The Astrodome Opens, April 9, 1965 – The Indoor Era in Baseball Begins!

The Astrodome Opens, April 9, 1965 – The Indoor Era in Baseball Begins!

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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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Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from article by Bob Hulsey: http://www.astrosdaily.com/history/19650409/

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I’m a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

3 Comments

  1. John Leihliter · April 11, 2017 Reply

    Gary interesting and rather sad site note. This opening of the Astrodome comes exactly one year and one day after the passing of Houston Colt .45s pitcher Jim Umbricht who died on April 8, 1964 of cancer. The Colt .45s retired Jim’s #33 and his ashes were scattered over the still in construction Astrodome site. Jim pitched briefly with the Pirates from 1959 thru 1961, most of his time was in 1960 when he got into 17 games. He was one of the top relief pitchers with Houston in 1962 & 1963 although he pitched in considerable pain in 1963 as he was told of his terminal condition during spring training of that year. Jim was the first member of the 1960 World Series Champion Pirates to pass away.

  2. Joe Smagala · April 20, 2017 Reply

    Please check your sources. Harmon Killebrew was not beaned in the 1968 All-Star game. He tore his hamstring while stretching for a bad throw; that’s why he was carried off the field.

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