, working in relief for the third straight game, allows a double to Tommy Harper and a walk to Vada Pinson before the decisive blow. Sammy Ellis goes the distance for his seventh win of the year. Pinson goes 4-for-4, including a three-run homer in the fourth off Don Nottebart. Houston had visions of winning this one when they scored three in the bottom of the first and again when they re-took the lead in the sixth but the Reds fight back against the Houston bullpen to creep within a game of the first-place Dodgers. Bob Aspromonte raps three of the Astros' five hits to bring his average up to .322.
Before the game, the Astrodome's roof receives another layer of paint over the infield to help fielders track flies and pop ups. Cost estimates run between $3,000 and $4,000.
Cincinnati (23-14) at Houston (18-24)
Bob Bruce stops Houston's three-game losing streak as well as his own personal five-game skid in an 8-3 triumph, fanning 13 Reds. Jim Wynn stars on offense with three hits and four RBIs, featuring a triple and a homer to give him a club-leading 23 RBIs. Bob Lillis scores three times while Lee Maye adds three singles and scores twice. Bruce is able to cool off everyone except Vada Pinson who picks up two of the five Cincy hits and plates two of their runs.
St. Louis (23-16) at Houston (19-24)
Turk Farrell goes the distance scattering seven hits as the Astros clip the Redbirds, 6-1. The Astros ring up only six hits themselves but are very efficient with them. Eddie Kasko starts the attacked with a double off Ray Washburn in the first which led to a run. The Astros get two more in second courtesy of Farrell's RBI grounder and an error by Dick Groat. Lee Maye drives in a pair and Jim Wynn finishes off the night with a solo shot off Bob Purkey, his team-best eighth long ball of the season.
St. Louis (23-17) at Houston (20-24)
Walt Bond doubles home Jim Wynn in the 12th for a 3-2 comeback win over the Cardinals. Wynn had just singled off Ron Taylor for his third hit of the night. Wynn had also scored Houston's first run in the fourth when he doubled off Ray Sadecki before Bob Aspromonte singled him home. Sadecki holds a 2-1 lead into the ninth when Aspromonte tags a solo blast that delights the Friday night crowd of over 31,000. Dave Giusti, victimized for two early runs, gives way to Hal Woodeshick and winning pitcher Jim Owens who combine for five perfect innings of relief. But there is bad news too - shortstop Eddie Kasko, who missed the season opener with a broken finger, tears a knee ligament when Julian Javier slides into him at second base.
Meanwhile, new outfielder and recording artist Lee Maye lines up his first Houston gig. It's at a nearby nightclub called the "Dome Shadows" which, not coincidentally, is being sued by Judge Roy Hofheinz for having the word "dome" in their business name. After being stung by the Colt Firearms Company for trademark issues involving the ballclub's original name, Hofheinz has had attornies filing actions against all area businesses that use "Astro" or "Dome" in their names. The club owner, M.M. Stewart, admits he hired Maye "out of meanness". Maye insists there's no conflict of interest and where he sings after hours is his own business. The Alabama tenor's biggest hit to date, "Halfway Out of Love", has sold a half-million copies.
St. Louis (23-18) at Houston (21-24)
Houston completes the sweep with a 4-3 ten-inning victory for their fourth straight win. Bob Aspromonte plates Joe Morgan with the game-winner after Walt Bond was intentionally walked to load the bases. Curt Flood, who was 4-for-5, stakes the Redbirds to an early lead with a two-run blast off Don Nottebart in the first. The Cardinals hold a 3-1 margin into the eighth when pinch-hitter Al Spangler swats a Tracy Stallard pitch into the seats. After Bob Purkey relieves Stallard, Joe Morgan scores on a single from Walt Bond to tie it up. Morgan is at it again in the tenth, drawing a walk and darting to third on Jim Wynn's single before Aspromonte sends the crowd home happy. Having climbed back into sixth place and within shouting distance of the .500 mark, the locals once again have their sights on challenging for the league lead which is just 6-1/2 games in front of them.
During the 1964 season, Houston played just eleven extra-inning games. Not a third of the way through this season, the Astros have already worked overtime a dozen times, losing seven of them.
Milwaukee (20-18) at Houston (22-24)
Don't tell the Braves the new ballpark negates the long ball. On their first day in town, Milwaukee slams six extra-base hits including three homers as they edge Houston, 6-5. Hank Aaron is, as you might expect, in the middle of it with three hits including his sixth homer. Mack Jones and Felipe Alou join him with long balls off Larry Dierker.
The Astros scrap back in less spectacular fashion, stringing together three runs in the fourth to take a brief 3-2 lead and another in the sixth to trail, 5-4. Milwaukee gets the game-winner in the eighth against Claude Raymond when Jones belts a triple and comes home on a Sandy Alomar single.
Part of Houston's offensive woes have come from the catcher's position. Ron Brand's single is his first in 22 at bats while teammate John Bateman continues to wallow in an 0-for-13 skid.
Milwaukee (21-18) at Houston (22-25)
Joe Morgan greets Tony Cloninger with a home run to lead off the first inning but the Braves tie it and finally take the lead in the eighth on Joe Torre's second run-producing single against Bob Bruce. Then Cloninger comes undone. He walks the bases full before Bob Aspromonte strokes a two-run single. After another free pass, Ron Brand doubles home two more runs and an error by Torre builds the lead to 7-2, Houston. Bruce does the rest on his way to a complete-game six-hitter, striking out eight in the process.
The 13-19 month sees the Astros fall three places and 6-1/2 games in the standings. After two months, Jim Wynn holds the team lead with eight homers and 24 RBIs. Bob Aspromonte's .325 average (tied for ninth in the league) is the only one over .300 and he is riding a ten-game hitting streak. Dave Giusti is still stuck on six wins, a team high, but Turk Farrell is impressive with a 1.71 ERA (second in the league) and 33 strikeouts in 58 innings with just six bases on balls.
Milwaukee (21-19) at Houston (23-25)
The list of original Colt .45s on the roster shrinks again. Outfielder Al Spangler is traded to the California Angels for veteran righthander Don Lee. Spangler has hit just .214 in 38 games. Lee, 31, has experience both as a starter and reliever. This will be his first service in the National League after seven years in the American League.
In that evening's game, Turk Farrell leaves early and Claude Raymond holds the fort for 5-1/3 innings of shutout relief as the Astros maintain a 1-0 advantage through seven on a solo blast by Walt Bond off Denny Lemaster. But, with Hal Woodeshick on the mound in the eighth, Hank Aaron and Mack Jones slug back-to-back home runs to give the Braves a 2-1 win. Billy O'Dell gets the victory with three innings of relief. Bond paces the Astros with three hits. Pinch-hitter Jim Wynn is hospitalized after injuring his back. Houston finishes the homestand at 7-9 to give them a 16-11 record so far in their new home.
Houston (23-26) at Cincinnati (24-20)
In a game shortened by rain, the Reds outlast Houston, 5-2, as Dave Giusti loses his third straight. Cincinnati tees off on Giusti for four runs in the second on a solo homer by Gordy Coleman and a bases-clearing double by Tommy Harper. Johnny Edwards later adds a solo shot before the storm arives. Sammy Ellis wins his eighth of the year on four hits as the game is called after six innings. Joe Gaines has two singles for the Astros while Bob Lillis chips in an RBI single.
Houston (23-27) at Cincinnati (25-20)
Don Nottebart picks up his first win of the season in five decisions as Houston pastes the Reds, 8-3. Rusty Staub leads the attack with four RBIs, three of which come on an estimated 450-foot bomb to right off Gerry Arrigo in the second. Staub also provides a sacrifice fly in the fifth, pushing his average back up to .200. Ron Brand's bases-loaded single in the third plates two. He and Bob Lillis deliver three hits apiece. Brand's average has now surged back to .191.
The Astros use an odd outfield lineup with Brand playing left field, Staub in center and Joe Gaines in right field. But the trio provide seven of Houston's eight RBIs as Gaines contributes a sacrifice fly. The Astros climb back into sixth place with the victory.
Houston (24-27) at St. Louis (24-23)
Busch Stadium (a.k.a. Sportsman's Park)
General Manager Paul Richards acquires an old friend. First-baseman Jim Gentile is picked up from Kansas City for $100,000 cash, a minor league pitcher and a player to be named later. When Richards was at Baltimore, he got Gentile from the Dodgers. "Diamond Jim" became a three-time All-Star who hit as many as 46 homers in a season. He already had 10 this year with the Athletics, more than anyone on Houston's roster, while batting .246. Judge Hofheinz had long wanted a slugger with some name value for his ballclub and Gentile appears to fulfill that wish.
Gentile plays that night in St. Louis but goes oh-for-two. It doesn't matter as the rest of the team picks up the slack, dropping the Redbirds, 5-2, with three runs in the ninth. Houston takes a 2-1 lead in the sixth on Walt Bond's two-run blast to right off Bob Gibson. Bond started in left field to accomodate Gentile at first. After the Cardinals tied it, Ron Brand unties it in the ninth with a three-run homer off Gibson into the left field seats on a 1-2 fastball. Bob Aspromonte had walked and Rusty Staub had singled prior to Brand's first homer of the year. Bob Bruce picks up his fourth win, allowing two runs in eight frames, giving way to Jim Owens after Tim McCarver doubled to open the bottom half of the ninth.
Houston (25-27) at St. Louis (24-24)
The Astros take part in the first summer free agent draft in major league history. Held in New York City under the watchful eye of Commissioner Ford Frick, 320 names are selected in the six-hour proceeding. Like their football counterparts, baseball is using the draft to hold down the amount paid in bonuses to high school and young college talent by reducing competition. Outfielder Rick Monday of the Athletics is the first overall choice. Houston selects fourth and takes 18-year-old shortstop Alex Barrett of Winton, CA. Barrett will never reach the majors. Only a handful of players chosen by the Astros will and none that sign achieve a noteworthy career.
On the field, Houston falls to the Cardinals, 4-3, in 12 innings. It's their first loss to the World Champions in five tries. Joe Gaines ties it up in the third on a solo homer. Jim Gentile gives the Astros the lead in the sixth when he singles home Walt Bond who had doubled. Phil Gagliano's two-run blast in the eighth off Hal Woodeshick put the Cards ahead but Bob Aspromonte sends it to overtime with a dramatic homer in the ninth off Tracy Stallard. St. Louis wins it on a triple by Ken Boyer in the 12th off Ken MacKenzie and a single by Tim McCarver.
Houston (25-28) at St. Louis (25-24)
Claude "Frenchy" Raymond makes his first big league start after 140 relief appearances and his teammates make it easy for him, thumping the Redbirds, 10-1. He goes the distance, too, scattering seven hits after being pressed into emergency service when Turk Farrell's elbow became sore. His mates got him off to a five-run cushion in the first on Bob Aspromonte's two-run single off Ray Sadecki and Lee Maye's three-run blast. Aspro drove in a team-best 26th run with another single in the fifth. Then Houston erupted off Nelson Briles in the seventh on a Joe Morgan double off the wall in right, a Walt Bond single off the wall in right, a monsterous shot by Jim Gentile over the wall in left-center and another clout by Jim Wynn into the seats in left.
Part of the reason Raymond is left in so long is that this was the opener of a scheduled doubleheader. Dave Giusti and Steve Carlton duel to a 1-1 draw over four innings before it is washed out by rain, to be made up at a later date.
It's a travel day as the Astros move on to Pittsburgh to begin a three- game series with the Pirates before playing three more in Philadelphia to close the four-city road trip. It's their first off day after 2-1/2 weeks of action. At this juncture, the Astros are two games below .500 and in sixth place. They are seven games behind Los Angeles for the National League lead and one game behind the Cardinals for fifth. The Pirates are percentage points behind Houston.
There is reason for optimism while leaving St. Louis where the Gateway Arch is under construction. The additions of Jim Gentile and Lee Maye are supposed to give the Astros a power stroke they have lacked and there is still hope that holdovers Jim Wynn, Walt Bond and Rusty Staub will crank up their bats as well. For now, Wynn has the team lead with nine homers. Houston is fourth in the league in runs scored (215), but seventh in homers (40) and last in batting average (.232). Any hopes of still contending in 1965 will begin to slip away in the upcoming weeks.
Houston (26-28) at Pittsburgh (24-26)
Houston goes into extra innings for the 14th time this season. Trailing 5-2 in the ninth, the Astros stun the Pirates with four runs. After Jim Wynn's pinch-hit RBI double off a tiring Bob Friend, Joe Gaines rips a three-run pinch-hit homer off reliever Al McBean to put the Spacemen on top. Two walks and an error in the bottom half sets up Roberto Clemente's game-tying single. Hal Woodeshick gets into trouble in the 11th, allowing singles to Manny Mota and Bill Virdon and an intentional walk to Clemente to load the bases. Woody coaxes a tapper from Andre Rodgers for the second out but is called for a balk with Donn Clendenon at the plate that gives Pittsburgh a 7-6 decision. The win vaults the Pirates past Houston into sixth place.
Houston (26-29) at Pittsburgh (25-26)
Winners of 16 of their last 18 games, the Pirates show no mercy to Don Nottebart and the Astros, burying them under a 19-hit avalanche and an 11-3 drubbing. Seven Bucs have multi-hit games, including the usual suspects like Roberto Clemente, Donn Clendenon and Gene Alley who notch three hits apiece. Another Houston nemesis, Vern Law, goes the distance to win his fourth straight for Pittsburgh. Bob Lillis and Rusty Staub deliver a pair of hits each to pace the Astros.
Houston (26-30) at Pittsburgh (26-26)
The Pirates complete the series sweep, winning their sixth straight in a 4-2 finale. They get to Bob Bruce in the first inning on a double by Bill Virdon, a single by Roberto Clemente and a three-run blast by Willie Stargell. Donn Clendenon chips in an insurance homer in the sixth. Bob Veale extends his record to 7-2 with his fifth straight complete game, scattering eight hits and fanning eleven. The Astros could take solace that they were able to snap his scoreless inning streak at 28. Ron Brand is the bright spot for Houston with a three-hit night, including an RBI single. Bruce drives in the other Astro run. In just three nights, the Pirates have moved from seventh place to fifth while Houston has tumbled from sixth place to eighth.
Houston (26-31) at Philadelphia (25-28)
Connie Mack Stadium
Sneaking past the Astros into seventh were the Phillies. Winning at this end of Pennsylvania seems no easier than the other end for Houston but they rally late. Dave Giusti continues to struggle, allowing five runs including a long ball from Wes Covington but he gets some of it back himself with a two-run shot of his own (his first big league homer) off Ray Culp. The Astros climb to within one, 5-4, on an unearned run in the eighth then tie it in the ninth when Lee Maye triples off the scoreboard and Walt Bond plates him with a sacrifice fly.
Johnny Callison finishes it in the tenth when he sends a Jim Owens two-out pitch off that same scoreboard where it hops away from Maye, allowing Callison to scamper around the bases for a game-winning inside-the-park homer and a 6-5 verdict. Ron Brand stays hot with two hits for Houston while Jim Gentile breaks out of an oh-for-11 slump with two hits as well. The Astros are now 5-10 in extra-inning games.
Houston (26-32) at Philadelphia (26-28)
Connie Mack Stadium
Bob Lillis smacks a two-run double off Jim Bunning in the fifth to put Houston ahead of the Phillies, 4-2. That score holds up until the bottom of the ninth when, with one out, Dick Stuart singles against starter Turk Farrell. Clay Dalrymple then lashes a triple, scoring Stuart, and Tony Taylor is brought in to pinch-run. Ruben Amaro drops a bunt single that scores Taylor to tie the game. Amaro steals second then John Briggs is intentionally walked. Pinch-hitter Frank Thomas then sends the crowd of 7,807 home happy with a single to seal the 5-4 win. Farrell pitches a complete game in the loss and supplies his own RBI double. Walt Bond delivers three hits for Houston. Ed Roebuck gets the surprise victory in relief for the Phils.
Houston (26-33) at Philadelphia (27-28)
Connie Mack Stadium
Lefthander Chris Short, who spoiled Opening Day in Houston with a shutout, blanks the Astros again to even his record at 6-6. The Philies sweep the series with a 5-0 whitewash as Short fans 13 Spacemen. Claude Raymond gets the start for Houston but is pulled in the sixth after nine hits, two walks and two errors. Tony Gonzalez, Philadelphia's center fielder, belts a homer, double and single to lead the assault. Walt Bond stays hot with two of Houston's five hits, including a double. Jim Wynn gets his first start since being hospitalized June 1st, although he returned to the team back in St. Louis.
Concluding a 3-8 road trip with six straight losses, the Astros limp back to Texas to face the Chicago Cubs, one of just two teams in the league they lead in the standings.
Chicago (24-32) at Houston (26-34)
In the final year of Chicago's bizarre experiment with "head coaches" rather than managers, Lou Klein replaces Bob Kennedy and the Cubs respond with a 2-0 blanking of the Astros. Larry Jackson hurls a six-hitter, half of which come off the bat of Joe Morgan (snapping an oh-for-11 skid) who raises his batting average to .236. Both of Chicago's runs score on outs. A grounder by Ron Santo off Bob Bruce drives in Don Landrum in the first then a sacrifice fly in the fifth by Ernie Banks brings home Billy Williams for the only other run of the game. With the win, the Cubs overtake the Astros for eighth place.
Afterwards, the Astros continue to shake up their roster, sending veteran righthander Hal Woodeshick to the Cardinals for pitchers Ron Taylor and Mike Cuellar. Taylor, a righthanded reliever, is 2-1 this season and gives the Astros (of all teams) three Canadians on their pitching staff, joining Claude Raymond and Ken MacKenzie. Lefthander Cuellar, a Cuban who made his first brief big league appearance in 1959, has yet to establish himself, splitting time between starting and the bullpen. In a separate deal, the Astros purchase veteran catcher Gus Triandos, a three-time All-Star in the late 1950s, from the Phillies.
Chicago (25-32) at Houston (26-35)
Houston loses their eighth straight and their scoreless streak extends to 31 innings as the Cubs whitewash the Astros again, 5-0. Bob Buhl blanks the Spacemen for the first eight innings to even his season mark at 6-6, allowing five hits. Larry Dierker is tagged for two runs in the fourth on an RBI double by Don Landrum and a sacrifice fly by Ron Santo. Jim Owens and Danny Coombs allow three tallies in the final two innings for the final margin. Dierker surrenders just four hits with no walks over seven innings and strikes out nine but Houston's offense is downright offensive. Their team batting average of .231 ranks last in the league. Bob Aspromonte, the last regular with a .300 batting average, goes oh-for-four to dip below that benchmark. The Astros fall to ten games below .500 for the first time this season.
Chicago (26-32) at Houston (26-36)
Sometimes little steps lead to bigger steps and that's how the Astros break their losing streak with a 3-2 victory in 13 innings. After 33 scoreless innings, the Astros get onto the scoreboard in the third off Dick Ellsworth when pitcher Turk Farrell singles and Joe Gaines plates him with a two-bagger. Next, the Astros tie it at 2-2 in the sixth when Joe Morgan reaches on an error, Jim Wynn walks and Walt Bond comes through with a base hit. Farrell holds the fort through 12 grueling innings but gives way to Jim Owens in the 13th. He gets his reward when Morgan laces a double off Lindy McDaniel and scores one out later on a single by Bob Aspromonte. What remained of the paid crowd of 21,835 salutes their team for their first triumph in over a week. Gus Triandos, in his Astros debut, picks up a double as well as an error.
Chicago (26-33) at Houston (27-36)
In the 17th extra-inning game of their season, the Astros see another one slip away (6-11 in extra frames) as the Cubs pull out a 6-5 verdict in eleven. Houston is now above the pace of one overtime contest for every four games played. Nobody can come up with the major league record so General Manager Paul Richards says he'll just declare the record "after a few more".
In the fifth, the Astros overcome a 3-0 deficit with what, for them, was an explosion of four runs. Ron Brand starts it off with a single off Bob Hendley. Rusty Staub follows with a base hit then Bob Lillis (breaking an oh-for-15 slump) doubles to bring home Brand. Gus Triandos smacks a pinch-hit single that plates Staub, Jim Gentile gets a pinch- hit double to score Lillis and Jim Wynn gives Houston the lead with a sacrifice fly. After two Chicago runs, Walt Bond plates Gentile in the seventh to tie the game at five apiece. That's how it stays until the 11th when Chicago's Billy Williams drills a two-out single that scores Doug Clemens for the game-winner. Jim Owens takes the loss after a four-inning relief outing.
Pittsburgh (32-28) at Houston (27-37)
With two straight extra-inning games behind them and a weekend doubleheader ahead of them, the Astros really need a complete game as the Pirates come to town and they get it from Bob Bruce. The righthander needs just two hours and seven minutes to stop the Bucs, 5-1, before a Friday night crowd over 24,000. Bruce allows ten hits but walks none while striking out seven for his fifth win. A four-run fourth is the difference against Bob Veale. Joe Gaines and Joe Morgan start it off with singles and score on a triple by Jim Wynn. Bob Aspromonte singles home Wynn and eventually scores on a sacrifice fly by Rusty Staub. Two innings later, Ron Brand spanks a double and Staub delivers him with a single for the final tally.
Pittsburgh (32-29) at Houston (28-37)
The Astros celebrate Juneteenth by playing (what else?) an extra-inning game. The Pirates get their first win in the Dome in six tries by edging the Spacemen, 5-3, in 11 innings. It ruins a good night for Jim Wynn. His two-run double off Don Cardwell in the fifth gives Houston a 2-1 lead. After the Pirates reclaim it with two of their own off Claude Raymond, Wynn blasts a Joe Gibbon pitch for a home run in the eighth to tie the game at three. It is Wynn's 10th long ball of the year to lead the club, igniting the big scoreboard for the first time in weeks. He also leads the team with 32 RBIs. But Jose Pagan's double in the 11th off Don Nottebart plates Gene Freese for the go-ahead run then Pagan comes home on an error by Bob Lillis. Frank Carpin relieves Gibbon for the save.
Philadelphia (30-31) at Houston (28-38)
After the quick two-game set with the Pirates, those pesky Phillies arrive for a Sunday twinbill at the Dome. Even with a ninth place team, the Astros can still pack the house. 42,648 pay to see veteran Jim Bunning square off against Larry Dierker in the opener. They cheer as Lee Maye singles, Ron Brand triples and Dierker singles in the second to take a 2-0 lead. Dierker shuts out the Phils until the seventh when Cookie Rojas drives in Ruben Amaro with a sacrifice fly then Johnny Callison plates two more with a triple off loser Ron Taylor. Gary Wagner closes the door over the final three innings as the Phils win, 3- 2. The double-play combo of Joe Morgan and Bob Aspromonte each contribute a pair of hits.
In the second game, Bo Belinsky goes the distance in a 10-strikeout performance as Philadelphia sweeps it, 7-1. Jim Wynn brings home the only Houston run for an early lead but the roof caves in on Mike Cuellar in the fourth when the Phillies erupt for six runs. Dick Stuart blasts his 10th homer of the season. Houston is now 1-8 this season against Philadelphia.
Philadelphia (32-31) at Houston (28-40)
Turk Farrell increases his record to 5-2 with a complete game six-hitter as he knocks off his old Phillie club, 6-2. Farrell and Ray Culp duel to a 1-1 draw through the first six innings but Lee Maye, who singled home the first Houston run, triples to drive in the winning runs. The Astros tack on three more in the eighth when Farrell singles with the bases loaded and Joe Morgan drives in the sixth run.
One of Philadelphia's runs is a solo shot by Wes Covington. Maye leads the Astros with three hits and Morgan chips in a pair, scoring twice.
|Jay Dahl: dead at 19|
Off the field, the news is bad as word filters through the organization about the death of pitcher Jay Dahl yesterday in an auto accident. The bonus baby debuted with the Colt .45s as part of an all-rookie publicity stunt late in the 1963 season. Pitching with the Astros' A-ball affiliate in Salisbury, NC, the 19-year-old was a passenger in a car driven by teammate Gary Marshall. The car skidded out of control and slammed into a tree, killing a third passenger, 20-year-old Patricia Troutman. Dahl died hours later of internal injuries. Marshall broke an arm and a leg and was permanently blinded in both eyes.
Philadelphia (32-32) at Houston (29-40)
Chris Short had already shut out the Astros twice this season so the Astrodome scoreboard should have exploded just because Houston finally scored against the Phillie southpaw. It happens in the sixth when Joe Gaines plates pitcher Bob Bruce on a grounder then Jim Wynn doubles home Joe Morgan for a 2-1 lead. But the advantage evaporates quickly with Philadelphia scoring five times in the seventh. After loading the bases on two walks and a hit, Richie Allen singles in a pair to retake the lead, Dick Stuart adds a sacrifice fly then Tony Gonzalez spanks an inside-the-park homer to lead, 6-2, on their way to a 7-2 verdict. Bruce's record falls to 5-9. Walt Bond has two of Houston's five hits, including a double.
Back in 1965, before the term "multipurpose facility" was en vogue, many baseball stadiums were also the home of professional football teams. Old-timers can still recall seeing the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field, the Detroit Lions at Tiger Stadium and the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium. Several other NFL and AFL teams filled the stands of major league parks during the 1960s in the fall and winter.
So, naturally, the new Astrodome would be a desirable palace for the AFL's Houston Oilers, right? Guess again.
After the Houston Sports Association (HSA) brought big league baseball to town, Judge Roy Hofheinz made overtures to Oilers owner Bud Adams in 1962 about acquiring the football team. Adams' selling price was deemed too high. Well, then, how about leasing Colt Stadium for Oiler home games? Now, Hofheinz' price was too high.
And so went the feud which was tentatively solved in late 1964 when Adams agreed to move the Oilers to the Dome. But, by June 1965, Adams was feeling the sting of negotiating parking, concessions and other contracts with the Judge which he felt made the lease untenable. Bud chose, instead, to move his team into Rice Stadium, forsaking the new jewel of the Bayou City. Meanwhile, Hofheinz pursued an NFL expansion franchise to rival the Oilers but lost out to Houstonian John Mecom who launched the New Orleans Saints. Peace between Hofheinz and Adams was not reached until 1968 and the Astrodome became the home of the Oilers for the next 28 years.
New York (23-45) at Houston (29-41)
No matter how bad life gets for the Astros, they always have one thing to fall back on - they are better than the Mets. The expansion twins get together for a four-game series in Houston and the New Yorkers are a sight for weary Houston eyes.
As usual, the Mets are generous guests, giving up three unearned runs as the Astros take the series opener, 4-2, behind the five-hit pitching of Claude Raymond. Bob Aspromonte doubles off Jack Fisher in the second and advances on a bunt single by Jim Wynn. A wild pitch brings Aspro home. Ron Brand walks. Next, Bob Lillis taps back to Fisher who fires to second to start a double play - except nobody is covering second. Wynn comes home on the error. Raymond then hits a roller to Ed Kranepool at first but, after seeing Fisher is late breaking to the bag, Kranepool loses his race to Raymond at first base while Brand scores. In the fifth, Joe Morgan triples off the right field fence and Lee Maye plates him with a single for the last Houston run. Raymond gives way to Jim Owens with two aboard in the ninth who picks up his third save while Claude evens his own mark at 3-3.
New York (23-46) at Houston (30-41)
The Astros pass the 1,000,000 mark in attendance for the first time. The lucky person, selected by postgame drawing to be chosen as the millionth fan, was Mrs. Charley Williams of Jacksonville, TX who is there to watch her first baseball game.
She picked a dandy, starting with a pitching matchup for the ages. That would be 44-year-old legend Warren Spahn against 18-year-old Larry Dierker. It is Houston left fielder Lee Maye who plays like someone having a senior moment, dropping two fly balls and pinning another one against his chest like it was a fair catch. But Dierker works around this, nine hits and three walks over six innings to come out with a 6-2 victory. Nine strikeouts help to bail him out of trouble. Joe Morgan opens the scoring with a triple to left-center in the second (his sixth of the year), driving in Maye and Dierker. In the fifth, Dierker singles and Morgan walks before a single by Joe Gaines chases them home. Jim Wynn triples to left-center for another run and Spahn gets the hook but his understudy, Tom Parsons, is touched for singles by Walt Bond and Bob Aspromonte to push the lead up to 6-1. Dave Giusti, having lost his starting role, finishes with three innings of relief.
New York infielder Chuck Hiller is ejected after his relay toss strikes umpire Ken Burkhart in the leg.
New York (23-47) at Houston (31-41)
Turk Farrell makes his third solid start in a row, blanking the Mets on a five-hitter, 2-0. The shutout shrinks Farrell's ERA down to 2.10. Joe Morgan scores the game's only runs, both beginning with walks. In the first, he steals second against Frank Lary and comes home on a single by Jim Gentile. In the sixth, he crosses the plate on a double by Lee Maye, who had three hits. Jim Wynn steals his 13th base of the year to break the club record held by Roman Mejias. The only person to give Farrell any trouble on the night is Charley Smith who raps three hits, including two doubles, but gets no help from his teammates. 33,500 attend for a Saturday night show that is over in just two hours and eight minutes.
New York (23-48) at Houston (32-41)
The Mets' offense had tallied just 32 runs in their last 23 games and Bob Bruce extends their misery with a 4-2 triumph to sweep the four- game series. Bruce fans ten and walks one while giving up just three hits over eight innings. Bruce also singles home a run and Lee Maye delights the throng with a solo homer off Al Jackson. Jim Wynn and Walt Bond each have two hits and an RBI. Wynn adds his 14th steal. The Mets, however, don't go quietly in the ninth. After Bruce leaves with a sore shoulder, Jim Owens allows two hits. Mike Cuellar comes in to get the final two outs and the save. Houston is 7-1 against the New Yorkers this season, 6-0 at the Astrodome.
Houston (33-41) at Chicago (32-39)
A quick two-game road trip takes the Astros to the Windy City before coming back home to Houston. Larry Jackson topples the Astros again, 7-2, with a complete game effort. Dave Giusti continues his rough month of June as he is tagged for six runs, including homers by Don Landrum and Ron Santo. Glenn Beckert also drives in a pair. Solo shots by Joe Morgan and Walt Bond in the eighth and ninth innings prevent the shutout but Houston manages just six hits off Jackson, two by Bond. Under 5,000 watch the afternoon contest.
Rain washes out the scheduled contest in Chicago. With all the juggling taking place on the Houston roster over the past month, it's time for a recap.
The Astros infield has been fairly steady with Bob Aspromonte holding down third, Bob Lillis at short and rookie Joe Morgan at second. Jim Gentile splits time at first base with Walt Bond, although both hit lefthanded. Bond also gets time in the outfield along with Lee Maye against righties and Joe Gaines against lefties while Jim Wynn mans center full time. This leaves Rusty Staub as the odd man out, batting .216 in spot duty. Ron Brand shares time with newcomer Gus Triandos behind the plate. On the bench is player-coach Nellie Fox and outfielder Gene Ratliff who is on the roster to shield him from being exposed to the off-season draft.
Luman Harris is going with an 11-man pitching staff while he tries to figure out who can fill roles for him. Holdovers Turk Farrell and Bob Bruce anchor the rotation with surprise fill-in Claude Raymond and Larry Dierker also seeing time. Dave Giusti and Don Nottebart are in the starting mix too but both have been disappointing of late. Jim Owens is the closer in the bullpen while newcomers Mike Cuellar, Don Lee and Ron Taylor have joined Ken MacKenzie in relief roles.
Gone since late May are pitchers Ken Johnson and Hal Woodeshick along with outfielder Al Spangler.
San Francisco (39-33) at Houston (33-42)
The Giants fly into town from the West Coast for a one-game series even though both teams have the next day off. They'll send Gaylord Perry to the mound for this one-day layover on their way to Chicago but he doesn't last long. Joe Morgan greets the future Hall-of-Famer with his fifth homer of the season to start the bottom of the first. After a walk and a single, Walt Bond delivers a base hit to drive in a run then Bob Aspromonte singles to load the bases. Jim Wynn walks to force the third run home and Perry's night is over without getting an out. Bob Lillis hits a sacrifice fly to make it a four-run lead but Aspromonte is tagged out attempting to score from second. Turk Farrell coasts along, up 4-1, until two outs in the eighth when the Giants attack. Willie Mays and Willie McCovey single followed by an infield hit from Jim Ray Hart, scoring Mays. Jesus Alou then singles to score McCovey and Farrell is yanked in favor of Claude Raymond. Tom Haller is hit by a pitch then Hart ties the game on a wild pitch.
Jim Wynn then comes to the rescue. He follows Aspromonte's single off Frank Linzy with a triple to the fence in right-center then steals home with Lillis at the plate to give Houston an insurance run. Raymond sews up the 6-4 triumph with his fourth win. Lillis breaks out of an oh- for-20 slump.
The Astros close the month of June with an 11-17 record and 34-42 on the season, stuck firmly in ninth place.
As the halfway point of the season approaches, the renamed and retooled Astros look roughly the same as last year's Colt .45s where it counts. Always a team whose pitching outpaced their hitting, the Astros are fourth in the league in ERA (3.45) but ninth in batting average (.231). They are eighth in runs scored (286) and ninth in home runs (47).
Among the regulars, Bob Aspromonte still leads in batting average but he has nosedived to .284, down 40 points from the beginning of June. Jim Wynn is next at .283. Wynn's 10 homers, 38 RBIs and 15 steals lead the club in what is turning into a breakout season for the Toy Cannon. After a slow start, Walt Bond's average has picked up to the .270 mark.
On the mound, Dick Farrell (6-2), Dave Giusti (6-4) and Bob Bruce (6-9) share the team lead in victories. Farrell also leads in complete games (5), shutouts (2), and ERA (1.99). Jim Owens (3-4, 2.39) and Claude Raymond (4-3, 2.56) have also had a solid first half of the season.
Los Angeles (46-32) at Houston (34-42)
The first-place Dodgers come to town for a Fourth-of-July weekend series that promises to attract big crowds to the Southwest's new show palace. 33,044 watch Los Angeles score two first-inning runs off Bob Bruce and add an insurance run in the sixth to take a 3-0 lead. The Dodger fortunes are in the capable hands of Don Drysdale but "Double D" has lost four straight and runs into trouble again.
In the seventh, an error by shortstop Maury Wills puts Bob Lillis aboard then Rusty Staub spanks a double to chase him home. In the next frame, the Astros tie it when Ron Brand singles to drive in Walt Bond and Jim Wynn. Drysdale stays in for the ninth and the Astros make him pay. Joe Morgan slaps a base hit then steals second, his second theft of the night. Lee Maye and Jim Gentile draw walks before Bond sends the crowd home happy with a two-out single for a 4-3 triumph. It is Bond's third hit of the night. Mike Cuellar gets his first win as an Astro with two innings of solid relief.
Los Angeles (46-33) at Houston (35-42)
It's Saturday night in Houston and the hottest ticket in town must be at the Astrodome. Every seat has been sold out and an additional 8,454 standing-room-only tickets are going fast. Even more are turned away at the gate. The final attendance tally is 52,764 (50,136 paid), a Dome record that would last until the giant scoreboard is torn down and replaced with seats a quarter-century later.
The throng is there to watch the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax, the game's best pitcher, who found the environment somewhat suffocating. It doesn't affect his pitching much as he fires a five-hit, ten-strikeout victory, 3-1, to notch his league-leading 14th win. Joe Morgan is the only Astro to solve the lefthander, smacking three hits including a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth to set off the scoreboard and spoil the shutout bid. Larry Dierker absorbs the loss after giving up three runs in 3-2/3rds innings.
Los Angeles (47-33) at Houston (35-43)
Claude Raymond returns to the starting rotation and shuts down the Dodgers, 3-1, before a paid crowd of 47,642 with a six-hit complete game effort. Los Angeles takes a first-inning lead when Ron Fairly doubles home Willie Davis but the Astros tie it in the third when a double from Joe Gaines off Claude Osteen plates Raymond. Walt Bond scores an unearned run in the fourth.
Houston gets some breathing room in the sixth after Lee Maye advances to third on a Ron Brand single. As Brand is caught in a rundown, Maye takes off for home and beats the throw to the plate for the final tally. The Dodger loss allows Cincinnati to edge within a game of the league leaders.
Houston (36-43) at Milwaukee (38-36)
After winning three of four in the short homestand, the Astros hit the road for a week leading up to the All-Star break. After record-breaking crowds in Houston, only 7,775 pay to see the lame-duck Braves host the Astros. Dick Farrell is coasting along with a 4-0 lead when Milwaukee's bats come to life in the eighth. Felipe Alou drives in Mack Jones to snap the shutout bid then Joe Torre smashes a two-run homer. Hank Aaron belts a solo shot to tie the contest at 4-4 and drive Farrell from the game.
But Joe Morgan starts the ninth with a leadoff walk. He is forced out by Joe Gaines but Jim Wynn follows with his fourth hit to move Gaines to third. Cleanup hitter Walt Bond, all 6-foot-6 of him, then drops a squeeze bunt off Billy O'Dell to score Gaines for a 5-4 Houston lead. A trio of relievers hold the fort in the bottom of the ninth to seal the victory. Jim Owens picks up his fourth win while Mike Cuellar notches his second save.
The night game in Milwaukee is washed out so the Astros can bask in a streak of nine wins in their past dozen which has vaulted them over the Cubs back into eighth place and just 9-1/2 games out of first place. Los Angeles beats the Reds that night to reclaim first place from Cincinnati.
The hot bats of Jim Wynn and Joe Morgan are sustaining the offense. Wynn's average now leads the team at .284 while Morgan has jumped up to .262. "Little Joe" is second on the club in doubles (14), and homers (6) while leading the team in triples (6).
Houston (37-43) at Milwaukee (38-37)
Former Astro Ken Johnson faces his ex-teammates for the first time. He was 3-2 in Houston before the trade and has been 3-2 since as well. In the sixth, Walt Bond (his fifth of the year) and Jim Wynn (his 11th) swat solo homers but these are the only runs Johnson allows in a 5-2 verdict. Johnson gets help from Billy O'Dell to notch his seventh win. The Braves are led by Rico Carty who singles, doubles and homers against loser Bob Bruce. Hank Aaron adds his 15th homer of the year against reliever Ron Taylor. Only 4,840 attend.
Houston (37-44) at Milwaukee (39-37)
On a scheduled off-day, the Astros stay in town to make up Tuesday's rainout. Only 2,522 fans watch as Morgan starts the game with a homer to right off Tony Cloninger. Lee Maye triples and is followed by singles from Jim Gentile, Bob Aspromonte and Jim Wynn for a 3-0 lead. Morgan singles in the third then belts his second homer of the day, a two-run blast, off Cloninger in the fifth. In the seventh, "Little Joe" spanks a double off Dick Kelley and scores on Gentile's third hit of the day. In the ninth against Bob Sadowski, Morgan singles and scores in a two-run rally for his fifth hit of the game.
Meanwhile, the Braves are playing Home Run Derby against Don Nottebart and Dave Giusti. Hank Aaron leaves the yard with a poke in the first followed by Rico Carty and Felipe Alou in the third, Alou again in the fifth and shortstop Mike de la Hoz in the eighth. They trail Houston in the bottom of the ninth, 8-5, when doubles off Mike Cuellar by Carty and Mack Jones narrow the lead to one. Jim Owens comes in but de la Hoz rips his first pitch for a single to tie the game at 8-8.
The Astros load the bases against Wade Blasingame in the 11th, including Morgan's sixth hit, but Aspromonte's fly ends the inning at the warning track. In the 12th, de la Hoz singles off Ron Taylor, is bunted over to second and scores the game-winner on a single by Don Bolling to end the 9-8 thriller in Milwaukee's favor.
Had they not, the second batter in the 13th would have been Morgan. Instead, he winds up the 60th major leaguer to get six hits in one game, raising his average from .263 to .277 in one afternoon, scoring four times and driving in three.
Houston (37-45) at New York (29-54)
The Astros jump on Jack Fisher early, allowing Larry Dierker a cushion to sink the last-place Mets, 6-2. Rusty Staub plates Lee Maye with a first-inning single before Houston explodes with five runs in the second. Jim Wynn doubles to start the uprising, followed by a walk to Gus Triandos and an error by Chuck Hiller which allows Bob Lillis to reach first and load the bases. One out later, Morgan rips a triple to right that drives in three and causes Fisher to get the hook from Manager Casey Stengel. Lee Maye triples off Gordie Richardson to score Morgan and Maye comes home from third when Met shortstop Roy McMillan hauls in Staub's pop fly in shallow left.
Dierker scatters seven hits in eight innings as he gets his third victory. Ron Taylor works a perfect ninth. Houston also swipes four bases, two of them by Wynn - his club-leading 19th and 20th of the season.
Houston (38-45) at New York (29-55)
Houston scores early and often for the second straight night. Legendary lefthander Warren Spahn is spanked for four runs in just over an inning's work. The Mets release the 44-year-old southpaw four days later with a 4-12 record.
Joe Morgan cracks two more home runs to give him ten for the season and six in the past two weeks. The other 17 Houston hits are all singles as Lee Maye, Jim Wynn, Rusty Staub and Bob Lillis slap three each in the 10-1 rout. Wynn steals his 21st base of the season. He's been thrown out only twice.
Dick Farrell celebrates his naming to the National League All-Star team by coasting to his seventh win. His only run allowed is a homer from Johnny Lewis in the second. Ron Taylor works the final three innings in relief for the Astros.
A Sunday doubleheader at Shea Stadium is rained out. It's too bad as the hot Astros are 9-1 against their Gotham rivals so far this season, including eight straight. Instead, the Astros welcome former three-time All-Star Frank Thomas to the club, purchased yesterday from Philadelphia.
The 36-year-old first baseman was unloaded after the "Phighting Phillie" went after Phils star Richie Allen. He was hitting .260 with one homer in limited action. Thomas is expected to platoon with Jim Gentile who is batting .239 with one homer in his month as an Astro.
Houston makes it to the All-Star Break with a 39-45 record, in ninth place, one-half game behind the Cubs who swept their twinbill against St. Louis. They are 9-1/2 games in back of the first-place Cincinnati Reds who lead Los Angeles by three percentage points.
|Dick "Turk" Farrell|
For Farrell, attending the Summer Classic is becoming a habit. His first came as a member of the Phillies in 1958, closing the final two innings of a 4-3 loss in Baltimore with no hits allowed and four strikeouts (including Ted Williams). He went to both games held in 1962, sitting out a 3-1 N.L. win at Washington D.C. then pitching an inning in the 9-4 loss at Chicago's Wrigley Field twelve days later, allowing a three-run homer to Detroit slugger Rocky Colavito. In 1964, Turk threw two innings in the 7-4 victory at Shea Stadium but was touched for a run on a hit batsman, a single by Colavito, and a sacrifice fly by Jim Fregosi of the Angels.
Farrell arrives in Minnesota as the team's winningest pitcher with a 7-2 record and leading the staff with a 2.30 ERA. His 42 career wins in Houston are also a franchise best.
National League All-Stars (17-17) at American League All-Stars (17-17)
Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington
It looks like the National League will have an easy time of it as they use the long ball for five runs in the first two innings. Willie Mays of the Giants starts the Classic with a 400-foot homer off Baltimore's Milt Pappas. With Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell aboard, Joe Torre of the Braves goes deep. Minnesota's Jim Grant is pitching in the second when Stargell homers to right with the Giants' Juan Marichal scoring in front of him.
The American League answers off the Reds' Jim Maloney with a run in the fourth and then a two-out rally in the fifth, powered by home runs from Detroit's Dick McAuliffe and hometown hero Harmon Killebrew, both two-run shots, to tie the game at 5-5.
Mays scratches out a run in the seventh for a 6-5 edge and Dick Farrell, representing the Astros, is brought in for Sandy Koufax to hold the lead. He gets pinch-hitter Tony Oliva of the Twins to ground out to second and retires Baltimore's Brooks Robinson with a pop foul to first before walking Killebrew. Next was Rocky Colavito, Turk's nemesis from two previous All-Star games. Colavito sends a pop foul down the third base side that Chicago's Ron Santo squeezes for the third out. The National League holds on to win, 6-5, and takes the lead in the All-Star series for their first time ever.
Most of the Astros are catching up with their families during the All-Star break or getting in a few holes at area golf courses before the second half of the season begins. Most of the veterans are married and many have young children. The Astros have a lot of eligible bachelors on the roster too, mostly young guys like Danny Coombs, Joe Morgan and Rusty Staub who are still trying to cement their roles as major league ballplayers. Tomorrow, they'll get a little reminder of their not-too-distant pasts.
Houston Astros vs. Texas League All-Stars
Turnpike Stadium, Arlington
Before returning to big league battles, the Astros warm up with a game against all-stars from the AA Texas League. The Astros have some of their own young talent represented, such as eventual Texas League MVP Leo Posada, affiliated with the Amarillo Sonics franchise.
Larry Dierker, just 18 years old himself, works the first seven innings and leaves with a 1-1 tie. The Texas Leaguers battle the Astros into the 11th inning when Houston breaks through for four runs. A throwing error by Tulsa catcher Don Pavlesic while trying to turn a double play allows Jim Wynn to score the go-ahead run. Lee Maye and Ron Brand follow with doubles off Albuquerque reliever Jack Billingham to put the game away. Dave Giusti closes for winning pitcher Ken MacKenzie. Wynn stars with three hits.
Houston (39-45) at San Francisco (45-38)
The Astros return to National League action after a five-day break and find themselves locked in a pitchers duel. Joe Morgan breaks the scoreless tie in the sixth with a solo shot off Bob Shaw, his 11th of the year to tie for the club lead. Bob Bruce tosses goose eggs until the seventh when the Giants put two aboard then bring them in on a grounder by Bob Burda and a single by Dick Schofield for a 2-1 advantage. Having managed just two hits all day, the Astros stage a rally in the ninth when Jim Gentile and Walt Bond draw walks but Ron Herbel comes in to strike out Bob Aspromonte and Jim Wynn to end the game, a 2-1 San Francisco treat.
Houston (39-46) at San Francisco (46-38)
Two All-Stars match up on the hill as Dick Farrell faces Juan Marichal. Marichal comes away with his 15th win of the year, a 7-0 five-hit shutout. Bob Lillis compiles three hits but his mates can only manage a single by Jim Wynn and a pinch-hit double by Rusty Staub.
Farrell, meanwhile, gives up three runs in the opening frame, two on a double by Jesus Alou. In the fourth, Turk dislocates the ring finger of his pitching hand trying to field a throw from first baseman Jim Gentile while running to the bag. It marks the third time this year Farrell will miss time due to injury. Dave Giusti, Danny Coombs and Jim Owens mop up but the offense can make no headway against Marichal, who blanks Houston for the fourth time in his career (including a no-hitter in 1963).
Houston (39-47) at San Francisco (47-38)
A 37-year-old third baseman as your leadoff man? A 5-foot-7 rookie cleanup hitter? These are the lengths Manager Luman Harris must go in order to break a winless streak in San Francisco that dates back almost a year to the day. Houston's last win at The Stick was July, 19, 1964 and, 364 days later, they beat the Giants again, 5-2.
The bizarre lineup makes sense when you realize that Bob Aspromonte has been in a seven-week tailspin, watching his average plummet from .325 to .262, so Harris inserts player/coach Nellie Fox to give Aspro some time to regroup. Joe Morgan gets moved from the leadoff spot to the fourth spot of the lineup - and why not since he is on a home run binge and is the only one taking pitchers deep.
Houston opens the game with three straight singles off Gaylord Perry, courtesy of Fox, Lee Maye and Jim Wynn. After two are away, Ron Brand breaks an oh-for-16 slump by singling home Wynn for the third run. Jim Gentile swats just his second homer as an Astro, a solo blast in the fourth which is answered by the Giants' Dick Schofield in the bottom half against winning pitcher Claude Raymond. Wynn saves Raymond further damage with a cannon throw from center field that nails Jesus Alou at the plate for a double play. A sacrifice fly in the fifth by Bob Burda gives San Francisco their second run before Raymond leaves with a stiff arm. Ron Taylor comes in to toss four innings of scoreless relief for his second save. The win edges the Astros back into eighth place temporarily but they are still 12 games out of first as they travel south to face the league-leading Dodgers.
Houston (40-47) at Los Angeles (55-38)
There's good news and bad news for the Astros about this series in Dodgerland. The good news is that it is just for two games. The bad news is that they have to face Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax again. Houston actually takes the lead on Drysdale three times with single tallies in the second, third and fifth innings, including one on a Jim Wynn homer, but the Dodgers respond with single runs off Don Nottebart each time.
Finally, like a cat who is finished playing with a mouse, the Dodgers put Houston away using a five-run explosion in the sixth. Two errors and a two-run triple by Maury Wills key the outburst that gives Los Angeles an 8-3 decision. Lee Maye, Rusty Staub and Jim Gentile have two hits apiece. Wynn's 12th homer reclaims the club lead, driving in his 44th run and raising his average to .290. Drysdale wins his 15th of the year. Nottebart's record falls to 1-7.
Houston (40-48) at Los Angeles (56-38)
Two old veterans surprise Sandy Koufax and allow Houston to take an early lead on the Dodger southpaw. Frank Thomas, in his first at bat since being acquired from Philadelphia, smacks a leadoff double in the second inning. Two outs later, catcher Gus Triandos, he of the .155 batting average, plates him with a two-run homer for a 2-0 lead. Koufax would allow just one other hit, a single by Joe Gaines, the rest of the way. Mike Cuellar is pressed into starting and tosses five shutout innings before trouble occurs in the sixth. Two singles and a passed ball on Triandos cut the lead in half. Rookie Jim Lefebvre doubles home Lou Johnson in the seventh to tie the game. Houston hopes they can outlast Koufax but he comes to the plate with two outs and two on in the bottom of the ninth against Ron Taylor and wins it himself with a base hit for a 3-2 victory, his league-leading 17th of the season. Koufax also strikes out ten.
Luman Harris scraps the idea of Joe Morgan as a cleanup hitter, returning him to the leadoff spot while Thomas bats fourth. Since they last played indoors, the Texans go 4-6 on the road, returning with a 14-30 record away from home.
St. Louis (46-46) at Houston (40-49)
It takes just an hour and 58 minutes for Bob Bruce and the Astros to blank Bob Gibson and the Cardinals, 2-0. Bruce scatters six hits and strikes out five in the whitewash, tying Dick Farrell for the club lead in victories (7). Gibson allows just four hits but one of them is the decisive blow. In the bottom of the fifth, Jim Gentile draws a walk and advances on a single by Bob Aspromonte, who snaps an oh-for-15 skid. One out later, Bob Lillis lashes a double that plates them both for the game's only tallies. Lee Maye and Jim Wynn notch the other two hits off Gibson, both singles. The game marks the fifth straight day the Astros have faced a starting pitcher that would someday be in the Hall of Fame, going 2-3 during that stretch. A near sellout of 43,324 pay to watch.
St. Louis (46-47) at Houston (41-49)
Larry Dierker picks up the first complete game of his big league career, a 3-2 triumph. He allows just five hits and walks two while evening his record at 4-4. Jim Gentile doubles off Bob Purkey to plate Jim Wynn in the fourth, tying the game at one all. In the sixth, the Astros show perseverance. After two runners are thrown out at the plate, Bob Aspromonte strokes a bases-loaded single that scores Wynn and Rusty Staub. Joe Morgan joins Gentile in the two-hit club for the night. The Astros claim their seventh win in eight tries against the World Champs so far this season. Houston remains percentage points behind Chicago for eighth place, a dozen games in back of the Dodgers.
Cincinnati (53-41) at Houston (42-49)
Claude Raymond tries to make it three straight complete game wins for the Astros but comes up short. He gets early help from a Joe Morgan double and a Lee Maye RBI single in the first but Joey Jay handcuffs the Astros the rest of the night. Raymond gives up the lead in the sixth and runs out of gas as the Reds tee off on the bullpen for a 9-1 verdict. Jay tosses a three-hitter with a harmless single from Ron Brand being the last Houston hit in the fifth. Frank Robinson has four hits to pace the Cincy attack while Pete Rose has three, including a double and a triple, scoring twice.
Cincinnati (54-41) at Houston (42-50)
Astros management notes with pride that the 73,333 who show up for a Saturday day-night doubleheader against the second-place Reds outpaces the combined American League attendance for the same day. On the field, it's a day for dominant pitching.
Don Nottebart comes out of his struggles to beat Cincinnati in the opener, 4-2 on a three-hitter, for just his second win of the season. 13-game winner Sammy Ellis gives up a run in the fifth when Joe Morgan triples home Nottebart. The next inning, three hits and three walks account for three more scores with Nottebart drawing a bases-loaded pass from Jim Duffalo for the last run. Notty has a no-hitter entering the seventh but Pete Rose triples and Frank Robinson plates him in to end the shutout bid. Art Shamsky triples in the ninth and scores for the other Cincy run.
But that's not even the best pitching performance of the day as the Reds' Joe Nuxhall answers with a one-hitter in the nightcap, a 2-0 Cincinnati win. Dick Farrell, back from a dislocated right finger, pitches well in defeat but surrenders a two-run triple in the eighth to Rose that is the difference in a marvelous pitching duel. Nuxhall, who set down 15 batters in a row at one point, keeps his no-hitter intact until Bob Lillis cracks a clean single to center with one out in the eighth. Nuxhall fans 11, including Frank Thomas four times.
Cincinnati (55-42) at Houston (43-51)
There's more splendid pitching in the series finale but Cincinnati pulls out a 3-1 decision. Mike Cuellar and John Tsitouris lock up in another nailbiter. The Reds break out for a run in the fourth when Don Pavletich doubles home Frank Robinson. Houston finally chases Tsitouris in the eighth when they load the bases with nobody out. Billy McCool comes in and gets Nellie Fox, pinch-hitting for Cuellar, to tap into a force out at home. Joe Morgan then pops out and pinch-hitter Frank Thomas raps into a force play to keep the shutout bid alive. Ron Taylor comes in for the ninth and allows a two-run double to Leo Cardenas. The Astros stage one final rally when Jim Wynn singles and scores on a double by Walt Bond but McCool hangs on for his tenth save.
Milwaukee (51-43) at Houston (43-52)
The Astros waive infielder Nellie Fox, ending a stellar playing career that includes an American League Most Valuable Player Award (1959), four times leading the league in hits and 12 All-Star Game nods. The 37-year-old stays on as a coach. He will die of cancer ten years later and is inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously in 1997. Eddie Kasko comes off the disabled list for the second time to take his place on the roster.
On the field, the Astros continue to find runs hard to come by as Wade Blasingame shuts them out on a five-hitter, 6-0. A leadoff homer by Felipe Alou off Bob Bruce and a three-run shot by Joe Torre gives Blasingame a 4-0 lead before he even takes the mound. Torre would have three hits and also drive in the final run in the fifth, plating Hank Aaron. Joe Gaines and Lee Maye combine for four of Houston's five hits. Dave Giusti serves 4-1/3 innings of perfect relief but it is hardly noticed. Kasko enters as a pinch-hitter and stays in at shortstop but is hitless in two trips to the plate.
Milwaukee (52-43) at Houston (43-53)
The Astros manage just five hits again, but the Braves get 15 in a 7-1 drubbing at the Dome. Jim Gentile smacks a second-inning double to plate Walt Bond and tie the game at one apiece but Tony Cloninger and Billy O'Dell keep Houston batters off the board the rest of the way. Bob Aspromonte adds two hits.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee produces fireworks both on and off the field. The Braves had smuggled firecrackers and sparklers with them through a west coast road trip with the intent of celebrating a Milwaukee homer indoors in response to the Astrodome scoreboard's home run spectacular. Felipe Alou catches firebugs Gene Oliver and Bob Sadowski unprepared with his solo shot off Larry Dierker to lead off the game but they are ready when Joe Torre takes Dierker deep in the fourth, tossing fireworks onto the field then lighting sparklers which they show off to an appreciative crowd. Torre, who launched his 20th homer, paces the Braves' attack with four hits while Ty Cline chips in three and scores twice.
Milwaukee (53-43) at Houston (43-54)
The Braves sweep the series with a 6-4 decision as Ken Johnson returns to Houston and walks away with his 11th win of the year. Joe Morgan's third-inning solo shot off Johnson, his 12th, gives Houston an early advantage but Milwaukee roars back with five runs against Dick Farrell over the middle innings, including a two-run homer by Denis Menke.
Houston tries to get back into the game in the seventh when Jim Gentile doubles and Eddie Kasko singles. Rusty Staub, back after missing six games with a pulled hamstring, delivers a pinch-single to bring Gentile home then a pinch-hit single by Joe Gaines off Dan Osinski plates Kasko and pinch-runner Ron Brand to make it a 5-4 game. Milwaukee adds an insurance run in the eighth and Billy O'Dell shuts the door for his 10th save. Bob Aspromonte goes 5-for-11 in the series and appears to be regaining his stroke.
The Astros have a travel day before beginning a ten-day, 12-game road trip through the Midwest which will include three doubleheaders. The "dog days" of summer have definitely arrived and the Astros hope to avoid the slumps that have plagued them late in the summer. In their first three years, Houston has a 33-51 record (.393) in August. That's not good news for a team that is leaving Texas with a five-game losing streak and a ninth-place record.
Houston (43-55) at Cincinnati (57-44)
Lefthander Joe Nuxhall, who became the youngest major league player ever when he appeared for the Reds as a 15-year-old in 1944, celebrates his 37th birthday in style, tossing a complete game for a 7-1 romp over the Astros. The southpaw scatters eight hits and strikes out eight in posting his eighth win. Joe Gaines is the only Houston hitter that gives him any real trouble, belting a second-inning solo homer and finishing with three hits. Bob Aspromonte adds two.
The second-place Reds plate two in the first off Don Nottebart (unearned, after Joe Morgan's two-out error) then add three more in the fourth to send the Astro hurler to the showers. Deron Johnson drives in three of the five runs with a single and a double. Tony Perez finishes the scoring with a two-run pinch-hit homer off Ken MacKenzie in the seventh.
Houston (43-56) at Cincinnati (58-44)
Maybe the Astros can snap their week-long skid. Houston jumps in front of the Reds, 2-0, in the third as pitcher Bob Bruce swats an RBI double and later scores.
Or maybe not. The Reds tattoo Bruce and the bullpen in an 18-hit assault, coasting to an 11-4 verdict. Cincinnati scores six runs in the fourth and adds to their lead in each of the next three frames. Deron Johnson supplies two homers (his 18th and 19th), and drives in four while Gordy Coleman goes deep and Vada Pinson contributes two triples and a double to go with three RBIs. Walt Bond has three of the Astros' 13 hits.
Houston finishes an 11-15 month, still in ninth place, 15-1/2 games behind the first-place Dodgers and four behind the eighth-place Cubs.
Houston (43-57) at Cincinnati (59-44)
As they had done all series, the Astros score early with a first-inning homer by Joe Morgan (his 13th to lead the club) and tally twice more off Joey Jay for a 3-0 advantage. But the Reds claim the lead in the third on two-run homers from Tony Perez and Pete Rose off Mike Cuellar and don't look back in a 6-4 win. Bob Aspromonte stays hot with four hits and Morgan adds three in a 15-hit output.
In the nightcap of the Sunday twinbill, Houston plates three in the first again, only to be answered by three Cincinnati runs in the bottom half off Dave Giusti. Vada Pinson takes Giusti deep for two runs in the third. Houston scratches back with three in the seventh against John Tsitouris for a 6-5 lead only to see Frank Robinson belt a Jim Owens pitch for his 19th homer to tie it. In the ninth, off closer Billy McCool, Bob Lillis singles and advances on a base hit by Ron Brand. Bobby Locke comes in to face Joe Gaines but Gaines wins the battle with a single to give Houston the lead. Dick Farrell gets the call from the bullpen and gets the final two outs to preserve the 7-6 triumph, snapping an eight-game losing streak. The Astros have five doubles among their 13 hits in the second game. Bob Aspromonte has one of them, finishing six-for-nine on the afternoon. Lillis, Brand, Gaines, Lee Maye and Jim Wynn join him with a pair of hits each.
It's a travel day before a doubleheader in St. Louis on Tuesday. Back in Houston, preparations are made for a news conference held the next day announcing that Judge Roy Hofheinz has come up with $7.5 million to buy out R.E. Bob Smith as majority shareholder of the Houston Sports Association, parent to the Astros. Hofheinz leverages himself heavily in order to accomplish this, including moving out of his posh Houston home and into the Warwick Hotel. Smith still owns 10% of HSA shares.
Hofheinz will express satisfaction with the job General Manager Paul Richards is doing with the ballclub, noting that each season he has kept the club better than the New York Mets, Houston's expansion twin, while spending less money.
Houston (44-58) at St. Louis (52-52)
Larry Dierker tags Bob Purkey for his first career home run and takes advantage of a five-run seventh to beat the Cardinals, 10-7. Jim Wynn's three-run blast keys the uprising that evens Dierker's mark at 5-5. Yet Dierker and Jim Owens have trouble holding the lead so Ron Taylor gets the final four outs for his second save. Bob Aspromonte stays hot with two hits and three RBIs. He's joined in the multi-hit club by Lee Maye, Joe Morgan, Jim Gentile and Walt Bond. Lou Brock and Tim McCarver both hit their 10th homer of the year for St. Louis.
In the second game, Ray Washburn blanks the Astros on a six-hitter, 7-0. Joe Morgan has half of them to go 5-for-7 in the twinbill plus a sacrifice fly. Jim Wynn adds two hits but Washburn keeps Houston off the scoreboard while defending league MVP Ken Boyer leads the Redbirds with three hits and four RBIs, including a double and a home run. Dick Farrell takes the loss and is now 7-6 on the season.
It's a costly twinbill as Rusty Staub reinjures his hamstring rounding third in the opener and Bond injures his elbow crashing into the right field wall while grabbing a fly in the nightcap. It's feared Bond has broken ribs and he is hospitalized then flown home to Houston, missing the rest of the road trip.
Houston (45-59) at St. Louis (53-53)
A two-run homer in the second by Gus Triandos gets the Astros off to another early lead but the pitching can't hold it in a 9-4 loss to the Cardinals. The Redbirds put the game away with five runs in the eighth off Claude Raymond and Ken MacKenzie after Don Nottebart allowed just one earned run in six innings. Curt Simmons tosses a complete game for the victory. Tim McCarver has three hits and scores twice for St. Louis. Joe Morgan stays hot with three hits and a ninth-inning RBI for Houston but commits two errors in the field. Frank Thomas snaps an oh-for-20 skid. Eddie Kasko injures himself yet again, pulling a calf muscle in the same leg he had been rehabilitating an injured knee. He's expected to miss two weeks.
Houston (45-60) at St. Louis (54-53)
Bob Gibson spins a four-hitter and strikes out ten as he outduels Bob Bruce in a 3-1 verdict for his 14th win. Jim Gentile singles home Jim Wynn in the sixth for Houston's only run which ties the ballgame. St. Louis pushes across a run in the bottom of the sixth when Tim McCarver drives in Curt Flood and get an RBI single from Dick Groat in the seventh to give Gibson some room. Ron Brand and Joe Morgan have the only other Houston hits during the Astros' 11th loss in their last 13 games. To make matters worse, the Spacemen suffer yet another injury when Frank Thomas breaks a finger while shagging flies before the game.
Houston (45-61) at Milwaukee (58-47)
The Astros sign 38-year-old righthander Robin Roberts who had been released earlier that day by the Baltimore Orioles. One of the Philadelphia "Whiz Kids", the veteran returns to the National League he once dominated as a six-time 20-game winner and seven-time All-Star during the 1950s. Roberts asked for his release from the Orioles after he was bumped from the starting rotation there. He was 5-7 with a 3.38 ERA in Baltimore. Roberts has authored 276 career wins, 16th on the all-time list.
Perhaps Roberts could be pressed into service as a pinch-hitter. Due to a rash of injuries and carrying 11 pitchers, Luman Harris has just two position players on his bench to start a weekend series in Milwaukee. Tony Cloninger and Gene Oliver add the "battery" to batterymates in an 8-4 Braves bombing. Oliver homers, doubles and drives in four while Cloninger goes the distance for his 15th win. Ron Taylor, pressed into starting, is lit for all eight runs in 5-1/3rd innings, including the 20th homer from Mack Jones. Bob Aspromonte has three hits and an RBI for Houston (snapping an oh-for-12 slump)while Jim Wynn scores twice and adds to his club record with his 28th stolen base, third best in the National League. Despite comfortable 80-degree temperatures on a Friday night, only 2,805 attend.
Houston (45-62) at Milwaukee (59-47)
Dick Farrell rescues his beleaguered staff with a five-hit shutout, a 4-0 triumph, for his team-leading eighth victory. Ken Johnson loses for the first time in three tries against the team that dealt him back in May. Jim Gentile plates Joe Morgan in the third. Morgan's sacrifice fly scores Lee Maye, who had tripled to left-center, in the fifth. Gus Triandos drives in Bob Aspromonte with an unearned run in the sixth before Aspromonte powers his fifth homer of the season, a solo shot off Bob Sadowski, in the eighth. Morgan has three of the 13 Houston hits while Aspro, Gentile and Triandos have two each. Jim Wynn increases his hitting streak to ten games. Meanwhile, Farrell survives a sore ankle, a sore muscle in his side, a sore finger on his right hand and sweltering August heat to go the distance, striking out five and walking none.
Houston (46-62) at Milwaukee (59-48)
Eddie Mathews puts on a display fitting for a future Hall-of-Famer, going 5-for-8, belting two home runs and driving in seven as the Braves sweep a twinbill from the Astros, 8-5 and 8-3. Most of his damage is done in the opener against Don Nottebart, whose record drops to 2-10. Mathews rings up his 23rd and 24th long balls of the year. The Spacemen try to climb back late into this one when Joe Morgan and Jim Wynn hit back-to-back homers off Wade Blasingame (the 14th for each) and score again to make it 8-4. After another run in the ninth, Billy O'Dell retires Jim Gentile with two on to get his 13th save.
O'Dell quiets the Astros again in the nightcap, fanning Gentile with two aboard in the fifth then going the remaining four innings himself for the win. Gentile and Lee Maye had taken Hank Fischer deep to bring the Astros within 4-3, but the Braves pull away with single tallies in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings after getting four in the first off Larry Dierker. Felipe Alou, Joe Torre and Don Bolling add homers for Milwaukee, giving them 30 in 15 contests this season against Houston (eight against Dierker). The Braves are 12-3 in those games. Jim Wynn's hitting streak reaches a dozen.
Philadelphia (58-52) at Houston (46-64)
Legendary Robin Roberts returns to the National League and gets the start against his old Phillie teammates. He shows them no mercy in an 8-0 shutout, spinning a four-hitter while striking out six. At the plate, Roberts doubles, walks twice and scores a run. The Astrodome crowd of 31,209 stands and salutes the veteran righthander as he finishes off the victory. Only Tony Gonzalez gets good wood on Roberts with three hits, including a double.
The Astros give Robin a hearty welcome with a four-run first. After two singles and a hit batter load the bases against 38-year-old Lew Burdette, Joe Gaines gets two men home with a base hit to center and Bob Aspromonte scores on Gonzalez' overthrow to third. Ron Brand follows with a single to plate the fourth run. Aspromonte has two hits to raise his average back up to .272. He adds a stolen base before leaving the game after being hit by a pitch. Brand also contributes two hits. Jim Wynn's hitting streak is snapped, going oh-for-four.
Philadelphia (58-53) at Houston (47-64)
Jim Bunning does it all, blanking the Astros on a five-hitter, 2-0, and taking part in both runs. He bunts Bobby Wine over to second base in the fifth inning where he scores on a single from Johnny Briggs. In the eighth against Mike Cuellar, Bunning singles and eventually scores on a base hit by Johnny Callison. Bob Bruce is the hard-luck loser, falling to 7-15 despite allowing just one run in seven innings. Lee Maye has two of Houston's five hits, including a double. Bunning strikes out nine and walks two in winning his 14th game.
Philadelphia (59-53) at Houston (47-65)
Danny Coombs comes out of the bullpen to try his shot at starting. The bespectacled lefty allows five runs (four earned) over six innings while Ray Culp and the Phillies sail to a 5-1 decision. Dave Giusti quiets the Phils with three no-hit innings in relief but the damage is already done. A two-run single by Alex Johnson and two hits by Bobby Wine pace Philadelphia's offense. Ron Brand, starting at third base in place of Bob Aspromonte, has three of Houston's eight hits and ruins Culp's shutout bid in the ninth. After Brand doubles, Bob Lillis advances him with a single and Rusty Staub brings him in with an infield bouncer. Coombs and Giusti each get a hit in hopes of adding to the Astros' anemic attack.
Philadelphia (60-53) at Houston (47-66)
As Mickey Herskowitz would say, the Astros experience the Days of Wine and Rojas. Philadelphia's double-play combo of Cookie Rojas and Bobby Wine account for half of Philly's ten hits, leaving the Astros on the Short end of a 7-3 trumping. Wine is 3-for-4 and scores twice while Rojas drives in three with a pair of singles. Chris Short, the Phillie lefty, continues his voodoo over Houston hitters, blanking the Spacemen for the first 8-2/3rd innings.
Finally, the Astros show some life. Down 7-0, Jim Wynn walks and Joe Gaines swats a double to put them into scoring position. Jim Gentile doubles both men home than Ron Brand singles in Gentile. In comes Ed Roebuck to get the final out, retiring Gus Triandos with an infield tap. Dick Farrell absorbs the loss as Houston falls 20 games below the .500 mark.
New York (34-80) at Houston (47-67)
Friday the 13th is an appropriate time to get together the two clubs at the bottom of the standings. Once again, the Mets demonstrate why they deserve to be last. After an error by Bob Lillis leads to two New York runs in the fifth, the Astros tie it in the seventh against Jack Fisher. Joe Morgan draws a walk then Jim Wynn singles. Jim Gentile and Bob Aspromonte spank base hits to get the two runs home. Don Nottebart is doing well, scattering six hits over nine innings when he gets a break to get his third win. Morgan leads off the ninth with a fly to short left. Shortstop Roy McMillian races out to get it but collides with left fielder Jim Hickman as Morgan pulls into second. A long fly out by Wynn advances him to third. Gentile and Aspromonte are walked intentionally to fill the bases. Rusty Staub, limping with a hamstring injury, slaps the game-winning hit for a 3-2 victory.
New York (34-81) at Houston (48-67)
Larry Dierker blanks the Mets for nine innings. The only trouble is that the Astros are not scoring either. A Bob Aspromonte triple in the fourth is one of just three Houston hits as the two teams take a scoreless tie into extra innings. In the 10th, Dave Giusti comes in and allows one-out singles to Chuck Hiller and Roy McMillan. With Hiller at third, Danny Coombs comes in to get Johnny Lewis then watches Ron Hunt hit a tapper in front of the plate. Coombs' throw to catcher Ron Brand is wide, allowing Hiller to score. Darrell Sutherland tosses his fourth no-hit inning for the Mets to claim the 1-0 verdict. Dierker had struck out eight and allowed just four hits over nine frames while Mets starter Galen Cisco blanked the Astros for the first six before leaving for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. 45,626 watch in air-conditioned comfort on a Saturday night.
New York (35-81) at Houston (48-68)
Houston's bats have gone cold, even at the hands of the lowly Mets. The Astros suffer their second straight shutout, 3-0, as lefty Al Jackson spins a seven-hitter, all singles. You'd hardly know he leads the league in losses with 16, but he will now have to share that "honor" with Bob Bruce who suffers the afternoon's defeat. Johnny Lewis triples home Roy McMillan in the first and Ron Swoboda belts a solo shot in the second to give Jackson an early cushion. An RBI double by Charley Smith in the sixth closes the scoring. Ron Brand, starting in left field and batting leadoff, leads the weak Astro attack with two hits. Jim Wynn strikes out twice and is thrown out by umpire Augie Donatelli for arguing in the fifth. Catcher Gus Triandos goes 0-for-3 in his final big league game. Houston will call up Dave Adlesh from the minors and release Triandos in the next few days.
Pittsburgh (61-59) at Houston (48-69)
Ponce De Leon has nothing on Robin Roberts. In his second start with the Astros, the veteran is pitching like it's 1953 again, blanking the Pirates on four hits, 3-0, for his second straight shutout. Roberts strikes out seven and walks just two in the process, setting down the last 13 Bucs in a row.
His mates give him an early lead when Joe Morgan singles in the first against Bob Friend and breaks Houston's 19-inning scoreless streak on a single by Jim Gentile. Jim Wynn then plates Bob Aspromonte on a force play at second. In the seventh, the Astros tack on an insurance run when Lee Maye's single drives home Bob Lillis.
Pittsburgh (61-60) at Houston (49-69)
Dick Farrell is hammered early as Pittsburgh builds an 8-0 lead in just five innings. Gene Alley and Bob Bailey do the most damage with three hits each and a pair of RBIs while Donn Clendennon mashes a two-run homer. Astro-killer Vern Law is on the mound, poised to win his 14th of the year when Houston's bats make things interesting.
Joe Morgan singles in the fifth and comes home on a sacrifice fly by Jim Gentile. In the seventh, after singles by Lee Maye and Morgan, Rusty Staub tees off with his seventh homer of the year to cut the deficit to four. Law leaves in the eighth and the Astros erupt again with two runs in the ninth before Al McBean gets pinch-hitter Eddie Kasko for the final out in an 8-6 decision. Morgan has four hits and scores three times. Staub, batting in the third spot, responds with three extra-base hits. Dave Adlesh, in his first action this year for the Astros, adds two hits and an RBI.
Pittsburgh (62-60) at Houston (49-70)
For the second night in a row, the Astros try to come back from a huge deficit, only to fall short. Back in the spring of 1963, the Colt .45s dealt a young outfielder, Manny Mota, to Pittsburgh for outfielder Howie Goss. Mota, subbing for an injured Roberto Clemente, drives in half of the Pirate runs as they build an 8-1 margin. Three of those come on a bases-loaded double off Don Nottebart as part of a five-run fifth. Many in the crowd of 30,470 had left as Bob Veale coasted into the bottom of the ninth.
But the Astros don't die quietly. Frank Thomas singles off Veale then Ron Brand, spending his second straight game as a third baseman, drives a home run just inside the left field foul pole to make it 8-3. Rusty Staub walks and Bob Lillis spanks a double. Al McBean comes in for Veale. Dave Adlesh then bloops a double in front of center fielder Bill Virdon that brings in Staub. Next, pinch-hitter Walt Bond strokes a single to right that delivers Lillis and Adlesh, making the score 8-6. Lee Maye follows with a single that moves Bond to third.
Having seen McBean give up two straight hits to lefties, Pirate manager Harry Walker brings in southpaw Frank Carpin from the bullpen but sends McBean to left field in place of Willie Stargell. Carpin strikes out Joe Morgan. Jim Wynn is next so Walker pulls Carpin, sends McBean back to the mound, moves his third baseman, Bob Bailey, to left and inserts Jose Pagan at third. Wynn, who had two of Houston's three hits before the inning began, pokes a fly into short center that the diving Virdon cannot reach. Bond scores while Maye pulls into third and Wynn dashes into second.
McBean issues an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Jim Gentile. Brand now comes up with the bases full, one out and down by just a run. He bounces to Gene Alley at short who flips to Bill Mazeroski at second and the throw to first nips Brand by a step for the game-ending double play. Pittsburgh escapes, 8-7. The loss puts a disappointing exclamation point on a 3-7 homestand that evens the Astros' home record at 32-32.
It's been almost a month since the Astros have won a series or, for that matter, won more than once in a series. That's not good news as they start a two-week 15-game road trip which will include three doubleheaders to make up for rain outs. The Astros sit 22 games under .500, 21 games out of first and 6-1/2 behind the eighth-placed Cubs who they will see this weekend in a four-game series.
On the other end of the standings, the surging Braves begin the day with a half-game lead over the Dodgers and a one-game lead over the Giants in what is shaping up as a battle royale during the season's final month. The Reds and Phillies lurk not far behind, evoking memories of the wild finish to the 1964 season.
The thought of the lame-duck and poorly-attended Braves hosting a World Series in Milwaukee as they pack their bags for Atlanta gives rise to the question "What if they held a World Series and nobody came?". It's a question baseball's hierarchy hopes won't have to be answered.
Houston (49-71) at Chicago (57-66)
The Astros start the trip with less than a full squad. Pitcher Claude Raymond is resting in Texas after having an infected wisdom tooth pulled. He will join the team later. Manager Luman Harris is also back in Houston while his wife Margaret is undergoing surgery at Methodist Hospital. Walt Bond, however, returns to the lineup after crashing into the wall in St. Louis on August 3rd.
On the field, Bob Bruce gives the Spacemen a lift by throwing a complete game in the opener of a twinbill, winning 7-4. Cubs starter Bob Buhl is yanked in the first inning after giving up a hit and four walks without retiring a batter, three of them scoring. Jim Wynn smacks a solo shot in the sixth off Bob Humphreys to reclaim the team lead in home runs (15). Tied at 4-4 going into the ninth, Lee Maye gets his fourth hit of the game and soon Houston loads the bases with none out. Frank Thomas hits into a force play at the plate but Bob Aspromonte delivers a two-run single off Billy Hoeft to give the Astros the lead. Ron Brand gives Houston an insurance run for the final margin.
Bill Faul earns a split for the Cubs, blanking Houston in the nightcap, 2-0, scattering eight hits. Larry Dierker is the hard-luck loser yet again, giving up a single unearned run in six innings, shrinking his ERA to 3.52 as his record falls to 5-7. Ron Santo, who hit a two-run homer in the opener, triples off the ivy in the eighth against Jim Owens to set up Chicago's second tally. Joe Morgan and Bob Aspromonte chip in two hits apiece in the nightcap. With hits in both ends of the twinbill, Aspromonte's hitting streak reaches eleven.
Houston (50-72) at Chicago (58-67)
Robin Roberts continues a magical month, downing the Cubs 9-2 for his third straight win. A pinch-hit double by Ellis Burton in the seventh snaps Roberts' shutout streak at 24 innings, which tops Dick Farrell's club record. He allows nine hits and walks three but goes the distance for the third time in as many starts. Robin is now 3-0 with an 0.67 ERA in his return to the National League.
Jim Wynn stays hot with three hits and three RBIs, two on his 16th homer. He breaks Walt Bond's team mark for extra-base hits with his 45th of the season. Frank Thomas contributes a double and a two-run blast while Bob Lillis chips in a two-run double. Bob Aspromonte and Lee Maye add two hits apiece. Dick Ellsworth is the losing pitcher. Houston chalks up their second win in one series for the first time in 30 days.
Houston (51-72) at Chicago (58-68)
A two-run homer in the first inning by Ron Santo (his 25th) off Dick Farrell stands up as the Cubs gain a series split with a 3-1 decision. Houston's only run off emergency starter Billy Hoeft comes in the fourth when Ron Brand singles home Rusty Staub who had doubled. Hoeft goes the distance, allowing seven hits. Farrell gets a complete game as well, surrendering a solo shot to Billy Williams in the eighth to complete the scoring. With an oh-for-three, Bob Aspromonte's hitting streak stops at 13 games.
The Astros travel to Philadelphia, a place that has never been hospitable to them. Entering this series, the franchise is 5-28 lifetime at Connie Mack Stadium with pitchers Jim Bunning and Chris Short two of the main culprits. Both are scheduled to start in the three-game stint.
As a team, Houston comes in batting ninth in the league in average (.236), runs scored (447) and home runs (74). They are fifth in ERA (3.66) and sixth in runs allowed (526). Their team fielding percentage (.974) is ninth in the circuit, ahead of only the Phillies. The Astros, at 51-73, are two games behind the pace of last year's Colt .45s.
Individually, Jim Wynn is leading the team in doubles (23), home runs (16), RBIs (58) and steals (29). Rookie Joe Morgan leads in hits (128), runs (77) and triples (8). The two are tied at the top with a .278 batting average. Other hitters who have surged recently are Bob Aspromonte (.275), Rusty Staub (.245), Lee Maye (.239) and Ron Brand (.236). Dick Farrell and Bob Bruce share the team lead with eight wins each. Claude Raymond leads in ERA with 2.93.
Houston (51-73) at Philadelphia (66-57)
Connie Mack Stadium
Joe Morgan slaps a double off Chris Short in the first and scores on Bobby Wine's error to give Houston an early lead but the Phils counter with three runs against Don Nottebart in the fourth. Jim Wynn ties it up in the fifth with a two-run blast (his 17th) and Short leaves for a pinch-hitter soon afterwards. The 3-3 tie stands until the ninth when Rusty Staub opens with a single off Gary Wagner. Dave Adlesh walks and Don Nottebart stays in to bunt the runners over. When Nottebart pushes the bunt back towards the mound, Wagner tries to nip Staub at third and throws the ball away. Staub trots home to give Houston the lead. Nottebart, who no-hit the Phillies back in 1963, stays on for his fourth win of the year, a 4-3 victory. It is just his third complete game in 21 starts.
Houston (52-73) at Philadelphia (66-58)
Connie Mack Stadium
Scoreless for the first four innings, neither starter Ray Culp or Bob Bruce can survive the fifth. Culp suffers from wildness and allows three runs. The Phillies strike back with three of their own in the bottom half. After that, it becomes a see-saw game with Houston scoring two in the sixth to take a 5-3 lead then Philadelphia scoring one in the sixth and two in the seventh to grab a 6-5 advantage. Home runs by Tony Gonzalez and Richie Allen help Philadelphia take the lead.
As with the night before, Rusty Staub starts the ninth with a single and Ron Brand does the same. Eddie Kasko bunts them over. Joe Gaines pinch-hits for Ron Taylor and doubles off Jack Baldschun to tie the score. Lee Maye, who earlier had two hits, lifts a sacrifice fly to plate Brand for a 7-6 lead. Jim Owens comes on for his third save to seal the triumph. Staub has three hits, including a double, to pace the 11-hit attack.
Houston (53-73) at Philadelphia (66-59)
Connie Mack Stadium
In 1961, Robin Roberts struggled to a 1-10 record with the Phillies. His arm was sore and the Phillies believed the legendary hurler was washed up. He was made available in the expansion draft but neither the Mets nor the Colt .45s chose him despite his obvious gate appeal. Roberts was traded to the New York Yankees who dealt him that spring to Baltimore where he was 42-36 over the next 3-1/2 seasons before being released.
Now Roberts is finally back on the mound where he achieved fame, although in a visitor's uniform. A total crowd of 24,126 is there to watch. The Phillies get a run in the first but Houston answers with a home run off Jim Bunning in the second by Jim Gentile. Philly reclaims the lead with a run in the fifth but the Astros get it back in the sixth then take a 4-2 lead in the seventh on a two-run homer by Eddie Kasko, his first of the year. The Phillies roar back with three straight hits and tie it up when Cookie Rojas scores on a passed ball. Roberts leaves to great applause before Danny Coombs and Dave Giusti prevent any further scoring.
Gary Wagner relieves Bunning in the eighth. Joe Morgan greets him with a single to right. Jim Wynn bunts his way aboard and Rusty Staub alertly bunts too which loads the bases. Bob Aspromonte taps back to Wagner who makes his second costly error of the series, tossing wildly to the plate as Morgan scores. An error by Rojas brings in Jim Wynn for a 6-4 lead. Giusti and Jim Owens shut the door as Houston steals an improbable sweep of the Phillies.
Morgan, Wynn and Kasko each have two hits to pace the Astros. Rojas and Bobby Wine have three hits apiece for the Phillies who fall to sixth place but are still just 5-1/2 games out of first in the tightly-bunched pennant race. It's the last time this year the two teams will meet, with Philly winning 12 of the 18 games.
Houston (54-73) at Pittsburgh (69-61)
Yogi Berra once said "It's never over until it's over." The Pirates prove that axiom on this evening. Vern Law was 13-4 lifetime against Houston but the Astros use the lumber to score single tallies the first three innings thanks to a Joe Morgan triple (in the first), an Eddie Kasko double (second) and a Rusty Staub homer (third). Pittsburgh ties it in the fourth against Dick Farrell on a single by Roberto Clemente (the league's leading hitter), a double by Willie Stargell, a triple by Donn Clendenon and a sacrifice fly by Bill Mazeroski. A sacrifice fly by Staub in the fifth puts Houston back in front.
The greats of the game beat you in so many ways and, on this night, Clemente demonstrated his greatness. After singles by Staub and Walt Bond send Frank Carpin to the showers, Bob Lillis tries to advance the runners against Don Schwall. The Pirate defense leaves a hole at short and Lillis' bunt finds the hole, rolling into short left field. Staub scores easily and Bond figures to advance to third but, from out of right field, Clemente races in and throws out Bond. Two more Astro runs score in the inning and two more score in the ninth, keyed by a triple from Jim Wynn, to lift Houston up, 9-3, going into the bottom of the ninth.
Sometimes the last three outs can be the toughest. Three Pirate singles get the fourth run in, knocking out Farrell. Ron Taylor allows two more hits. Bob Bruce enters but plunks Clemente which loads the bases. Pinch-hitter Andre Rodgers then singles off Danny Coombs to get two runs home. Jim Owens comes in and gives up a sacrifice fly to Clendenon which ties it at nine. Owens retires Mazeroski to send the game to extra innings. Were it not for Clemente's hustle in the eighth, the Astros would have celebrated their fourth straight win.
In the 11th, with Mike Cuellar pitching, Bob Bailey singles but reliever Al McBean's bunt backfires into a force out. A wild pitch puts the runner in scoring position and Clemente is intentionally walked. Rodgers delivers his second clutch hit of the night, singling to left for a 10-9 game-winner. Morgan, Wynn and Staub lead Houston with three hits apiece. Bailey is 3-for-6 for the Pirates, who have won seven straight to move within 4-1/2 games of the top.
Houston (54-74) at Pittsburgh (70-61)
The Astros batter Don Cardwell for three runs in the first but the Pirates answer in the bottom half when Willie Stargell belts a grand slam off Larry Dierker for a 4-3 Pittsburgh lead. After Houston ties it, the Bucs add single runs in the fourth and sixth off Cardwell's bat. Now the Astros work some comeback magic of their own. After a double by Lee Maye and a walk to Joe Morgan chase Cardwell in the seventh, Jim Wynn greets Don Schwall with a three-run blast to reclaim the lead at 7-6. Reliever Dave Giusti adds a two-run single in the ninth then shuts the door for a 9-6 victory. After two good outings netted losses for Dierker, he picks up his sixth win of the year while allowing six earned runs in six innings. Morgan has three hits and scores three times to spark the Astros' offense.
Houston (55-74) at Pittsburgh (70-62)
Bob Aspromonte is 4-for-4 and Lee Maye adds three hits but they don't get enough support in a 4-2 loss to the Pirates. Aspromonte and Bob Lillis score unearned runs in the second off Bob Friend as pitcher Don Nottebart singles home the first run and Maye drives in the other. Willie Stargell plates runs in the third and fifth with a single and a triple to tie it up. In the sixth, Pittsburgh tallies the decisive runs on a single by Bill Mazeroski, a double by Jim Pagliaroni, a sacrifice fly by Jose Pagan and an infield out by Bob Bailey. Knuckleballer Wilbur Wood gets his first big league win. Houston strands 14 baserunners as Nottebart's record dips to 4-12. The Pirates take the season series, ten to eight.
A winning road trip through Pennsylvania is a rare thing for the ballclub as they head into New York for a five-game set with the Mets before returning home. Possessing a 6-4 record on the journey so far, the Astros catch their breath before back-to-back doubleheaders. The suddenly potent bats have lifted the team batting average from .236 to .240 but they will need to stay hot if they intend to climb out of their ninth-place hole. They are six games behind the eighth-placed Cubs even as they lead the cellar-dwelling Mets by 12-1/2 games.
Gotham will not notice the Astros' arrival as they react to the retirement of 75-year-old manager Casey Stengel, a man who led the Yankees through their dynasty of the 1950s and the Mets through their first four woebegone seasons. A broken hip sidelined Stengel in July, forcing coach Wes Westrum to run the team but Stengel will always be remembered as having piloted one of New York's most successful teams and one of their least successful.
Houston (55-75) at New York (43-88)
Frank Thomas has his biggest day as an Astro and is rewarded with a trade back into the pennant race. Behind another stellar performance by Robin Roberts, Thomas belts a pair of homers to top the Mets, 4-3, in the opener of a twilight doubleheader. After walks to Joe Morgan and Jim Wynn in the first, Thomas drills lefthander Larry Miller for a three-run shot. Roberts gives up two runs in the bottom half but Thomas comes through again in the third, taking Darrell Sutherland deep for a solo shot. Roberts holds the lead until the ninth when New York closes to within one before Jim Owens shuts the door for his sixth save. Roberts extends his record with Houston to 4-0.
In the second game, Bob Bruce wins his ninth in a 3-2 nailbiter which sees he and Met lefty Tug McGraw toss complete-game four-hitters. Oddly, lefthanded hitters Joe Morgan and Rusty Staub account for all of Houston's hits with two apiece. Thomas begins the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the first, scoring Morgan who had tripled. Staub blasts his ninth homer in the second for a 2-0 edge. The Mets answer in the fourth on a two-run shot by Ed Kranepool. It stays tied until the ninth when Thomas reaches on an error. Bob Aspromonte bunts pinch-runner Lee Maye to second before Staub singles him in with the winning run. Wynn adds two stolen bases to run his club record to 31. He also paces the squad in homers (18) and RBIs (65).
Thomas gets half of the ten RBIs he would produce for the Astros in one night and it impresses the Braves enough to deal for the 36-year-old veteran at the trade deadline for a player to be named later. On September 11th, that player is announced as Mickey Sinnerud, a minor leaguer who never appears in the majors.
The twinbill sweep leaves the Astros with a 14-18 record for the month and 18 games out of first place, where the Dodgers lead but three others trail by two games or less.
Houston (57-75) at New York (43-90)
Al Jackson spins a seven-hitter to win the opener of a doubleheader, 4-1. Danny Coombs is called upon to start for the Astros but he doesn't last long, allowing a hit, four walks and two wild pitches before getting the hook after 1/3rd of an inning. Down 2-0 in the sixth, Eddie Kasko doubles and Walt Bond singles him home to cut the deficit in half. Joe Christopher gives the Mets some insurance with a two-run triple in the eighth off Ron Taylor. Jim Wynn and Joe Gaines contribute two hits each.
In the nightcap, Houston's bats come alive for seven runs in the first three innings against Rob Gardner and coast to an 8-5 victory. Dick Farrell evens his record at 9-9 with four shutout innings of relief help from Dave Giusti. Farrell runs his record to 4-0 against New York for the year. Jim Gentile swats two homers and drives in three while Rusty Staub smacks his tenth of the year, a three-run shot. Bob Lillis slaps four hits, including a triple. Joe Christopher has four hits for the Mets.
Houston (58-76) at New York (44-91)
Rusty Staub stays hot with three hits, including a homer and a double, as Houston edges the Mets, 4-3, to win four of five on the series. Normally dreadful on the road, the Astros emerge with a 10-5 record for the trip and 14-4 for the season against the Mets, 7-2 at Shea Stadium. Houston leads the all-time series versus New York, 49-21.
Rookie Larry Dierker evens his mark at 7-7, allowing one run over eight innings but he has to watch from the dugout after giving up a leadoff walk in the ninth. Jim Owens surrenders a hit and a walk to load the bases then Joe Christopher singles home two runs. Claude Raymond comes in with nobody out and the tying run in scoring position. Cool Claude gets the next three batters for his third save. Lee Maye has a good day at the plate with 4-for-5, including two doubles. Ron Brand chips in two hits and an RBI.
Los Angeles (76-59) at Houston (59-76)
With little to shoot for the rest of the season, the Astros begin bringing up farmhands to get some experience with the big club. These would include catchers John Bateman and John Hoffman, infielders Chuck Harrison and Sonny Jackson, outfielder Norm Miller and pitchers Chris Zachary, Jim Ray, Don Arlich, Carroll Sembera and Bruce Von Hoff.
The visiting Dodgers, meanwhile, have no room for rookies. They are just one game ahead of the Giants and Reds atop the National League standings with Milwaukee just two back and Pittsburgh 3-1/2 behind. Actually, there is one rookie they are glad to make room for, second baseman Jim Lefebvre. He takes part in all three runs during a 3-0 shutout in the Dome. He singles home Ron Fairly in the second against Don Nottebart and triples home Lou Johnson off Dave Giusti in the ninth before scoring the last run on a squeeze bunt by Wes Parker. Nick Willhite, Howie Reed and Ron Perranoski combine for an eight-hitter, two hits each by Bob Lillis, Jim Wynn and Ron Brand. Pinch-hitter Jim Gentile gets the heave-ho in the seventh after umpire Bill Jackowski rings him up on a called third strike. The Astros' record at the Dome falls below .500 (32-33) for the first time since Opening Day.
Los Angeles (77-59) at Houston (59-77)
Four Dodgers combine on a five-hit shutout to blank the Astros again, 5-0. Bob Bruce (9-17) surrenders all five runs in the fourth inning when Maury Wills singles and swipes his league-leading 84th base. Jim Gilliam doubles him home and advances on left fielder Joe Gaines' errant throw. Willie Davis and Ron Fairly single with center fielder Jim Wynn's bad throw bringing Davis home. Lou Johnson is hit by a pitch and Wes Parker walks before Johnny Roseboro spanks a single that plates Fairly and Johnson. Mike Cuellar enters to quell the uprising but it is too late.
Johnny Podres, who took over after Jim Brewer left with a sore elbow in the fourth, keeps the Dodger shutout intact until the eighth when Bob Lillis gets a pinch-hit single, Eddie Kasko walks and Joe Morgan scratches out an infield hit to load the bases. That's when Los Angeles skipper Walter Alston brings in Don Drysdale, normally a starter, to get out of the jam. Big D does it by striking out Wynn and coaxing a bouncer from Bob Aspromonte. Ron Perranoski closes with a hitless ninth as the Dodgers maintain their one-game lead over second place Cincinnati. A Saturday afternoon crowd over 43,923 witness the event.
Los Angeles (78-59) at Houston (59-78)
What could be better than a Labor Day weekend at the brand new domed stadium with two pitching legends squaring off? That's what a sellout crowd of 51,839 might have thought as they crammed into the Dome to watch Sandy Koufax of Los Angeles and Robin Roberts of Houston duel. The Dodgers rally first when Don LeJohn's double brings home Johnny Roseboro in the third.
Koufax had lost three straight decisions but looked like his old self, blanking Houston on two hits -- one a base hit by Roberts -- through six innings. Ron Brand singles for the Astros in the seventh and moves up on a bunt by Lee Maye. Bob Lillis singles to center. An errant throw by Willie Davis scores Brand as Lillis moves to second, snapping Houston's scoreless streak at 25 innings. When Roberts drives home Lillis with a single, the Spacemen suddenly have a lead.
Koufax leaves for a pinch-hitter in the eighth and Roberts takes his 2-1 lead into the ninth. Maury Wills and Wes Parker greet him with singles but Roberts retires Davis and Ron Fairly on pop outs. He just needs to get Jim Gilliam to snare his fifth win but the 37-year-old lifelong Dodger smacks a dramatic triple to drive home both runs for a 3-2 advantage. Jim Lefebvre singles home Gilliam with an insurance run before Jim Owens retires Roseboro to end the inning. Howie Reed tosses his second shutout inning of relief for the 4-2 Dodger victory. Roberts suffers his first loss in a Houston uniform. Los Angeles leaves town ahead of the Reds by one game, the Giants by two and the Braves by three.
Chicago (65-75) at Houston (59-79)
A schedule quirk brings the Cubs to town on Labor Day for one game to close out their season series. Houston leads the Cubs, 9-8, in head-to-head play but trails them by five games for eighth place in the standings.
Dick Farrell becomes the Astros' first ten-game winner of the season, going the distance in a 2-1 squeaker. Chicago loads the bases in the fourth on two singles and a walk but can only come away with a single tally as Ed Bailey plates Billy Williams with a sacrifice fly. The Astros are having their usual trouble scoring runs until the sixth when Joe Morgan singles off Larry Jackson. He steals second for his 18th swipe of the season. Jim Wynn then unloads with a home run to give Houston the lead. Farrell makes the lead stand up, completing a five-hitter to shrink his ERA to 3.21.
It's a bad day for the Jacksons all around as Larry Jackson loses in Houston, Al Jackson of the Mets loses to Milwaukee and rookie Grant Jackson of the Phillies gives up three runs without an out in a loss to St. Louis. None of the Jacksons are related.
The Astros wing their way to San Francisco to begin a five-game West Coast swing as they attempt to play spoiler in the National League race. The Giants lead the league by two percentage points over the Dodgers, having played four less games. Cincinnati is just 1/2-game behind while Milwaukee is merely a game back and Pittsburgh is still hopeful although four games in arrears. The race may come down to the last weekend, just as it did in 1962 and 1964. The Astros are 18-1/2 games out with 23 to play, not technically eliminated yet but close to it.
The offense has slumped again which is bad news when facing the Giants and Dodgers. The team batting average is .238 and Houston continues to lead only the Mets in many offensive categories. Jim Wynn is pacing the Astros in homers (19), RBIs (67), steals (33, a club record), doubles (25, tying the club record) and batting average (.281). Joe Morgan owns the club record for runs scored with 90, also leading the team in hits (145) and triples (10). Wynn and Morgan (.276) are the only regulars with a batting average over .270.
While Dick Farrell leads the squad in wins, Robin Roberts has quickly evolved into the ace of the staff, sporting a 4-1 mark since his August signing with a 2.16 ERA. Only Roberts and Claude Raymond (2.90) hold ERAs under 3.00.
Houston (60-79) at San Francisco (77-59)
San Francisco's Willie Mays continues his MVP pace, banging three hits - two for homers - as the first place Giants smash Houston, 12-3. Mays swats his 44th and 45th homers of the season and drives in five, starting with a two-run single off Don Nottebart (4-14) in the first inning. Mays connects for a solo shot in the second as Nottebart is pulled before the inning is done. The Astros put a small scare into the Candlestick crowd in the sixth when Jim Wynn plates Lee Maye on a sacrifice fly then Walt Bond tees off for his sixth homer of the year, a two-run blast off Bob Bolin. San Francisco's lead was cut in half to 6-3.
The Giants put it away in the eighth against Ron Taylor, who took over for Nottebart in the second and finished the game. Mays slugs a two-run homer, followed by a solo shot from Willie McCovey to highlight the outburst. The two Willies have combined to swat 10 homers this season against Houston pitching. Bolin goes the distance, allowing nine hits. Three come from Maye, including a triple while Bob Aspromonte also contributes three hits in a losing cause.
Houston (60-80) at San Francisco (78-59)
The Giants maintain a half-game lead on the Dodgers and Reds as Juan Marichal blanks the Astros, 4-0, on a four-hitter. A triple by Len Gabrielson keys a two-run second inning off Bob Bruce (9-18) and San Francisco adds two more in the sixth on a solo homer by Tom Haller, a double by Dick Schofield and a run-scoring single by Jesus Alou. The day, however, belongs to Marichal who notches his 21st win and his 10th shutout of the season. He strikes out five and walks one with his only serious scoring threat being a double and stolen base by Jim Wynn. It was a typical day for both hurlers - Marichal extending his record to 4-0 against the Astros and Bruce losing for the eighth time this year by shutout. Houston is glad to leave Candlestick where they've won once all season in nine contests.
Houston (60-81) at Los Angeles (80-61)
The Astros have another encounter with Dodger pitching, coming up short yet again. This time, Don Drysdale picks up his 19th win and smashes a two-run homer off Robin Roberts in the third to start the scoring. Drysdale ties his own league mark for most homers by a pitcher in one season (7) with the blast. Trotting around the bases must have tired him, because Drysdale allows solo homers in the fourth to Walt Bond and Jim Wynn. Wynn's clout, his 20th of the season, ties Bond's club record set the year before.
The Astros defense then gives the game away when Wynn misplays a Drysdale single in the fifth, allowing Johnny Roseboro to score. Then a Rusty Staub miscue in the sixth leads to two more runs. Ron Perranoski takes over in the seventh as the Dodgers take a 5-2 decision. Bond has three hits for Houston, which is officially elminated from the pennant race and insures a fourth-straight losing season with the loss.
Houston (60-82) at Los Angeles (81-61)
The red-hot Dodgers keep pace with the equally hot Giants in an 8-3 win that leaves Houston starter Dick Farrell hot under the collar. Joe Morgan and Joe Gaines each commit two errors behind Farrell and Turk commits one of his own. What really gets him steamed is when he is warned by the umpires after hitting Dodger cleanup batter Ron Fairly. The warning carries and automatic fine and was done after three Dodger runs had just scored. But Farrell and manager Luman Harris are both furious that no warning was given to Dodger hurler Claude Osteen after he knocked down Walt Bond the inning before.
Osteen allows a dozen hits but the damage is minimal. Lee Maye has an RBI single in the fourth and, down 8-1, Ron Brand slaps a two-run single in the eighth to end an oh-for-15 slump. Ron Perranoski gets the final four outs. Lou Johnson drives in three to lead the Los Angeles attack. Houston outfielder Norm Miller celebrates his major league debut with a pinch-hit single.
Houston (60-83) at Los Angeles (82-61)
Los Angeles tries for the series sweep and get off to a good start in the fourth against Larry Dierker. Willie Davis doubles and scores on a 1-3-2 play, advancing to third on a tap back to Dierker and scoring when catcher Ron Brand drops the throw home. Lou Johnson follows with a solo homer. Houston cuts the lead in half with a run in the sixth and ties it in the eighth against closer Ron Perranoski. Bob Aspromonte and Lee Maye provide RBI singles. In the ninth, Bob Lillis smacks a pinch-hit double, moves to third on a bunt by Eddie Kasko and scores the game-winner on Joe Morgan's sacrifice fly. Claude Raymond picks up his fourth save, relieving Jim Owens who wins his sixth. The loss pushes the Dodgers two games behind the Giants who sweep a pair against the Cubs. Houston wins just five of 18 games from the Dodgers in their season series.
San Francisco (83-59) at Houston (61-83)
When the 1965 season began, only four major leaguers had hit over 500 home runs in their careers, led by Babe Ruth whose 714 homers was presumed unreachable by many. The other three were Jimmie Foxx (534), Ted Williams (521) and Mel Ott (511), who held the National League record. The club had a new member this day - Willie Mays of the Giants - who socks his 500th in a 5-1 win that pushes San Francisco 2-1/2 games ahead of the idle Dodgers.
Mays takes one of his favorite victims, Don Nottebart, deep into the left center field seats for the milestone moment in the fourth. Willie stands and watches it fly out before circling the bases to the applause of the 19,827 patrons. Mrs. Sallie Norman of Houston in the mezzanine retrieves the ball but Mays says afterwards he doesn't care to have the ball back. The blast ignites a four-run rally that is more than enough for Juan Marichal who claims his 22nd win.
Less noticed is a first-inning homer by Jim Wynn to set a franchise record 21 home runs in a season. It is Wynn's 30th career homer. Marichal is not as dominant as he was at Candlestick, allowing eight hits - two apiece from Lee Maye, Walt Bond and Rusty Staub yet the run by Wynn is all he allows to cross the plate.
San Francisco (84-59) at Houston (61-84)
The Astros pass the 2,000,000 mark in attendance. William Bell of Houston wins a post-game drawing commemorating the milestone and pennants are distributed to mark the occasion. By contrast, the Colt .45s drew 725,773 paying customers last year to Colt Stadium and their total attendance for the season - home and away - was just over 1.5 million. Among the attendees are astronauts Alan Shepard and Wally Shirrah (sp) who are introduced before the game. Houston still has 11 more home dates to go.
Houston makes one last trade for the year, acquiring righthander Jack Lamabe from the Boston Red Sox for minor league pitcher Darrell "Bucky" Brandon. In his fourth big league season, Lamabe is 0-3 with an 8.17 ERA in limited action but is 19-21 for his career.
A 2-0 deficit is turned into a 5-2 lead by the Astros in the late innings. Ron Brand has a 4-for-4 night, scoring in the three-run sixth and again in a two-run seventh. Bob Bruce drives in a pair of runs and Eddie Kasko delivers an RBI triple. But Bruce falters in the ninth. Jesus Alou singles to drive in pinch-runner Tito Fuentes before Willie Mays unloads his 501st career homer (48th of the season) to tie the game at 5-5. In the tenth, Jim Davenport's two-run pinch-hit single off Mike Cuellar finishes the rally for a 7-5 San Francisco treat. Warren Spahn, picked up by Frisco after his release from the Mets, strikes out two batters in relief to tie Bob Feller for third place on the all-time list with 2,581. The Giants open a 3-1/2 game lead on both the Dodgers and Reds with the win.
San Francisco (85-59) at Houston (61-85)
Walt Bond's error on a ninth-inning bouncer by Willie Mays sets up Willie McCovey's game-winning hit, giving San Francisco a 3-2 squeaker. Dave Giusti (7-6) is the victim. Frank Linzy (8-2) gets the win in relief on his 25th birthday. Errors play an important role. An error by Bond in the fifth precedes a triple by pitcher Billy Shaw off Robin Roberts for a 2-0 Giants lead. The Astros get one run back in the sixth on an error by Shaw that allows Bob Aspromonte to score. Rusty Staub ties it in the bottom of the eighth with a solo shot off Shaw, his 12th homer of the season. Lee Maye paces the Houston attack with three hits. Infielder Chuck Harrison makes his major league debut and draws a pinch-hit walk.
San Francisco (86-59) at Houston (61-86)
San Francisco wins their 14th straight, sweeping the four-game series in Houston with a 5-1 decision. It's the longest winning streak in the National League since the 1951 New York Giants. These Giants are hoping for the same fate as their '51 counterparts, storming from behind to win the pennant. It sure looks like that will happen as they march to a 4-1/2 game lead over the Dodgers and Reds. Things look so bright that slugger Willie Mays, a rookie for those '51 Giants, gets the night off.
Bobby Bolin goes the distance, allowing six hits. Bob Aspromonte drives in Walt Bond in the ninth on a sacrifice fly to left that ruins Bolin's shutout bid. The Giants waste little time with Dick Farrell (10-11), scoring four times in the first, keyed by a two-run triple from Len Gabrielson. Willie McCovey adds a solo homer in the third, his 36th of the year. Lee Maye and Rusty Staub continue their hot hitting with two hits apiece but find little support. Houston ends their season series with the Giants, winning just three of 18 games.
Houston (61-87) at Cincinnati (83-64)
Having served as good hosts to the first-place Giants, the Astros stay in the pennant race by visiting the second-place Reds. Larry Dierker and Sammy Ellis hook up in a pitcher's duel for seven innings. Houston ties it at 1-1 in the sixth when Jim Wynn singles and steals second (his 36th of the year) before Bob Aspromonte plates him with a base hit. Cincinnati breaks through with a run in the seventh for a 2-1 lead.
Dave Giusti takes over for Dierker in the eighth and gives up a single to Tommy Harper. Giusti's pickoff throw goes awry, moving Harper to third. Vada Pinson slaps his third hit of the night to bring Harper home then scores himself on a double by Frank Robinson. The Astros get one run back in the ninth when Joe Morgan drives in pinch-hitter Eddie Kasko but the Reds hold on for a 4-2 verdict. Ellis wins his 20th game, pushing the Reds back within 3-1/2 games of the lead. September call-up Chuck Harrison bats fourth and gets his first big league hit.
Losers of five straight and stuck in Cincinnati on their final road trip of the season, the Astros take a rare Saturday off before a Sunday doubleheader. Even while idle, the Reds lose ground. San Francisco blanks fading Milwaukee, 2-0, to move four games up on the Reds while Los Angeles shuts out St. Louis, 1-0, to move into sole possession of second place, 3-1/2 games behind. Houston remains in ninth place, 27-1/2 games out.
Houston (61-88) at Cincinnati (84-64)
In the twinbill opener, Rusty Staub's three-run shot in the fifth off Joey Jay puts the Astros ahead, 4-2. Frank Robinson answers with a three-run homer of his own against Bob Bruce in the sixth. The Astros storm ahead in the eighth when Pete Rose (who has four hits) commits an error to open the floodgates. Bob Aspromonte and Ron Brand single off Ted Davidson to narrow Cincinnati's lead to 6-5. Roger Craig enters from the bullpen so the Astros send Jim Gentile to pinch-hit for Sonny Jackson. Gentile smashes a three-run shot into the right field seats for an 8-6 lead. Claude Raymond closes out for his seventh win to snap the losing streak. Four Astros (Lee Maye, Staub, Aspromonte and Brand) have two hits apiece in the victory.
Staub homers again in the nightcap (his 14th) as Jack Lamabe makes his first start with the Astros. Lamabe allows two homers including the game-winner by Tommy Harper which breaks a 3-3 tie in a 4-3 loss. Staub's hit streak has reached 12 games. Maye and Eddie Kasko get two hits each. The doubleheader split pushes the Reds 4-1/2 games behind the Giants. The Astros chalk up their seventh twinbill split of the season in 11 chances, sweeping one and being swept three times.
The Astros travel to St. Louis for the final road series of the year, a quick two-game stint. It's been a disappointing year for the defending World Champions, falling below .500 and entering the series in seventh place. They have a winning record against only two teams, the Pirates and the Mets. Houston has beaten them eight of 12 games so far.
Manager Luman Harris is beginning to work some of the farmhands into the lineup, principally shortstop Sonny Jackson and first baseman Chuck Harrison along with outfielder Norm Miller.
Houston (62-89) at St. Louis (73-76)
Chris Zachary, a righthander who had spent parts of the 1963 and 1964 seasons with the Colt .45s, starts for the Astros as a late-season call-up. Still just 21 years old, he struggles against the Redbirds, allowing a run in the first and an unearned run in the second. He settles down, retiring 10 straight Cardinals, and leaves after six innings, trailing 2-0.
Ray Sadecki has silenced the Astros on five hits and keeps his shutout bid intact until the ninth when a familiar face comes to his rescue. Two walks force Sadecki to the showers. Hal Woodeshick, traded from Houston in June for Mike Cuellar and Ron Taylor, enters with one out. He uncorks a wild pitch and walks the bases full but escapes further danger for his 15th save. Danny Coombs also surrenders a run in the 3-0 defeat. John Bateman has two of Houston's hits, including a double. The Astros reach the 90-loss mark for the fourth straight year.
Houston (62-90) at St. Louis (74-76)
In a matchup of pitchers making their first big-league start after spending the year in the Texas League, lefthander Larry Jaster outduels righthander Jim Ray as the Cardinals sweep Houston, 4-1. Jaster baffles the Houston lineup until a double by Jim Wynn and a single by Bob Aspromonte in the ninth end the shutout bid. Jaster finishes with a four-hitter. Curt Flood is the batting star with two home runs that account for three of the St. Louis runs. Wynn steals two bases, becoming the first in franchise history to reach 40 stolen bases in a season. The Astros conclude the season's road record at 29-52, four games better than in 1964.
|The Dome's natural grass dies|
The Astros could look forward to finishing the season on their home turf but the turf itself was not much to look at. The additional layers of paint applied to the Astrodome roof in April to reduce the glare choked off enough sunlight to kill most of the grass despite the best efforts of the grounds crew to keep it alive. The crew saw their jobs evolve into something like those embalmers at the morgue whose job it is to keep the dead looking alive as best as they can. The groundsmen used cans of spray paint to make the grass look somewhat green although brown patches were still evident. Meanwhile, efforts at Monsanto were well underway to create an artificial turf to replace the dead sod. That surface would make its debut the following spring.
When the Astros flew into St. Louis, the San Francisco Giants appeared to be finishing off their first National League flag since 1962. After languishing behind Los Angeles much of the season, the Giants had pulled ahead during the home stretch and built a four-game lead over the Dodgers. Two losses against the Reds, however, pulled Frisco back to within two games and they would lose to Milwaukee, 8-2, while the Dodgers edged St. Louis, 4-3 to put the teams just one game apart.
Cincinnati, the next opponent for the Astros, were three games back of San Francisco and still had a chance to make a final push for the pennant. Once again the Astros, with nothing but pride to play for, would see their final homestand used to affect the pennant race.
Cincinnati (87-66) at Houston (62-91)
Two days off does nothing to warm up Houston's bats. Of course, Cincinnati righthander Jim Maloney has something to do with that. He allows just two hits in a 1-0 shutout. A Lee Maye double and a John Bateman single, along with three walks are all that mar his performance in winning his 20th game of the year. Robin Roberts blanks the Reds through five innings but has to leave with a tender elbow. In the sixth, Pete Rose singles off Dave Giusti and scores on a triple by Vada Pinson for the game's only run. The Giants and Dodgers also win so the Reds remain three games off the lead.
Cincinnati (88-66) at Houston (62-92)
Veterans Bob Bruce and Joe Nuxhall lock horns in the Sunday matinee which is competing with the AFL Oilers for the attention of Houston sports fans. Houston gets a rare lead in the fourth when Lee Maye plates Sonny Jackson but the Astros otherwise squander a bases-loaded situation. RBI singles by Deron Johnson in the fifth and Pete Rose in the sixth pull Cincy ahead, 2-1. Bruce leaves after eight innings as Dick Farrell mops up.
Billy McCool comes in to close out the bottom of the ninth for Nuxhall but Joe Morgan greets him with a base hit. Lee Maye forces Morgan out but Jim Wynn draws a walk to move the tying run to second. Rookie call-up Chuck Harrison then stuns the crowd with his first major league homer, a three-run shot for a walk-off 4-2 triumph. Farrell gets the win to even his mark at 11-11. Morgan, Maye and Bruce each have two hits but Harrison is the surprise star of the game. Houston finishes the season series with a 6-12 record against the Redlegs. The loss keeps the Reds three back as the Giants fall back into a tie with the Dodgers for first.
Milwaukee (83-72) at Houston (63-92)
Extra-inning games were a regular occurance for the Astros in 1965 and Houston lost more than they won (7-16) but they would get a gift-wrapped win in their last one of the season, 4-3, over the Braves. Houston had an early 3-1 lead behind Larry Dierker which held up until the ninth. Joe Torre doubles and scores on a triple from Frank Bolling to climb back within a run. Sandy Alomar pinch-runs and it becomes a good decision when he beats Chuck Harrison's throw to the plate on Johnny Blanchard's roller to tie the score.
Dave Giusti wriggles out of a bases-loaded jam in the tenth then watches his record climb to 8-7 without the benefit of a hit. Dan Osinski walks Joe Morgan in the bottom half and Morgan swipes second. One out later, Jim Wynn also walks. A passed ball on Torre moves both runners up. Finally, Osinski tosses a wild pitch that brings Morgan home with the game-winner. Wynn paces the offense with two hits and two stolen bases as well as an RBI. A Milwaukee-like crowd of 8,380 attends.
Milwaukee (83-73) at Houston (64-92)
Jim Wynn slams his club-record 22nd homer in the seventh off Tony Cloninger but it is the only dent as Cloninger posts his 24th win of the year, a 7-1 verdict. Cloninger helps himself with the bat, contributing a single in the three-run third and a sacrifice fly in the four-run sixth. Wynn and Joe Morgan provide four of the six Houston hits off Cloninger who goes the distance, striking out ten. Chris Zachary is handed the loss while Carroll Sembera and Bruce Von Hoff pitch hitless ball in their major league debuts.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers nip the Reds, 2-1, to reclaim the lead in the National League race with five games to play.
Milwaukee (84-73) at Houston (64-93)
Ken Johnson, dealt by the Astros back in May, gets one last laugh at the expense of his ex-teammates, chalking up his 16th victory in a 5-1 decision at the Dome. He fans eight and walks nobody while tossing a five-hitter. Lee Maye, who was acquired in the same trade, doubles home Joe Morgan with two away in the bottom of the ninth to break up the shutout bid. Mack Jones belts a two-run homer off loser Jack Lamabe to give Johnson all the runs he would need while an error by Morgan opens the floodgates for three more Brave runs in the fourth. Mike Cuellar tosses 5-1/3rd innings of scoreless relief which is overlooked in Johnson's victory. The Braves conclude with a 14-4 series edge against the Astros, powered by 31 homers off Houston pitching.
St. Louis (77-80) at Houston (64-94)
The Cardinals were winless on the season indoors and seemed to take out all of their frustration in one evening, pounding the Astros, 19-8. Jerry Buchek doubles, homers and drives in five while table-setters Lou Brock and Curt Flood each have four-hit nights. Every starter in the lineup not only produces hits but RBIs in the 19-hit massacre. Winner Nellie Briles chips in two hits and drives in a pair. Rookie Jim Ray surrenders six runs in just 2/3-rds of an inning to start the game but the parade of Danny Coombs, Dave Giusti, Bruce Von Hoff and Dick Farrell are rocked as well.
The Astros generate a few highlights of their own, led by Chuck Harrison's three hits and three RBIs. Joe Morgan, Norm Miller and Eddie Kasko add two hits apiece. Jim Wynn swipes his 43rd base of the year, surpassing the number of steals made by the entire team in 1964 (40). Fans see an offensive display as the two teams combine for 27 runs and 30 hits. Houston closes out September with a dreadful 7-20 record and ninth place a certainty.
St. Louis (78-80) at Houston (64-95)
Leave it to Robin Roberts to give the sagging Astros' spirits a lift. Running his record to 5-2 on the year, Roberts tosses seven innings in a 4-2 triumph for the 281st victory of his career. Roberts exits with a sore elbow after allowing two runs in the seventh.
Rusty Staub's two-out double in the second off Ray Sadecki scores Chuck Harrison. Eddie Kasko walks then Roberts bloops a sinking liner to left center field which causes Curt Flood and Mike Shannon to collide as both runners score. Shortstop Dal Maxvill has to retrieve the ball while Roberts coasts into second for a double and a 3-0 lead. It stays that way until the seventh when Tim McCarver's two-run double makes it 3-2 Houston. Joe Morgan plates Staub in the seventh to give Claude Raymond an insurance run as he notches his fifth save.
St. Louis (78-81) at Houston (65-95)
It may have been a meaningless game on the final weekend of the season but not for Don Arlich. The lefthander was making his major league debut against the Cardinals and was nursing a lead. A triple by Joe Morgan and a walk to Jim Wynn precede a two-run double by Chuck Harrison in the first for a 2-0 advantage. Morgan triples again versus lefty Larry Jaster in the third and scores on Wynn's grounder to lead by three. Arlich is dinged for single tallies in the fourth and fifth but retires for the day with a 3-2 lead after six innings, poised to get his first win in the big leagues.
But the Redbirds attack ex-teammate Ron Taylor in the seventh for three runs. Pinch-hitter Bob Skinner smacks a two-run double to take the lead then gets insurance on singles by Jaster and Lou Brock. Jaster, meanwhile, bares down to get the complete-game win, 6-3, to run his record as a September call-up to 3-0.
Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Dodgers clinch the National League pennant, beating Milwaukee, 3-1. Sandy Koufax, capping a Cy Young season, wins his 26th of the year and fans 13 Braves.
St. Louis (79-81) at Houston (65-96)
In all three seasons as the Colt .45s, they had ended the year with 96 losses. The Astros hope to avoid their 97th loss but Bob Gibson has other ideas. The Cardinal righthander notches his 20th win in a 5-2 decision. 26,893 attend to set a new attendance record of 2,151,470 for the year, second behind Los Angeles, after finishing last with 725,773 the year before. As a weekend promotion, fans watch demonstrations of a single-occupant jet pack that straps onto the back and lets the wearer blast off into the air and coast back to the ground.
Joe Morgan stays hot with four hits to set a new team mark of 163, one better than Roman Mejias in 1962. He has also removed Mejias' club records for at bats and plate appearances. Lee Maye brings in both Houston runs with a pair of hits. Carroll Sembera takes the loss in his first major league start. The Astros come away with a 9-9 split against the Redbirds for the year. The season is over but the fallout is just beginning.
Epilogue I: The Hitters
The Astros continued their transition from older veterans to younger players. Joe Morgan cemented his role as the starting second baseman, batting .271 with 14 homers, 40 RBIs and 20 steals. He received one vote for N.L. Rookie of the Year and began his road to the Hall of Fame. Jim Wynn became the everyday center fielder with a team-leading .275 average, 22 homers, 73 RBIs and 43 of 47 stolen base attempts. His home run and steal totals set club records. Rusty Staub saw substantial playing time but was still not a lineup fixture. He ended with a .256 average, 14 home runs and 63 RBIs. All three players would land All-Star spots in later years.
Houston tried to add some power to the lineup with outfielder Lee Maye (.251, 3, 36) and Jim Gentile (.242, 7, 31) but neither did as well as hoped. Veterans Bob Aspromonte (.263, 5, 52), Bob Lillis (.221, 0, 20) and Walt Bond (.263, 7, 47) had disappointing years offensively. Aspromonte would become the last of the original Colt .45s, lasting through the 1968 campaign.
The catching experiment of Ron Brand (.235, 2, 37) and John Bateman (.197, 7, 14) also failed to produce as hoped but they would become the Astros' catching tandem until both were lost in the 1969 expansion draft. Although they acquired catcher Bill Heath from the White Sox over the winter, Houston traded minor leaguer Jerry Grote to the Mets in a separate deal. Grote would someday become an All-Star catcher and a fixture in New York. As a club, the Astros were eighth or ninth in the league in most offensive categories, a problem they would have to fix if the team was going to move up in the standings.
Epilogue II: The Pitchers
It was a season of upheaval for the Astros pitching staff and, by the end of 1966, there would be an almost complete overhaul. Dick Farrell (11-11, 3.50 ERA) led the staff in wins while holdovers Bob Bruce (9-18, 3.72) and Don Nottebart (4-15, 4.67) were disappointments. Robin Roberts (5-2, 1.89) came along late in the year to give the staff a boost. Youngsters Larry Dierker (7-8, 3.50), Dave Giusti (8-7, 4.32, 3 saves) and lefthander Mike Cuellar (1-2, 3.54, 2 saves) would see their roles develop the next year.
After Hal Woodeshick (3-4, 3.06, 3) was traded in June, Jim Owens (6-5, 3.28, 8) and Claude Raymond (7-4, 2.90, 5) became the most dependable arms in the bullpen. Raymond would become the closer in 1966 and earn an All-Star berth with his performance. Ron Taylor (1-5, 6.40, 4), Danny Coombs (0-2, 4.79, 0) and Ken MacKenzie (0-3, 3.89, 0) also saw considerable work out of the bullpen. As a staff, Houston also finished eighth or ninth in the league in most categories.
Epilogue III: The Ballpark
The one unqualified success of the year was the ballpark itself - and as the first indoor stadium in baseball history, it probably received more notoriety than the team it housed. Attendance tripled from the previous year and the new air-conditioned palace probably saved major league baseball in Houston. Problems with the glare, the lighting and charges that the air conditioning favored the home team were quickly resolved. The one casualty was the grass, replaced the next season by a creation Judge Hofheinz would dub "Astroturf". The stadium would have its detractors among baseball purists but soon ushered in an era of multi-purpose stadiums across the country - some roofed, others not. Today, the once futuristic icon sits mostly idle waiting to see if it will find a second life or become a victim of the wrecking ball.
Epilogue IV: The Management
Having seized full control of the operation by buying out R.E. "Bob" Smith in August, Judge Roy Hofheinz went about changing the front office as well. General Manager Paul Richards and his friend, Manager Luman Harris, were fired in December with Grady Hatton promoted to both titles. Hatton was actually part of a three-person group that headed the front office. Hatton would be replaced as G.M. in 1967 by H.B. "Spec" Richardson and as Manager the next year by Harry Walker. The Judge soon turned his attention away from his losing baseball team and on to other ventures such as an exhibition hall, an amusement park and the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. Hofheinz, as majority owner of the Houston Sports Association, would continue to own the Astros until 1975 when failing health and the debts of his other business ventures led him to sell his shares in the HSA.
Epilogue V: The Aftermath
Having fallen one game short of their 1964 performance, the 1965 Astros still had a long way to go towards vying for a National League pennant. Free agency did not yet exist in baseball so the only way to build a winner was through shrewd trading and the farm system. While Paul Richards was a fair acquirer of talent, H.B. "Spec" Richardson had buzzard's luck for most of his tenure. The club would not be a .500 team until 1969, a winning team until 1972 and a division champion until 1980. Joe Morgan became the last link to the first Astros, returning from Cincinnati to help Houston win that first title. Rusty Staub was the only other player still active from that 1965 squad.
In the following 25 years since 1980, the Astros have made the playoffs seven times but are still seeking their first appearance in the World Series.
|1965 Team Photo|
Many thanks to those who helped with this project and a "Happy Birthday" to my sister Barbara who turned seven years old this day.