It is a very cold (for Houston) gloomy January afternoon. The Biggio Hall of Fame blog post has run its course and it just seems like the best time for a hopeless cause: Picking the Astros’ Top 10 moments of a all time.
These lists never work, whether 1 hour or 1000 hours is expended in researching the subject, because everyone applies a different personal value set to various events and sometimes distance and time diminishes or glorifies certain choices below or above their actual worth. Plus over a 53 season history something important will get missed or forgotten.
So this effort is doomed to failure – which is not to say that it won’t result in a fun and interactive time with all the commenters on this fine blog. The only rule here is that these are single events such as a game – not the 2005 run to the playoffs for instance.
Jumping right in then. This is one man’s picks as the Top 10 Astro moments of all time, in chronological order. (And no, Jim Crane’s purchase of the Astros is not in there…yet)
- October 7, 1960. A group named the Houston Sports Authority including Judge Roy Hofheinz and RE “Bob” Smith was awarded a National League franchise to “compete” (after seeing who was available in the expansion draft – the word compete should have been dropped) at the major league level. It should be noted that some of the group had previously been turned down by the MLB for expansion, but for some reason their threat of creating a competing Continental League persuaded the NL to reconsider. The rest….is Astros’ history.
- April 12, 1965. The first regular season game was played in the Astrodome, a 2-0 loss to the Phillies and suddenly going to a mid-summer baseball game in the south did not have to be a perspiration and mosquito nightmare. It was Roy Hofheinz’s dream to have indoor baseball and by golly – he made it happen.
- November 19, 1979. The Astros made Nolan Ryan the first million dollar man in baseball history. Along with bringing legitimacy to the franchise he helped lead them to their first two post season appearances, won two ERA titles (including 1987 when he was somehow 8-16), tossed one of his seven no hitters and moved on after being left for dead by the Astros front office. The dead man won 51 more games for the Rangers after turning 42, including 2 no hitters and his 300th career win.
- October 6, 1980. The Astros spent their first 19 seasons pining for but failing to make the post season. They broke through in 1980, but only after nearly killing their fans and breaking their hearts. They went into the last 3 games of the season with a 3 game lead over the Dodgers who they unfortunately had to play head to head. In a series with many parallels to their eventual playoff loss to the Phillies, they lost 3 one run games, two after holding leads in the 8th and one of those in extra innings. But Joe Niekro and Art Howe were the heroes in the 1 game playoff win (7-1) to carry the Astros to their first postseason appearance.
- September 25, 1986. On Tuesday night Jim Deshaies threw a two-hitter at the Dodgers. On Wednesday, Nolan Ryan came oh so close as he threw 8 innings of one hit ball at the Giants. On Thursday night Mike Scott threw a no hitter against those same Giants in the game that clinched the pennant for the Astros. Giants’ manager Roger Craig spent the game in pain over previously teaching Scott how to throw the spitter. Oops, I mean splitter.
- August 30, 1990. The Red Sox needed bullpen help and traded AA prospect Jeff Bagwell for Astros reliever Larry Andersen. Andersen gave the Bosox 15 sparkling games. Bagwell gave the Astros 15 sparkling years. Game, set and match Astros.
- July 31, 1998. The Astros trade pitchers John Halama and Freddy Garcia and infielder Carlos Guillen for the privilege of renting future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson for two months plus the playoffs. His incredible 10-1 record and 1.28 ERA down the stretch led the Astros to their greatest regular season ever (102-60) but failed to ignite them to their first playoff series win as Kevin Brown and the Padres mow them down. He did not re-sign with the Astros, but it was a season that will never be forgotten by Houston fans.
- October 9, 2005. The Astros were losing 6-1 in the 8th inning to their playoff nemesis the Atlanta Braves. It appeared the Braves were about to tie the series up 2-2 and force a deciding game 5 in the NLDS. But then Lance Berkman whacked an opposite field grand slam in the 8th, light hitting catcher Brad Ausmus tied it up with a 2 out dinger in the 9th and 9 innings later after utilizing practically the whole roster and an all heart 3 inning relief appearance by Roger Clemens – Chris Burke won the game with another HR and the Astros trekked onwards towards the next round against the Cards and eventually a WS appearance against the Chisox.
- October 19, 2005. It was the game that should not have had to be played, but in game 5 of the series Albert Pujols gave the Cards life with a home run bomb that might still be circling the earth if the Minute Maid roof had been open. In game 6, Roy Oswalt threw a complete game 4 hitter to win 5-1, sent the team to their one and only World Series appearance and left us all wondering, what if Roy had been the opening game pitcher in that WS.
- January 6, 2015. Craig Biggio is deservedly voted into the Hall of Fame. He becomes the first player who will enter the Hall as an Astro after a 20 year career of hustle, HBPs and hits.
So – what are your top Astro moments of all time?