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The Indoor Era in Baseball Begins!
This week marked the anniversary of the opening of the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, with the first game played on April 9, 1965 in front of 47,879 fans. It was an exhibition game between the Astros – previously known as the Colt .45’s – and the Yankees. In the opening ceremonies, 24 astronauts threw out 24 ceremonial first pitches. Dignitaries in attendance included President Lyndon Johnson and Billy Graham. Texas governor John Connally threw out the first pitch. Two hundred and fifty-three writers from all sections of the country covered the opening game.
For the first time, baseball was played under a roof, in air-conditioned comfort. Fans sat on cushioned seats like ones at a movie theatre. Everything from the dugouts to the outfield scoreboard reflected the dominant “bigger in Texas” motif that influenced the design of the new stadium.
Houston’s own Johnny Keene, – manager of the 1965 World Series champion Cardinals – was now the manager of the visiting Yankees. Sensing the history of the occasion, he had Mickey Mantle lead off to become the first batter in the new Astrodome. Keene left many of his best players in the game long after they would normally take a bow and sit during the exhibition season. The Astros did the same thing. The first pitch was thrown by Turk Farrell and Mantle slapped it into centerfield for a hit. A walk to Maris followed, but Farrell escaped without damage. Baseball’s new era was on.
Later in the sixth, Mantle opened the inning with a long home run into the center field stands, appropriately christening the new park as only he could. With his bad leg, he limped around the bases to thunderous applause from the Huston fans.
The game was tied after nine innings and went into overtime. In the bottom of the twelfth, pinch-hitter Nellie Fox sliced a hit over the outstretched glove of shortstop Tony Kubek into left-center as Jim Wynn sped home from second. The Astros won the game, 2-1 with Hal Woodeschick the winning pitcher.
The Astrodome would see two All-Star Games (1968, 1986), two National League Championship Series (1980, 1986), five division champions (1980, 1986, 1997-99), football, boxing, tennis, basketball, rodeos, political conventions and — in its finest hour — housed thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Even as it sits today in virtual emptiness, it is the city’s best-known building throughout the world. It was opened in the grandest of style.
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Information: Excerpts edited from article by Bob Hulsey: http://www.astrosdaily.com/history/19650409/